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Low water levels ground Lewis County RiverFest

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LOWVILLE — This year’s regional drought has claimed another victim: the annual Lewis County RiverFest.

Lewis County Chamber of Commerce officials on Friday afternoon canceled the 23rd annual leisurely paddling event, scheduled for Saturday, because of low water levels in the Black River.

“We’re afraid for people’s safety,” said Chamber Executive Director Anne L. Merrill.

The event was to utilize the stretch of river from Castorland to Carthage, with the Carthage Rod and Gun Club serving as the midway pit stop. However, the part of the river near the club is particularly low and murky, making it dangerous to set up a station there, Mrs. Merrill said.

The event tends to draw many inexperienced paddlers, she said.

Even during a canoe and kayak race July 1 on the Black River, when water levels were higher, a participant ran into a stone, putting a hole in the boat’s bottom, Mrs. Merrill said.

However, it still was disappointing to cancel, she said.

“It’s always a fun family event,” she said. “People look forward to it every year.”

RiverFest was not held in 2003 and 2004 because of a lack of liability insurance, but the chamber director said she doesn’t believe it has ever before been called on account of dry weather.

Chamber officials are contacting all preregistered participants and will refund their money. Anyone with questions is asked to call the chamber at 376-2213.

In anticipation of a possible cancellation, T-shirts printed for the event do not include a year and, thus, may be used for RiverFest 2013, Mrs. Merrill said.

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