It’s not exactly the 63rd annual, on account of a long hiatus or two in the past; but this Sunday, May 6, the organizers of the New Paltz Regatta will be celebrating the wacky event’s 63rd anniversary just a little early (the first one occurred on May 15, 1955). It started out as a fraternity stunt and went on to become a beloved community tradition.
While there is one prize dedicated to the Fastest Boat, speed isn’t really the point of the Regatta. Mostly it’s to have your craft stay afloat for the entire quarter-mile racecourse, from the boat launch in Sojourner Truth Park on Plains Road to the finish line at the Carmine Liberta Bridge, and to look clever and cool while doing so. Consequently, there is also a prize category called Most Likely to Sink, as well as Best in Show, Most Creative, Most Theatrical and Funniest — not to mention the Green Award, for the craft that best exemplifies the use of recycled materials.
Only handcrafted, non-motorized, raft-style boats are allowed to compete. The base of a previously used Regatta boat may be reused, but there must be a new overall theme each year. About a dozen entrants are typical, although, says Regatta Committee organizer Theresa Fall, “We never really know in advance how many boats there’ll be. Most of them usually register on the day of the event. There are some regulars we can count on, but we’re always looking for new blood.”
Fall did have one teaser to share with the press for the 2018 lineup: “I heard that the Parish restaurant built a really cool boat. It models a Mississippi steamboat, which is appropriate because it is a New Orleans-style restaurant: Cajun/Creole.” Riverkeeper is also expected to participate this year, she added.
One bit of news that may disappoint some spectators, especially the younger set, is not an addition but a subtraction: Family of New Paltz will not be holding its usual Rubber Duck Derby fundraiser on Sunday, according to Fall. “They decided that the money and time could be spent better. But they want to try again next year,” she reported.
Still, there will be plenty going on to keep youngsters entertained. Regatta Day kicks off at noon, as boatbuilders register their entries at Village Hall. At 1 p.m. the band Yard Sale will lead the flotilla-on-wheels from Village Hall down Plattekill Avenue to Main Street, turn left, head down Main to Water Street and thence to the launch point. The watery mayhem is scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m. The riverside trails in Sojourner Truth Park provide great vantagepoints for cheering on your favorite Regatta team; the Carmine Liberta Bridge, while well-positioned, is usually so crowded that only early birds will get close enough to the railing to see much.
The celebration continues afterwards with live music on the lawn of the Gilded Otter, featuring Yard Sale and kid-rock stars Ratboy, Jr. Volunteers from the Woodcrest Bruderhof will once again offer free face-painting for the little ones.
Official sponsors for the 2018 New Paltz Regatta include the Gilded Otter, Jar’d, Lalo Drywall, SUNY New Paltz, the Woodcrest Community, Craft Beer Guild Distributing of NY, E-River Neurology, Garvan’s Gastropub, Jack Zand, Masseo Landscaping, New Paltz Kayaking Tours, the Parish, P & G’s, Smitty’s Body Shop, the Town and Village of New Paltz and Rodan Labs.