New Paltz Regatta marks 63rd anniversary

Snug Harbor participates every year in the New Paltz Regatta. This year the crew took home the prize for Most Theatrical. (Lauren Thomas)

One might not think that anyone brave enough to chance a dunk in the Wallkill River would worry much about getting wet in the rain. But a threatening sky might have been to blame for the fact that only seven teams ended up competing in the New Paltz Regatta last Sunday. “We had more categories than we have entries this year,” observed emcee Carl Welden as he awaited the judges’ decisions on the lawn of the Gilded Otter after the “race.”

The up side to the small field of competitors was that every entry came away with a prize. Even more remarkably, not one of the boats was deemed unseaworthy enough to take home the laurels for Most Likely to Sink. Instead, a double prize was awarded in the Most Creative category to Mess and Messier, the twin paddlewheel boats entered by the students from the Circleville Middle School’s STEAM Club. The dual entry constituted the fifth annual foray in the Regatta by the Pine Bush-based school group, according to science teacher R. J. Gabriel. “We start the club in October. First we brainstorm a design, then we collect materials, then we build the boat. If there’s still time, we test it out,” Gabriel explained.


The Sonotek USS Floaty Boat took first place (Lauren Thomas)

Several years back, an earlier cohort of middle-schoolers took the Green Award for a watercraft kept afloat entirely by a raft of empty plastic bottles lashed together. This year, the prize for a boat made from recycled materials went to the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance for its entry the Wood Duck: a sleek and handsome craft with a painted facsimile of its colorful namesake waterfowl mounted on the prow. Among the first boats to disentangle itself from the starting-line rope at the sound of the starter horn, the Wood Duck darted to an early lead, but was quickly overtaken by the Sono-Tek Corporation’s USS Floatyboat. Sono-Tek’s entry, which went home with the Fastest award, had an old-school videogame theme. A bright-yellow-painted disc mounted in the center depicted Pac-Man fishing for “ghosts”: seven crew members shrouded in pastel-colored ponchos.

Another craft utilizing a paddlewheel — this one powered by a bicycle sprocket and chain — was the boat deemed Best Designed by the judges: the Commander’s Parish. In keeping with the Parish restaurant’s specialty of New Orleans cuisine, the boat had an old-fashioned Mississippi sternwheeler design, its gunwales bedecked with paintings of party-boat revelers dining and dancing. Another New Paltz eatery and watering hole, Snug Harbor, won the Most Theatrical Award for its entry, the Styx River Taxi. This black-shrouded boat (presumably ferried by Charon himself) sported a skull for its figurehead and a Jolly Roger flag and the legend “Hades or Bust” at the stern.

The Circleville Middle School has participated in the New Paltz Regatta for a number of years. This year they took home the prize for Most Creative. (Lauren Thomas)

The New Paltz Youth Program’s 2018 entry, Space Fights, won the Best in Show award for its parade appurtenances, designed to look like a Y-wing fighter from a certain very popular space-opera movie franchise. Once arrived at the launch point, however, the crew — identifying themselves as Ron Duo, Duke Guystalker, Robbie Two Cannoli, Yoga and Space Fighter — unburdened the boat of its decorations. The stripped-down outrigger craft came in second for timing.

On the deck of the Gilded Otter following the Regatta and the awards ceremony, as the band Ratboy, Jr. broke down its sound equipment, the Hasbrouck family and friends celebrated their prize for Funniest boat with drinks and a festive meal. Their bespangled craft, Rainbows & Unicorns, had been topped with a large inflatable unicorn pool toy. Young Mackenzie Hasbrouck, a fourth-generation crew member, had operated the super-soaker pump, squirting the crews of other boats with water as they passed nearby. “We’ve been doing this for 19 years,” noted her mom, Heidi Hasbrouck, as the group raised a toast to this fun family tradition.

The Wallkill Watershed Alliance won the Green Award with their hand-painted duck boat (Lauren Thomas)

In addition to Ratboy, Jr., the band Yard Sale played in the Regatta parade and afterwards at the Water Street Market. The rain held off for the entire event, and the cheerful crowd of race spectators gradually dispersed afterwards to enjoy downtown New Paltz’s other offerings. Volunteers from the Woodcrest Bruderhof stayed on until all the kids lined up for free face-painting had been satisfied. Dylan Sgroe, 6, of Highland, was threatening to eat up all his family members with the hungry shark painted around his own mouth, according to his mom, Shawna Sylvestre. Alék Duignan, about to turn 4, opted for a less-scary glittery unicorn face. Her mother, Clare Hussain, said that this was the family’s first Regatta, having recently moved up to New Paltz from Brooklyn. But it would not be their last: “It’s a really cute community-based event. I really like the prankstery aspect of it.”

Official sponsors for the 2018 New Paltz Regatta included 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.

The New Paltz Youth Program took the Best in Show prize (Lauren Thomas)

Yard Sale violinist Rick Birmingham helps provide musical accompaniment at the head of the parade (Lauren Thomas)

The crew of Rainbows and Unicorns took home the prize for Funniest Boat (Lauren Thomas)