Raft-a-palooza is water quality 'education in disguise'

LACONIA — As the kayaks and canoes begin gathering Saturday afternoon at Weirs Beach for Sunday's second Annual Raft-a-Palooza, participants will also be getting an education about water quality and keeping invasive aquatic species out of New Hampshire's lakes.

Event organizers, including New Hampshire Lakes Association Vice President Andrea LaMoreaux, actually began the event as a way to not only bring family and friends together, but also to educate the paddle boating community.

"It's education in disguise," LaMoreaux said. "Plants and animals hitchhike rides to our waters."

LaMoreaux said "Clean, Drain, and Dry" is the motto for the Raft-a-Palooza.

"Any boat that participates with be inspected by a blue-shirted person who will inspect the boat and assist the owner in cleaning the obvious materials, draining the water from the bottom, and making sure the vessel is dry before entering Lake Winnipesaukee," she said.

She said plants tend to be the easiest to clean because they are, for the most part, visible. More tricky are the invasive aquatic animals, like the zebra mussels and Asian clams that come to new waters through drops of water.

For the first time this year, there will be a festival for children, after the attempts to break the Guinness World Book records for most boats in a raft and most boat to launch at the same time.

She said the festival will consist of seven interactive stations where children (and their parents) can learn about water and the environment.

The first station will teach about how lakes form while the second station will teach about how water moves and circulates around the planet.

Station 3 teaches about the aquatic food web or food chain. "We'll teach them about what eats what," she said.

Station 4 will describe a watershed with a goal of letting students know that even if they don't live right on the water, everything they do eventually drains into a lake or river.

The fifth station describes ways to get pollution and dirt out, while the sixth station is about invasive species.

She said each station will have hands on activities for the children and will be staffed by volunteers from the New Hampshire Lakes Association.

Finally, she said the students will get to Station 7 where they will take a pledge to do something to help the water and get a certificate and a patch for their new-found knowledge.

She said the pledge would be one thing that a child can do to help protect the state's lakes and waters — like picking up pet waste or taking shorter showers.

LaMoreaux said N.H. Lakes hopes to begin recruiting a whole new generation of "Water Warriors" who will assist in preserving the environment and keeping New Hampshire waters clean and free of invasive species.

Raft-a-Palooza check-in begins at noon on Saturday, although people can continue to check in until right before the launch on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. She said the rafting will start at 11 a.m.