Gillbilly Paddle a growing tradition in Gill

  • Kayakers paddle past the French King Rock adorned with an American flag on the Connecticut River last fall. The third Gillbilly Paddle event on Saturday will see locals gather in boats of all types to go down the Connecticut River together. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2021 2:54:52 PM

GILL — The third Gillbilly Paddle event on Saturday will see locals gather in boats of all types to go down the Connecticut River together.

Organized by former town moderator and current Agricultural Commission Chair Ray Steele, the event began as a small word-of-mouth gathering. Now, Steele hopes the Gillbilly Paddle might help strengthen the community’s bond going forward.

Initially, the event was organized by Isaac Bingham, the town’s current moderator. When Bingham decided to no longer continue the tradition, Steele asked if he could step up and take the reins. Bingham passed his authority onto Steele, along with a list of residents’ emails to help get the word out.

“In the first year, there may have been 10 or 12 boats,” Steele recalled, noting that a variety of watercraft, including kayaks, canoes and even small motorized boats, is welcome. “The second year, there may have been 15 or 16.”

Steele said he doesn’t mind how casual and low-key the tradition has been. He said he gets pleasure simply from sitting in his yard (which overlooks the river), sipping a cup of coffee and watching the boats go by.

“It’s just a little thing to help build community,” he said.

Despite being content with the intimacy of the event’s scale, Steele said that growth of the Gillbilly Paddle would be a welcome development.

“I’d love to see it,” Steele said. “Anything that gets the town doing anything.”

Steele encourages boaters to arrive at the Northfield Mount Hermon School docks at around 9:30 a.m. The boats will launch at 10 a.m. There, participants may enjoy the explosive sound of Steele’s 10-gauge Winchester cannon signifying the race’s start. Boats will then make their way down the river until they reach the French King Bridge.

A trailer will be available to shuttle bikes to the destination, as well as shuttle boats back to the starting area, should participants desire.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or
jmendoza@recorder.com.


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