1,000 fast turtles raced on canal in popular Strawberry Festival fundraiser

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 June 2024 at 5:00 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Turtles are off on a brisk pace in the Amazing Turtle Race this afternoon in the Erie Canal during the Strawberry Festival. The windy weather had 1,000 turtles on the move much quicker than in the past.

The event is a fundraiser for the festival, raising about $3,500 with another $1,025 distributed in prizes. The turtles are all numbered. It costs $5 to get one turtle and five are $20.

The top five finishers win money. The winners include: first place, $500 for Deb Boyer; second place, $300 for Charlene Walsh; third place, $100 for Jarred Saj; fourth place, $75 for Kathy Fantasia; fifth place, $50 for Deb Boyer.

The turtles are dumped into the canal from the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol boat. The turtles are usually launched from the Main Street lift bridge, but the bridge has been closed and under repair since November 2022.

The launchers include, from left: Albion Police Chief David Mogle, marine patrol deputy Shawn O’Mara in back, County Legislator John Fitzak, top ticket seller Jarred Saj, Albion Mayor Angel Javier Jr., and Mickey Edwards, superintendent of Albion Central School.

Jarred Saj of Medina is congratulated by festival chairwoman Becky Karls on setting a new record for most turtle tickets sold. Saj sold 400 of the tickets, breaking his previous record of 345.

Saj started selling the tickets in February to family and friends. When he was selling some of the tickets, other people decided they wanted to take a chance at winning some of the money and also support the festival.

Saj said he is now gearing up to sell taste of Hospice tickets for an event in August.

He is holding a certificate of merit from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, in recognition of Saj “for his continuing support and dedication to the Albion Strawberry Festival. Jarred has continuously been the top seller of the Turtle Race tickets.”

Jay Kovaleski, an Albion physical education teacher and the swim coach, helps collect the turtles after they reached the end of a chute in the water. Clara Bolton also helped corral the turtles.

Josh Mitchell served as the emcee for the event.