copyright the Chronicle July 16, 2014
by Joseph Gresser
NEWPORT — The weather was kind to Newport this weekend, and people enthusiastically turned out for the city’s Aquafest. A celebration of life on the shores of Lake Memphremagog, the event is in its fifth year since its revival in 2009.
The traditional events associated with the festival, such as the Kingdom Swim and the Swimmers and Pet Parade, were included in the festivities with a few tweaks to keep them fresh.
While Newport’s Main Street was closed off for the parade and a street dance Friday evening, the entire city was open for business Sunday.
Vendors of all sorts set up booths in the drive in front of the Emory Hebard State Office Building and down along the boardwalk on the shores of Lake Memphremagog.
Those who strolled down the bike path to the Gateway Center and the city docks found the annual chowder festival in full swing, with six contestants vying for the title of Newport chowder champion.
The biggest innovation in this year’s celebration was the debut of the VT105 Challenge, a scavenger hunt that sent teams chasing around the city in search of clues, corks, and an iguana selfie.
The event, organized by Vermont’s North Country Chamber of Commerce, attracted eight teams, but Executive Director Lynne Bertrand said she hopes for more contestants as time goes by and the word gets out.
The race started at the Gateway Center as pairs of competitors set out with a single clue and a balloon in hand. Each arrived at the fountain in Pomerleau Park where Peter Jewett waited, clutching a fist full of envelopes.
As each pair of contestants arrived at the fountain, Mr. Jewett pointed to two pairs of big dice floating in the water. He would hand over a clue, he explained, once the contestants had thrown a six with each die.
The pace was frantic, and luck was not with Jennifer Hodges and her daughter Brittany, who needed almost five minutes of throwing in order to earn a clue that sent them off towards Wendy’s where they would be required to feed each other ice cream.
Jenna Sanville and Faith Curtis, who represented the Pick and Shovel in the race, ran into their own frustrations. They had to guess the number of gumballs in a jar placed in front of Lago’s new candy store. A guess that was more than 50 balls off the mark meant the contestants had to wait a minute before making another estimate.
Sarah Corrow was the friendly, but strict, timekeeper.
When the young women got their envelope they found themselves puzzled by a clue that told them to seek out a “view” where baked goods and produce could be found. After several moments of consultation, they headed up Main Street, away from the Vista Market, to see where they could find a view and food.
Another clue that puzzled much of the field was one that should have led teams upstairs to the iguana in the Pick and Shovel’s pet department. Mayor Paul Monette waited there patiently for a customer, but for a long while none appeared. Finally, Anthony DeGreenia and Justin Roy, representing the National Guard, ran up and posed for a self-portrait with the iguana. Mr. Monette handed them their next clue, and the men raced off.
At the end of the day, the National Guard team got second place, behind Doug Niles and Charlie Schneider of the Pushing 40 Team, and ahead of Pick and Shovel, the third-place finishers.
In the 15-mile Border Buster swim, a new event this year, Sarah Thomas of Conifer, Colorado, was the first woman, and the first overall, to cross the finish line with a time of 7:10:57. Charlotte Brynn of Stowe was next at 7:52:49, and Jennifer Dutton, of Wayland, Massachusetts, was in third place with a time 10:04:19.
With a time of 7:33:32, Bill Shipp of Mitchellville, Maryland, was the first man to come ashore. He was followed by David Uprichard, of New York City, who took 9:55:03 to swim the 15 miles, and Franklin Prezioso of Bel Aire, Maryland, who swam the distance in 9:55:03.
Jeffrey Stuart of Manchester, Connecticut, finished first, of those who did not wear wet suits, in the ten-mile swim. His time was 4:24:17, Mr. Stuart was closely followed by Cole Gindhart, of Cibolo, Texas, who completed the course with a time of 4:27:23. At 4:54:08, Maury McKinney, of North Conway, New Hampshire, placed third in the men’s skins division.
Among women without wetsuits Burlington swimmer Eileen Mullowney placed first at 4:37:23. She was followed by Karyn Scherer of Waitsfield, who recorded a time of 5:24:24, and Abigail Fairman of New York City, who finished in 5:32:10.
contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]