The New Paltz Regatta is supposedly a rain-or-shine event, but the weather was so awful on May 5 this year that it was rescheduled to this past Sunday, June 23. Holding the event – which was founded by a SUNY New Paltz fraternity, Delta Kappa, in 1955 – later than the end of the school year inevitably meant fewer entries. That was the case this time around. The upside was the selection of a glorious day to spend afloat on a gently flowing stream, or simply to congregate in Sojourner Truth Park or on the Carmine Liberta Bridge watching the imaginative homemade watercraft paddle by. There was bright sunshine, and the midday temperatures rose well into the 80s.
This was the sort of day when you wouldn’t mind falling into the less-than-pristine Wallkill River. That turned out to be fortunate. Two boats among the 2019 contenders did prove unseaworthy. Both won awards nonetheless.
The Sono-Shark, this year’s entry by Milton-based Sono-Tek Corporation, took the best-in-show prize. Its Jaws-themed design, dominated by an impressive dorsal fin, proved less perfectly stable in the water than a real shark, however. Just short of the bridge, one of its pontoons dipped beneath the surface and spilled some of the crew into the Wallkill.
Even less successful was this year’s entry from Snug Harbor, which master of ceremonies Carl Welden characterized as a “King Tut Egyptian thing” when he handed out the prizes on the lawn of the Clemson Brothers’ Brewery at Gilded Otter after the regatta ended. On the stern of the boat was a sign proclaiming it Snug’s Last Nite’s D-Nile. “We’re giving it the award for Most Theatrical, even though it didn’t get past the launch,” Welden said.
“I knew it was going to sink, so I got off it,” said Seamus O’Neill, eleven, who rode the boat in the motorized parade from the village hall to the launch site wrapped from head to foot like a mummy in cloth bandages, along with his seven-year-old brother, Liam. The two boys made a wise decision: The D-Nile sank immediately upon being put into the river.
By contrast, the craft deemed Most Likely to Sink by the judges in advance managed to make it to the finish line intact: the Reduce & Recycle, a raft made from discarded water bottles tied together by the Climate Action Coalition. That boat was part of the organization’s effort to raise awareness of environmental issues, as was the Wallkill River Watershed Association’s entry: a representation of a giant plastic bottle mounted on a boat, its transparent skin thrown over hoops like floating row covers on a garden bed. Both groups set up booths amidst the downtown post-regatta festivities to sign up volunteers and educate the public about watershed issues and related environmental concerns.
Intentionally immersing oneself in the Wallkill before a whole lot more cleanup is accomplished was definitely not one of their recommended actions.
While the New Paltz Regatta is emphatically not a race, the fastest boat to reach the finish line is recognized with an award. This year’s speed winner also took home the prize as the funniest: the New Paltz youth program’s Poké-Boat, which was decorated by teenaged volunteers with Pokémon motifs inspired by the recent Detective Pikachu movie. “It was anything but pokey in its acceleration downstream,” observed Welden in announcing the award.
The Most Creative prize went to “the only one that can be called a fleet”: the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, three small crafts launched together as a STEAM class project by students from the Circleville middle school in Orange County, regular participants in the regatta.
Some other groups who have usually participated on an annual basis, including a couple of local families, opted out this year, perhaps because of the change in timing. Though a smaller field of entries meant that the waterborne part of the event was over quickly, plenty of viewers stuck around to enjoy the festivities downtown. There was live music on the Otter lawn by Ratboy, Jr. and Yard Sale; alongside the Wallkill Valley rail-trail, volunteers from the Woodcrest Bruderhof in Rifton were painting small children’s faces while other kids lined up to enjoy the bounce house provided by the New Paltz youth program.
Other sponsors of the event included the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce and SUNY New Paltz, Craft Beer Guild Distributing of New York, Dr. David Ness, E-River Neurology, Garvan’s Gastropub, Gilday Creative, Hudson Valley Tile Installation, Jack Zand, Jar’d Wine Pub, Leigh Quintana Century 21 Alliance, Masseo Landscaping, New Paltz Kayaking Tours, the Parish, P&G’s, Seakill Custom Home Builders, Selby Legal, Smitty’s Body Shop, the Town of New Paltz, the Village of New Paltz, Ulster Savings Bank and the Unison Art Gallery. The 2019 regatta committee included Theresa Fall, John Giralico, Jim Tinger, KT Tobin, Dan Pomarico-Maxson, Craig Chapman, Bernadette Feltz, Robert Lucchesi, Jen Roe, Timothy Fulton and Kati Haynes.