Despite the state canal system remaining closed due to the high water over the past few weeks, a strong crowd still turned out for the 25th annual Canal Festival Saturday.
Lisa Arpaia, a Waterford native who lives in Latham, brought her two young sons Brian, 3, and Joey, 6, to the festival hoping she could take them on a boat tour or a boat ride. Instead, she spent most of the afternoon chasing them along the waterfront, trying to keep them from falling into the river.
“Usually they have the boats all over and they take people up and down the canal. I didn’t know the boats weren’t going to be here. That’s what they wanted to do,” she said. “It’s still good to come back to the area and get a chance to see everyone though.”
The festival was held along Waterford’s waterfront in Lock 2 Park, Button Park and Battery Park. Vendors came out selling food, T-shirts, and other items. The event celebrates the riverfront heritage of Waterford, Troy, Cohoes, Watervliet, Green Island, and Colonie, all along the Erie Canal stretch of the state system.
Margaret Michaud, of Waterford, helped to run the Cub Scouts Pack 632 fund raising table, which sold hamburgers, hotdogs and other food. She said the Scouts can usually expect to raise $800 to $900 from the event, but Saturday they only took in about $200.
“It’s usually better, but without the boats here it’s tough,” she said. “When you have the boats it draws more people. Usually there are boats lined up and they are coming in and out of the water and there are tours, but not today.”
Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton, formerly the mayor of Schenectady, said the festival was a great success despite the canal system remaining mostly closed, except for the most western section of it from Rochester to Buffalo.
“We’re hopeful that now the weather will cooperative and we’ll be able to get the rest of the canal open within the next several weeks. We hope to get the eastern Erie section open by Memorial Day weekend,” he said.