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The annual Grand Pram race is a longtime tradition in Nahant

NAHANT — Rowers will party like it’s 1971 on Saturday with a longtime tradition created for the fun and companionship of the town. 

Town resident Robert Risch started Nahant’s Grand Pram in the early 1970s. He realized many of the beachgoers he spent his summer days sunbathing beside often disappeared for the year after Labor Day. 

“A friend of mine, Wayne Hanson, and I would spend the summer at Short Beach like most of the town,” said Risch. “We needed something to wrap up the summer.”

And so the Grand Pram was born. 

In its first year, 10 contestants lined up about a dozen feet from the shore with their prams. The small, box-shaped boats are popular in town. Contestants lifted up the boats and ran towards the water. Two participants jumped into each boat while one person rowed to an anchored lobster boat, captained by Bill Mahoney.

“A pram was not easy to row because of the blunt end,” said Risch. “That was the idea. It sounds easy but when you run into the water, the waves slap you back.”

Contestants had to row around the lobster boat, catch a can of beer thrown by Mahoney and drink it. They had to finish the beer before returning to land and carrying the boat back to the starting point. 

“We made yellow slickers and that was the first-place prize,” he said. “People would break their neck to get that slicker and wear it around town.”

The event quickly grew to include about 100 contestants. Now, it draws hundreds of people with multiple races, including a modified version for children under 12, a kayak race and paddle board race for ages 13 and up, and the traditional Grand Pram for ages 21 and older. 

Lifejackets are required for all racers. The event has been moved to the Town Wharf. This year, there will also be a cookout and a rubber ducky regatta. Funds raised through the event go to the Nahant Sailing Program. 

The event will begin at 4 p.m. 

“The race, just like it was in the start of the ’70s, is for the fun and companionship of the town,” said Risch. 

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