New Paltz Regatta marks 60 years since its first appearance

The annual New Paltz Regatta will be held this Sunday, May 3. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The annual New Paltz Regatta will be held this Sunday, May 3. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

It’s been 60 years since the first New Paltz Regatta paraded down Main Street to launch homemade watercraft in the Wallkill River. And what began as a SUNY fraternity activity back in 1955 has now become one of the best-attended community events in town; a wacky and lighthearted excuse to get outside with friends after a long winter and at the same time raise some funds for Family of New Paltz.

This year’s event is slated for this Sunday, May 3. The pageantry begins at Village Hall at 1 p.m. (Registration starts at noon). The procession of homemade watercraft will make its way down Plattekill Avenue, turn left onto Main Street and end up at the boat launch on Plains Road.


Expect to see numerous themes represented among the homemade boats. The only rules are that the vessels must be raft-style only using no motors and all entries must be handcrafted by the participants. And while the base of previously used Regatta boats may be reused from year to year, there must be a new overall theme. Past Regattas have had Mardi Gras-themed vessels, pirate boats replete with pirates, a Ghostbusters team and a tropical luau raft featuring tiki torches, manned by guys in grass skirts wearing seashell bras.

But before the vessels take to the waters of the Wallkill River, the Rubber Duck Race will commence around 1:45 p.m. “The ducks have been in training all winter,” says Family of New Paltz director Kathy Cartagena. Although it’s not so much of a race, really, she adds, with the ducks tossed all at once into the river and the winners drawn from the first scoopful of the ones that drift across the finish line. But sponsorship of the ducks at $5 each earns a prize for the lucky winners whose raffle number matches that of the winning ducks and the proceeds benefit Family, an organization that provides food, shelter and counseling for a lot of local families in need.

Family will also have a $5 raffle to win a gently used American Girl doll and another to win a slightly used mountain bike.

After the rubber ducks do their thing, volunteers help load the paraded boats into the water. They maneuver — or try to — about a quarter of a mile to the finish line at the Carmine Liberta Bridge, where judges will be posted to determine the official results.

Prizes are awarded to winners in categories that include Best in Show, Most Creative, Most Theatrical, Green Award, Funniest, Fastest and Most Likely to Sink, but in the end, it’s really not about the prizes, or the fundraising, for that matter, says Cartagena; “It’s really about community and just getting out there and having fun.”

A deejay will play music from the lawn of the Gilded Otter with facepainting provided by the Bruderhof Woodcrest Community.

More information is available at