By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

While the Smith River community celebrates its agricultural roots on Saturday, Gasquet residents will be on - and perhaps in - their celebrated turquoise river.

andquot;Everybody biffs the first rapid; their rafts fall apart,andquot; said Barb Bono, one of the event organizers. andquot;It's a blast, everybody comes out of the woodwork - cars start lining up at 10 a.m. with their rafts.andquot;

Bono referred to the 38th-annual Gasquet Raft Races this weekend, an event that is sponsored by the village's American Legion Post 548.

andquot;The deep pit barbecue sells out every year,andquot; Bono said. andquot;They cook a lot - 300 pounds of beef this year.andquot;

The event is a fund-raiser for Gasquet's post, and an event its promoters hope will pull people up the hill and into the sunshine.

The promotion tack has drawn back Vivian Conterio, who lived in Crescent City as Vivian Hanka, but who has lived in Texas since 1953.

andquot;I love Crescent City; my kids have come with me to visit about five times, but we've never made it up (to Gasquet),andquot; Conterio said.

This year is different: Conterio, her three children, son-in-law and friend and two grandsons will compete in the Raft Races this weekend.

andquot;We have our rafts reserved; we have to figure out how to decorate the rafts,andquot; she said.

A University of Texas theme is possible, Conterio explained, adding she's not sure if her children andquot;want to look that Texan.andquot;

andquot;I think we'll have a ball,andquot; she said.

andquot;The whole community comes out, we get people from Cave Junction,andquot; Bono added. andquot;Quite a few wear costumes; we even have Team Anonymous, they won a trophy last year and no one knows who they are.andquot;

Picture, if you will, penguins paddling for all their worth down Smith River to Mary Adams Peacock Bridge.

As the name implies, the event is a series of races, featuring inflatable craft rowed or steered by two-person teams of varying ages.

The race course runs 2.5 miles from its start at the confluence of the river's North and Middle Forks by Horace Gasquet Bridge in Gasquet to the Adams bridge.

andquot;People who live by the river have deck parties, and the whole mountainside is covered (by spectators),andquot; Bono said.

Race events are followed by the deep pit barbecue at American Legion Hall in Gasquet. Also offered are Taylor's hot dogs and Polish sausages. Dinners are $7.50.

Arts and crafts booths are on hand, as is music by Gemini entertainment.

The event is sponsored by Mad River Brewing Co., Six Rivers Brewery and Lost Coast Brewery.

Gasquet Raft Races

Heats begin at noon. Divided into 10 divisions and age groups, their start times are staggered by five-minute periods. Categories include:

?Company-sponsored inflatable kayaks (all ages)

?Company-sponsored inflatable rafts (all ages)

?Inflatable kayaks, ages 12-35

?Inflatable kayaks, ages 36 and older

?Oar-driven rafts, ages 12-16

?Oar-driven rafts, ages 17-40

?Oar-driven rafts, ages 41 and older.

?Hand-paddled rafts, ages 12-16.

?Hand-paddled rafts, ages 17-40.

?Hand-paddled rafts, ages 41 and older.

Trophies are awarded to each category's winner, and to the most unusual raft.

Fees are $15 for each person in a raft or $20 per sponsored raft plus $15 per person in the raft. Entry fees qualify each paying participant to a souvenir T-shirt. Entries are accepted between 10-11:30 a.m. at the start line.

Minimum age for skippers is 12, and all younger than 18 must have a parent's consent signature on their entry form.

All California boating laws are followed. All craft must be inflatable - no hard-body types are allowed.

Unsportsmanlike conduct and littering disqualify racers. Racers must be qualified swimmers and must wear tennis shoes. Glass or styrofoam containers and nails are prohibited.