Selectmen Paddle School Committee
Canoe race raises $660 for World War II Memorial in Wakefield, MA
It was billed as the “War on the Water,” a contest where youth would challenge age in a canoe race on Lake Quannapowitt, with the more “seasoned” Wakefield Board of Selectmen taking on the relatively youthful School Committee members.
In the end, age triumphed over youth; experience prevailed over innocence, as the aging selectmen’s team handily defeated their fresh-faced school board rivals by several canoe lengths.
But the real winner yesterday was the World War II Memorial fund, as the event raised nearly $700 in donations toward the effort to build a new monument honoring the town’s veterans of the Second World War.
The much-hyped regatta had been the subject of a good deal of competitive “smack talk” in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s showdown, led primarily by the School Committee’s 23 year-old chairman, Anthony Guardia.
“I would like to remind the selectmen that in no way do their AARP cards entitle them to any extra advantage,” Guardia scoffed.
In response, Selectman Patrick Glynn warned that Guardia should be “concerned about the prospect of having to explain to his fellow School Committee members how he lost to someone twice his age.”
There was no let up yesterday morning on the Lower Common as the 11 a.m. start time approached and all four members of the selectmen’s team – Chairman John Carney, Betsy Sheeran, Patrick Glynn and Paul DiNocco – were present and decked out in their World War II Memorial t-shirts.
“I don’t think they’re going to show up,” Glynn remarked when at 10:50 a.m. no one from the School Committee had arrived. Whispers of a possible forfeit were circulating among the crowd when School Committee member Kevin Piskadlo showed up just before 11 a.m., followed closely by teammates Lisa Butler and Chris Callanan. But there was no sign of Guardia.
“Trash-talking Guardia is a no-show,” quipped Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio, and Carney speculated that Guardia might actually be sick with a case of the pre-race jitters.
When Guardia finally appeared at 11:10 a.m. sporting jeans and a New England Patriots football shirt, several selectmen wondered if a course in telling time ought to be part of the school curriculum.
“If I lose, I’ll retire from canoeing,” Guardia vowed before the race. Overhearing, an excited John Carney thought that Guardia had promised to retire from the School Committee.
The two teams assembled to go over the rules. The race would be a relay, Glynn explained, with each team having two canoes, manned by two team members. The first two boats would race out to the white buoy and back. The second canoes could not launch until their team’s first canoe returned to the starting point.
Glynn noted that the Selectmen would be in the two green canoes, while the School Committee would be in the red.
“Like your budget,” Sheeran joked, as the teams made their way to the water’s edge.
The four Old Towne Guide model 160 canoes were provided by Outdoor Recreation, the company that offers canoe and kayak rentals on the Lower Common.
Sheeran climbed into the bow of one of the selectmen’s green canoes, with Carney taking the aft position. Piskadlo and Butler took their respective positions in the bow and stern of the first red canoe.
World War II Memorial Committee Chairman Phyllis Hull served as the race’s official starter, and as she gave the “go!” command, Maio’s vigorous push-off gave Carney and Sheeran an advantage they would not relinquish. Although wind was not a factor, each team appeared initially to struggle to control their vessel’s direction. Carney and Sheeran eventually managed to set a straight course, but Piskadlo and Butler took a more circuitous route, allowing the selectmen to build a significant lead on the way out to the buoy.
Butler and Piskadlo, however, soon recovered and as the canoes rounded the buoy, the School Committee’s canoe was no more than two boat lengths behind Sheeran and Carney. But the selectmen bore down on the return leg and managed to open up a sizable lead as they approached shore and tagged paddles with their teammates Glynn and DiNocco who pushed out for the second and final lap.
By the time Piskadlo and Butler hit the shore and the School Committee’s second team of Guardia and Callanan shoved off, Glynn and DiNocco were already one-third of the way to the buoy.
But the selectmen appeared to have trouble negotiating the turn around the buoy, and once again the School Committee team managed to cut the lead. It was still a race as the boats rounded the buoy. But Glynn and DiNocco would not be denied. They managed to hang on to the lead and hit the shore victorious, at least a minute ahead of Guardia and Callanan.
The older Glynn extended a hand to assist young Guardia from his canoe.
“I want the selectmen tested for steroids,” Guardia demanded. On a more serious note, Guardia stressed that it was a good race for a good cause. “If there’s anything worth losing for,” Guardia added, “it’s the World War II Memorial. I thought we represented ourselves well and we’ll get ‘em next year.”
Glynn joked that he hoped that the School Committee would now “defer to their superiors” on the Board of Selectmen. He echoed Guardia’s comment that it was “all for a good cause.”
Sheeran said that she expected the School Committee to present the selectmen with the winner’s trophy at their next meeting.
Phyllis Hull of the World War II Memorial Committee reported that yesterday’s event raised $660 in donations and t-shirt sales. The total also included money from the sale of the coffee and donuts which were generously donated by Honey Dew Donuts.
World War II Memorial t-shirts are available at the Chuck Wagon Diner on New Salem Street as well as from the committee’s booth located at Veterans’ Field each Saturday.
Anyone wishing to donate toward the World War II Memorial fund should send a check to Town of Wakefield, c/o Town Administrator, William J. Lee Memorial Town Hall, 1 Lafayette St., Wakefield, MA 01880. Make checks payable to “Town of Wakefield World War II Memorial Fund.” Anyone interested in helping with the fundraising efforts should call Phyllis Hull at 781-245-8684.
[This story orignally appeared in the September 14, 2009 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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