By Mr. Derek Doucet
The Polarfest Weekend in Lakefield is always a well-attended event. It allows for people who have been shut-in all winter to get outside and enjoy some activity, excitement and most of all entertainment. Without a doubt, the most entertaining event of the entire weekend is the Polar Paddle which sees teams of 6 dressed in costume pushing a canoe on a cart with castor wheels madly down the main street in the quaint snow-covered village of Lakefield.
The Polar Paddle began as a Ryder House tradition as the Gentlemen of Ryder were connecting and contributing to the community. It was a time when they made and served lunch at a local soup kitchen. It is also when the idea of chasing adventure and fun landed two Ryder House teams in the race.
In our first year, we finished second behind alumni Parent Nick Exton, staff member Sharon Fisk's spouse Richard and the "NewsTeam" who embodied the quote that "You don't stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing" and we were hooked! The next three years saw Ryder House as the three-time defending champions of the event and we were on our way to creating a Polar Paddle dynasty not unlike that of the "Showtime" Lakers in the '80s or the Warriors of our time.
Last year was the first year that I inherited the organizing and hosting of the event (read our 2019 Polar Paddle Racing eNews story
). I guess it's like when Shaq retired and moved into the broadcasting side of the game. With the talents of Simon Dutil '20 and Jheeven Salvarajah '19, the events have been well-organized, well-music'd and a lot of fun! Simon was also responsible for helping to repair the carts which led to Ryder's first defeat in the semi-finals the year before when one of the castor wheels fell off mid-way through the race and led to a loss against the OE crew who eventually went on to win that year.
The Polar Paddle continues to play a role at the school with the Associate Faculty (Michael Daniel, Darren Moffatt, Lee Condon, Jean-Michel, Leisa Wierenga & Alicia Summers) winning last year, followed by another win by entirely different Associate Faculty (Elliott Exton '11, Madi Lee, Colin Sharpe '11, Stephanie Sparkman and Kiefer Thalen) this year. If you've been paying attention you'll see that Elliott has followed in his father's footsteps and will forever share a bond that was forged on the pure hilarity of the day. Some attribute the wins to young legs but this event is about so much more. It's about trying new things, being active in the cold and finding joy in life's ridiculous moments.
This community event drew hundreds of spectators to watch the firefighters, St Paul's Church, a crowdsourced team, as well as new LCS dynasty compete for the trophy of the fastest boat and best team costume. The team so aptly called the "Party Animals" - this year was Vol. 2 Frozen Edition - was comprised of six Grade 10 girls (Alexis Pederson '22, Grace Bender '22, Olivia Geloso '22, Sunaina Vallamkonda '22, Rowan Harris-Stoertz '22 and Riana Levesque '22) had the best outcome of their two year Polar Paddle career. They became the two-time defending "Best Costume" winners and finished with a record of 2 wins and 2 losses.
If you find yourself in the area at the end of January next year and want to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun, come out to the Polar Paddle and see if the Party Animals will three-peat, cementing their dynasty as a group of young people who "get it". We look forward to building the tradition at the school as well as in our community by welcoming more teams to future events and continuing to chase fun and adventure during the winter months.