No world record for paddlers, but lots of smiles

LACONIA — An attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest "raft" of canoes and kayaks fell far short of the goal of 2,100 as only 300 showed up for Saturday's LakeFest at Weirs Beach.
But organizers of the event from the N.H. Lakes organization were pleased nonetheless and said that the organization plans to hold similar events in the future as part of its educational and outreach mission to protect the state's lakes.
Martha Lovejoy, member service representative for N.H. Lakes, said ''the response was amazing and there was great energy at this year's LakeFest. We've taken it from being an indoors convention type of gathering to one that was family-friendly and involved different generations of people vested in our lakes.''
''We learned a lot about what we need to do by holding the event. We're regrouping and assessing what we'll do next. We don't want to lose the energy we saw Saturday.''
She said 380 people registered in all and that a count taken on Saturday showed a little over 300 canoes and kayaks in the water.
One person who came from the farthest away was Tom Suppan of Manassas, Virginia, who was visiting his daughter, Amber, and his son-in-law Dave Cannon of Manchester.
Suppan brought along his hand-made cedar kayak, which he says it took him 350 hours to build and which he was headed to Maine with for a week of kayaking on the Androscoggin River.
''They heard about the attempt to break the record on NPR (National Public Radio) and we decided that it was a good event to get involved with,'' said Suppan, who works with the U.S. Treasury Department and is a relative of former Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis pitcher Jeff Suppan.
Both Cannon, who is a mechanical engineer who works for DEKA Research in Manchester, and his wife, who is a medical illustrator, also brought along kayaks and were eager to get out onto the lake and meet others who were taking part.
''It looks like a fun event and we've got a nice day for it,'' said Cannon.
Among those taking part were Denise Byrne of Loudon and her husband, Rich. She recently won a Guide 147 canoe from Old Town Canoes and Kayaks and Irwin Marine as part of a LakeFest promotion to encourage people to show up at Saturday's event.
Also there was Kathleen Zuchowski of Auburn, who kayaks frequently on Lake Masabbesic, where she says kayakers aren't permitted to even step into the lake, which serves as the water supply for the city of Manchester.
''I'm not really here because of the attempt to set a record. I think it is so important that we protect our lakes. This is a great fundraiser and that's what enticed me to be here.''
Another participant was Scott Kimball of Auburn, a retired art teacher who says that one of major problems he sees for that state of New Hampshire and Lake Winnipesaukee in particular is the lack of public access to the lake.
''My grandparents had a cottage in the late 1930s at Lee's Mills in Moultonborough. The lake has changed so much since then. We couldn't afford to keep it and it was bought and now there's a much bigger home there.'' says Kimball.
He recalls that when he was a kid there was a family campground on the lake nearby where there were 300 camp sites, used mostly by New Hampshire residents, which was also sold and now there are six large homes there and no more access for the public.
''We've privatized the lake. There's hardly any access for New Hampshire residents any more. We have only one small state park on Winnipesaukee. That's a shame. I'm so disappointed about where the lake went and appalled by the lack of access and the state's Tea Party way of doing things,'' said Kimball.
He said that he supports the mission of NH Lakes in trying to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species but thinks that water milfoil is here to stay.
''My brother did research on milfoil in the 1970s for the Appalachian Mountain Club, when it was just establishing itself in the state. It's got worse since then and there's no way we're ever going to eradicate it. The best we can do is just react to try and control it wherever we can, knowing that it's going to reestablish itself,'' said Kimball.


Tom Suppan of Manassas, Virginia, was among the 300 kayakers and canoeists who took part in the Hands Across the Water event at LakeFest Saturday morning at Weirs Beach. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)