LAWRENCE — A short time after dozens of kayaks launched into the Merrimack River to compete in races on one side of the city yesterday, a Civil War battle erupted on the other side.
The Essex National Heritage Commission's Trails and Sails events kicked off this weekend throughout the Merrimack Valley, an effort to celebrate the region's heritage and promote organizations in Essex County.
"Different organizations put different programs on to highlight the heritage of the area," said Dan Gagnon, a member of the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard. "They are trying to get people out and about, to take pride in their community."
Two weekends of Trails and Sails events began Friday evening with ghost tours through the Hilldale Cemetery in Haverhill and a stargazing walk in Groveland, and continued yesterday in Lawrence with a walk to the Great Stone Dam and a series of kayak races at the Abe Bashara Boathouse. There was also a Bread and Roses Strike Walk in Lawrence, and an Andover History Hunt, among other events.
Five races launched within two hours at the boathouse yesterday morning, as more than 50 kayaks and canoes took to the river. Several of the boats were provided to registrants for free, said Ellen Minzner, boathouse director.
"We are providing registrants with free canoes and kayaks, so people who wanted to compete could have their own things," she said.
Registration was $5 for kids and $20 for adults. Proceeds benefited Lazarus House, and adults who donated food to the charity were given a reduced registration rate, said Shawn Burke, co-director of the kayak races.
As the kayak racing ended, Union soldiers walked out of tents pitched on Campagnone Common, where authentic Civil War cannons were fired and members of the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard enlisted kids for a children's muster.