The creek will call to a few dozen paddlers and quite a few more spectators on Sunday as the 39th annual Tenandeho Canoe Association White Water Derby takes to the rapids.
The race in Mechanicville spreads over 41⁄2 miles from Coons Crossing off Route 67 just west of Mechanicville and ends at the junction of North Main and Hill streets.
John Erano, one of the organizers of the event with the Mechanicville Tenandeho Canoe Association, hopes for a little more rain to bring the creek level above the rocks.
“When the water level drops, it’s a whole new ball game,” said Erano, who lives in Malta. The creek level is low now.
“The level of the water rises incredibly fast. So it doesn’t take much to increase the level of the water in the stream,” he said.
About the event
What: Tenandeho Canoe Association White Water Derby
When: Starting at noon Sunday
Where: On the Anthony Kill, or Tenandeho Creek, in Mechanicville
Register: Between 9 and 11 a.m. at the former elementary school on North Main Street near Hill Street.
How much to race: $15
Parking: Anywhere in the city except right at the finish line.
“When it’s fast, it’s fast. What that means is you really need the experience. You have to see things ahead. You have to in your mind know where you’re going to be.”
Organizers have paddlers push off two at a time and space the heats about a minute apart to ease traffic in the narrow creek.
“They don’t bottleneck and it just makes the race a little more competitive,” Erano said.
Organizers hope for between 45 and 50 kayaks and canoes this year, consistent with the last few years.
“We seem to get the same people back on a yearly basis,” Erano said.
Paddlers can race in single kayaks or in pairs in canoes, either same-sex or opposite-sex doubles. There are classes for adults and teens.
The adult contestants are usually in their 20s and 30s, Erano said. Most paddlers come from the Capital Region, a contrast to about 20 years ago when canoe races were more numerous and the race drew competitors from a larger region, including Massachusetts.
“There was a hard-core group that would religiously go to all the races,” Erano said.
On Sunday, he anticipates seeing a couple thousand spectators standing at the finish line and along the way to watch and cheer on the paddlers.
In addition to the crowds, creekside residents watch from their backyards while firing up the barbecue grill, Erano said.
“It’s spectator friendly. You can get right at the end of the race and, if you’re a photographer, shoot upstream.”
A park at the bottom of the Route 67 overpass near the Price Chopper plaza is another good place to watch, because the geography creates a sudden drop that takes paddlers by surprise.
“It’s priceless, the looks on their faces,” Erano said. “You see pure fear in their eyes.”
Rescue personnel are stationed along the way to keep paddlers as safe as possible, especially at known problem areas where boats can tend to flip over, he said.
The local Rotary started the race in 1973 and ran it for three years before a group of paddlers decided to take it over. Erano was among them, and the Tenandeho Canoe Association was born.
The group ran several races over the years, dabbling at some points to include a race for rubber rafts, a slalom race, a triathlon and the Anything that Floats competition that the city now runs.
But it dropped those additional races and kept the annual spring race, which seven people in the group organize.
“We found that given our limited manpower, we have our hands full,” Erano said.