LACONIA — A Loudon woman who won a Guide 147 canoe from Old Town Canoes and Kayaks and Irwin Marine when she registered online for LakeFest says that she and her husband are looking forward to taking part in the ''Hands Across the Water''' event which will be held at Weirs Beach next month.
''We already have a kayak and will be bringing that to the event,'' said Denise Byrne, who showed up Sunday at Irwin Marine along with her husband, Rich, to claim her prize.
Tom O'Brien, president of the New Hampshire Lakes Association, said that organization's plan to have more than 2,000 canoes and kayaks assemble and paddle together on Saturday, September 7 to form the world's largest raft and set a new Guinness World Record.
''We gave away the canoe as a promotion in order to get people to register and show up for LakeFest,'' said O'Brien, who said that he is heartened by the response from lake associations all over the state which are planning to send teams to the gathering.
He said that the canoes and kayaks will be launched from a number of shoreline access points, public and private, roughly between Awka Marina to the west and Pendleton Beach to the east. Once all of the boats are assembled the 3,000 to 4,000 participants will raise their paddles, and then join hands and raft together for at least 30 seconds.
He said the event will break the current world record, set in upstate New York last summer, when 1,925 canoes and kayaks gathered at 4th Lake at Inlet, New York in a ''One Square Mile of Hope'' fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
A blast of the horn from the MS Mount Washington cruise ship will be sounded at 10 a.m. as the signal for the participants to paddle out to a designated area, 1,000 feet by 1,000 feet, just off from Weirs Beach, which will be surrounded by support boats..
''We're working with volunteers from paddling groups and from lakes all over the state,'' said O'Brien, who said that the goal of the event is to raise awareness of the spread of invasive aquatic weeds such as water milfoil, which he said is already costing more than $1 million a year statewide to combat.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the association's efforts to combat invasive species, something that the organization, which administers the statewide Lake Host program, which coordinates the voluntary inspection of boats in lakes all over the state for invasive aquatic species, is very familiar with.
Now in its 12th year, the Lake Host program awards payroll grants to local groups which carry out its educational programs at boat ramps open to the public on lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout New Hampshire.
O'Brien said the rafting event will be followed by an on-land celebration which will be set up at Endicott Park at Weirs Beach and hopefully will draw between 1,000 and 2,000 people.
A Loudon woman won a Guide 147 canoe from Old Town Canoes and Kayaks and Irwin Marine when she registered online for LakeFest, which will see an attempt made on September 7 at Weirs Beach to set a new Guinness World Record for largest raft of canoes and kayaks. Denise Byrne, second from right, is shown with Bill Irwin of Irwin Marine, left; her husband, Rich, and Tom O'Brien, right, president of New Hampshire Lakes. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)