Bellows Falls to host event Sunday

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BELLOWS FALLS — The New England Marathon Paddlesport Championships is set to return to its Vermont roots with Sunday's launch of nearly 100 canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and surf skis onto the Connecticut River.

The event, started four decades ago in Putney, most recently took place in Westmoreland, N.H., until organizers there retired.

"It's a big, popular race — we had to find a way to continue it," says Sandy Harris, who's helping the Bellows Falls Rotary organize the 41st annual competition at their community's Herricks Cove.

Harris is known to many Vermonters as the daughter of the late sports legend Fred Harris, who founded the Brattleboro Outing Club and Harris Hill Ski Jump, the only Olympic-size slope in New England and one of just six in the nation.

But the younger Harris is also a member of the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association, a volunteer-run organization that offers spring, summer and fall events in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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The landlocked Green Mountain State might seem an odd man out in the otherwise seaworthy group. But Vermont long has hosted competitions along the Connecticut River, including the now annual "Brattle Paddle" that Harris began in her hometown in 2017.

The 2019 New England Marathon Paddlesport Championships will launch Sunday, Aug. 4, from Herricks Cove just off Route 5 in Bellows Falls. Participants can paddle a 12-mile racecourse or 5-mile recreational route, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. and paddling beginning at 10:30 a.m.

More information is available at the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association website www.neckra.org.

Organizers expect racers and recreational boaters to pull a crowd on bridges and shorelines along the route.

"It's extremely exciting, yet something very few have seen around here," Harris says. "I encourage people to come out and realize the river is such a great recreational resource."


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