7/23/16: The Fourth Annual Raftapalooza was held at Thayer Beach in Colchester Saturday. Hundreds of boaters, floaters and water enthusiasts turned out to enjoy a sunny afternoon on Lake Champlain. There was a threat of thunderstorms but it didn't dampen the party.
Raftapalooza started out as a fun gathering between friends and has grown in size over the years. Neighbors have complained about parking issues, trash and drunk driving. Organizer Jeremy Dewyea got a permit from the Coast Guard, provided a shuttle service for cars, and raised over $5000 to pay the town for the extra staffing the event required. Everyone agreed that Raftapalooza had outgrown its location and this would be its last year in Colchester.
At 3pm, U.S. Coast Guard officials began evacuating the floating party and at 3:30pm, a strong thunderstorm blew to shore. Rafters and swimmers rushed to safety and boaters helped each other to secure their crafts and wait out the storm. A 56-year-old man from Milton was brought to shore in cardiac arrest and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. His death is thought to be unrelated to the event.
Organizers are hoping to find a new location for the 2017 event.
Video & stills courtesy of: Mike Williams, FliRite Aviation LLC, Shirley Chevalier, Taryn Elizabeth, Tiana Bombard, Hollie Walsh