Upstate New York's historic east-west route through the Mohawk Valley will be getting plenty of traffic this weekend as the 20th annual Cycle the Erie Canal Tour concludes with final legs in Schenectady on Saturday and Albany on Sunday.
More than 700 cyclists from 37 states as well as a handful of riders from Australia are taking part in this year's event, and most of them are expected to take a break at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter and the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction on Saturday.
And it won't be business as usual at those two stops, as the Schoharie Crossing is hosting one of its largest annual events, Canal Days, while the Mabee Farm is hosting CanalFest.
Canal Days, a celebration of the Erie Canal and the people and towns along its path, will be held from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., but staff at Schoharie Crossing will be opening their doors unusually early, 8 a.m., to accommodate cyclists making their way from Canajoharie to Schenectady.
By the time much of the group gets to the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction, the CanalFest should be under way, having started at 11 a.m. Admission to both events is free.
"We'll have some volunteers here early because we're fairly close to Canajoharie, so we will have the visitor center open at 8 and they'll be able to stop in and check out our exhibits," said David Brooks, education director at Schoharie Crossing. "Canal Days starts at 11, so anyone coming along later is welcome to partake. They'll take a quick left after they cross the Schoharie Creek to get to our access road. We're very close to the bike path."
While Canal Days just happens to be on the same day the cyclists ride through Fort Hunter this year, at the Mabee Farm, CanalFest is scheduled to coincide with the bike ride.
"We're proud to welcome the cyclists of Cycle the Erie Canal to the Mabee Farm, and provide for them with what they need to enjoy a break from their route," said Mary Zawacki, executive director of the Schenectady County Historical Society, which owns the Mabee Farm. "Along with offering cold drinks, hot food and entertainment to the cyclists, CanalFest showcases the best of Schenectady County -- a beautiful site on the banks of the Mohawk filled with rustic charm, stunning views and timeless character."
And, you don't have to be on your bike to enjoy CanalFest.
"The annual event is aimed at getting local families outside and engaged with nature, culture and history," said Zawacki. "We also empower visitors with the tools to explore Schenectady and the Erie Canalway Trail on their own, with bikes, on foot, and through the lens of a camera."
Along with the historical society, CanalFest is being presented by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the Schenectady County Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Stewart's and Schenectady County.
The Canal Days event at Scoharie Crossing is both Saturday and Sunday and will be filled with family-friendly activities, including wagon rides and horseshoeing demonstrations. Among the sponsors for Canal Days is the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor and the state Canal Corp.
Hundreds of cyclists have been making their way east this week as part of the 20th annual Cycle the Erie Canal Tour. They will be stopping at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter and the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction on Saturday, spend the night at the Niskayuna Jewish Community Center, and then ride their last leg on Sunday into downtown Albany at the State Capitol. Before arriving in downtown Albany, riders will have the opportunity to make stops at the Cohoes Falls and Peebles Island.
"There are a few people who drop out for one reason or another, but we still expect to have about 700 cyclists heading into downtown Albany," said James Meerdink, a spokesman for Parks and Trails of New York State. "We had a couple of dozen that first year, but the number has continued to increase over the years. We're actually getting to the point where we're reaching capacity for some of our campsites."
Here's a short look at their trip and some of the highlights, along with what's happening this weekend.
Sunday, July 8: Buffalo to Medina, 54 miles; ride along Niagara River before joining the canal system at Lockport.
Monday, July 9: Medina to Fairport, 53 miles. Take a short excursion up Genesee River into downtown Rochester before finishing the day at Packett's Landing Wharf.
Tuesday, July 10: Fairport to Seneca Falls, 62 miles. Visit farmhouse of Joseph Smith in Palmyra and the Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls.
Wednesday, July 11: Seneca Falls to Syracuse, 39 miles. Visit Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and tour Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse.
Thursday, July 12: Syracuse to Rome, 50 miles. Visit Chittenango Canal Museum and Fort Stanwix National Monument.
Friday, July 13: Rome to Canajoharie, 63 miles. Visit Munson-Williams Proctor Museum in Utica, General Herkimer's Home in Little Falls, and Arkell Museum in Canajoharie.
Saturday, July 14: Canajoharie to Schenectady, 46 miles. Much of ride is along Mohawk River, visit Schoharie Crossing Site and Mabee Farm.
Sunday, July 15: Schenectady to Albany, 31 miles. Visit Cohoes Falls, Peebles Island and finish ride along Hudson River to downtown Albany.