Many events planned statewide to commemorate bicentennial of canal construction
File photo by Tom Rivers: The Lois McClure, a wooden schooner built as a replica of a canal boat from the 1860s, is pictured in Albion during a visit on the canal in August 2013. The boat will be back in Orleans County this August.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled a series of celebrations and events being planned across New York State to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal.
An engineering marvel that stimulated trade, exploration and invention, the canal project created the first superhighway across New York, connecting Albany and Buffalo and improving transportation to and from New York City by linking the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
“The Erie Canal was critical in establishing New York as a national hub for commerce and industry, and today offers boaters unparalleled views and access to our canalside communities,” Governor Cuomo said. “In commemorating this anniversary, we celebrate the canal’s rich heritage as well as its pivotal role in promoting economic development and tourism today. I urge visitors to come experience the many events planned for the bicentennial celebration.”
Today was also the start of the 2017 boating season on the 524-mile canal system for recreational vessels, which are now the primary users of the canals. The season runs through Oct. 11.
To celebrate the bicentennial, permit fees for recreational vessels, normally costing $25-$100, have been waived by the Canal Corporation this year.
A ceremony to mark the occasion was held in Waterford, the eastern terminus of the canal, where Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul gave the orders to open the gate at Lock 2, where more than 20 boats were waiting to begin their canal journey.
“For 200 years, the Erie Canal has been at the heart of our economy and one of the most important factors in the development of the Empire State,” said Hochul, who officiated the opening of the locks at Waterford. “As we begin the 2017 season and the bicentennial celebration of this technical marvel, we are challenged to match the inspiration of previous generations of New Yorkers and leave a legacy as great and lasting as theirs.”
It was on April 15, 1817, the New York State legislature approved construction of the Erie Canal, connecting Albany to Buffalo. Crews began work following the ceremonial first dig on July 4, 1817, in Rome, Oneida County. The canal was officially completed on October 26, 1825.
The towns established along the canal now offer annual festivals, living history re-enactments and hands-on museums that celebrate the region’s rich past and the communities that live along the canal today.
“This will be an exciting year to visit the canals,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “Come experience our unique destinations and celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial with the more than 200 communities within the corridor and be a part of a history that is still being written every day.”
The New York State Canal Corporation will co-host bicentennial events with communities along the canal.
The 1862 replica canal boat “Lois McClure” will travel across the state, including the length of the Erie Canal, visiting towns and villages along the way, as crews from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum show visitors what life was like aboard a canal boat. The Lois McClure will be in Holley on Aug. 8 and in Medina on Aug. 10.
Other events include:
• Amsterdam, June 9, with a festival and fireworks at Riverlink Park, home to the new Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Bridge;
• Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, June 10, all day canal-themed events and barbeque, where you can see the remnants of the original Erie Canal, the enlarged canal and current configuration of the Barge Canal;
• Lockport, July 8, home to the famed “Flight of Five,” a set of five locks dating to the 1860s. The Flight once effectively acted as “stairs for boats” heading up the Niagara Escarpment, the long cliff that runs east/west across New York that famously includes Niagara Falls;
• Rochester, July 14-15, featuring an Erie Canal forum and a day of family-friendly events and music, both held at the Strong National Museum of Play; and
• Rome, July 22, an all-day event at Bellamy Harbor Park, featuring a first-dig re-enactment, an arts and crafts fair, concerts and fireworks.
• A new Erie Canal exhibit, “New York’s Erie Canal: Gateway to a Nation,” will open this fall at the New York State Museum in Albany.
• In Lockport, the Kenan Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have a special exhibition of Erie Canal photographs.
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