At a special assembly held recently at the Phillips Elementary School, Bill Pierce, Executive Director of the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum (OSHM), brought a personal invitation to students in grades 5-8 to participate in the 1st Rangeley Regatta being planned for early fall. Phillips youth will be among the regional middle school students competing in both boys’ and girls’ divisions of a wide variety of outdoor sporting activities. A major highlight of the day-long event will be the rowing competition in which the teams, composed of two oarsmen and a coxswain, or captain, will actually be rowing classic Rangeley boats on Oquossoc Cove.

Named for the region in which it was developed, the Rangeley boat was designed specifically for the large lakes of western Maine during the mid- to late-1800s, when “sports” from all over were coming here to experience everything Maine’s great outdoors had to offer. The Rangeley Lakes Region was especially well-known as a place “unlike other parts of Maine – big lakes, wide expanses, mountains, sparkling clear air, deep woods” and excellent hunting and fishing.

The Rangeley Lakes are quite shallow in some places and also open to strong winds, which could result in their surfaces becoming very choppy, very quickly. Accordingly, Rangeley boats were designed to be fast under oars, good in rough water, and stable enough that the sport could stand up to cast. Though some were shorter, Rangeley boats were usually 17 feet long, allowing plenty of room for a guide and a couple of sportsmen – or women! Let us not forget our own Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, local legend of rod, reel, and rifle, and Maine’s #1 Registered Guide.

It is interesting to note here that on Saturday, June 6th, a new Rangeley Boat Monument will be dedicated on the grounds of OSHM at 11 a.m. (For a complete schedule of other events at the museum, which is located on Routes 4 and 17 in Oquossoc Village, check out their website:

Besides the Rangeley boat races, school teams will also compete in canoeing and kayaking relays, fly tying, fly casting for distance and accuracy, archery, a one-mile cross country race, and an outdoor trivia and spelling contest. School teams will plan ahead of time which students will compete in which events in order that the maximum number of students, both boys and girls, will have a chance to participate and support their teams in the run for the first ever Rangeley Regatta Trophy.

School spirit and sportsmanship will also be important factors in the naming of the Regatta champions. Organizers have made provision for busing participants to and from the event. A special pre-event training for rowers is also being planned.

Because this year’s 8th graders will have moved on to high school by the time the Regatta is held, Pierce commissioned them to take charge of the oar art contest portion of the program. Each of the participating schools will be given an oar to decorate and submit to this contest before the end of school in June. These oars will be displayed at OSHM for the summer season to promote the event and will become the team’s standards during the event in September.

The oars are raw, sanded, unfinished wood. Artwork in keeping with the Regatta theme and some creative optional school designs and colors will be added to the oars according to specific directions. The finished product will then be sealed with spray acrylic or lacquer to protect it. These oars will be auctioned off in August, but will remain on display at the museum until after the Regatta. The 8th graders were also assured that there will be plenty of opportunities to help out at the event, thus enabling them to earn community service hours towards the number required before their graduation.

Also for the more artistically inclined and independent of the September event, students may submit poster designs. From all student submissions, one from each school will be entered into a judged competition. The overall winner will be recognized at the Regatta and will receive a $100 LL Bean gift certificate. Publicity text advertising this “day of fun competition and learning for the kids of Northern Franklin County” will be superimposed on the winning design, and the posters will be printed and distributed in support of the event throughout the summer.

Sure sounds like fun to me! And I bet Fly Rod would be pleased to know that the work she began over a century ago is continuing to inspire people to get out and celebrate Maine’s great outdoors.

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