In the 68 years since the New Paltz Regatta was founded by the Delta Kappa fraternity, the scale of the event has waxed and waned. Sometimes there are dozens of entries; some years there was so little interest that it simply didn’t happen. In 2022, upon its revival after a two-year pandemic hiatus, the number of participating watercraft could be counted on one hand.
Still, the crowds showed up to watch. Public ardor for this watery gathering – long touted as “the largest free event in downtown New Paltz,” although the Halloween parade might give it a run for its money – never seems to diminish. Other communities may have trademarked the “Keep [insert city/town name here] weird” slogan; but whether they’re staid Huguenot descendants, stoners who came for college or rock climbing in the ’60s or ‘70s and never left, well-heeled hipsters recently fled from Brooklyn or something in between, Paltzonians all seem to cherish their little burg’s reputation as a hotbed of flaky creativity. The big question is: Do you love your town’s local color enough to invest some sweat equity into making sure this year’s Regatta entries truly reflect local tradition and potential?
Consider this your heads-up that it’s time to get cracking on a boat (or comparable floatable object) of your own for 2023. The Regatta will take place on Sunday, June 11, which means that you have nearly a month to pull something together. If you’ve been to these events before, you know that it doesn’t need to be an elaborate or highly polished work of art, so that should be enough time to yield a bigger field of participants this year.
Theresa Fall, owner of Jar’d Wine Pub and The Parish Restaurant, has been chair of the committee of local merchants who organize the Regatta for long enough now to watch both the growth and the shrinkage of the event from year to year. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to boost participation post-COVID – even if it means making it free to enter if you don’t wait until the last minute. “We are working hard to build the boat race up and encouraging people to build boats. If they preregister on our website, we will waive registration and give gift certificates for local businesses,” she reveals. Entrants on the day-of will have to pay the usual $25 registration fee.
If what’s been holding you back in years past is not having the right place or the right tools to build a boat, there’s awesome news for you as well: According to Fall, Jim Tinger, director of the New Paltz Youth Program, has volunteered the use of the space behind the Youth Center at 220 Main Street for the assembly of boats in the weeks preceding the event. Assistance from volunteers with construction skills and access to tools can also be arranged by calling or texting Tinger at (845) 325-2593.
Are you lacking a trailer to transport and display your magnificent floating creation in the parade? Craig Chapman, owner of New Paltz Kayaking, is “willing to lend out boat trailers” on the day of the event, Fall says. Call to reserve one at (845) 594-6353. So you see, the number of excuses not to be involved in the Regatta is growing ever-skimpier.
Unlike the sort that sails out of Newport, the New Paltz Regatta is not a race, of course; but there are plenty of prizes donated by local businesses, and in recent years all entrants have gone home with at least one. While new awards get initiated almost every year, past examples of prize categories have included Most Creative, Fastest, Funniest, Most Theatrical, Green Award, Best Design, Most Likely to Sink, Best in Show, All You Need Is Love and Spirit of the Regatta. Enter something truly innovative in concept and the committee and judges might make one up just for you!
Entrants are asked to have their boats at Village Hall by noon on June 11 to line up for the parade, which kicks off at 1 p.m., led by the fabulous local band Yard Sale as usual. It’ll wend its way down Plattekill Avenue, turn west on Main Street and then left on Plains Road to the boat landing at Sojourner Truth Park. While the logistical nightmare that is the unloading and launching of the Regatta watercraft takes place, spectators will be entertained by the kayak race, returning this year for the first time since the pandemic.
The Regatta itself typically starts between 2 and 2:30 p.m. There are plenty of good vantagepoints for viewing the boats along the riverside trails in Sojourner Truth Park. If you want to watch from the finish line – the Carmine Liberta Bridge (where Route 299/Main Street crosses the Wallkill River) – be sure to get there early, because it’s always jam-packed. Following the Regatta will be the rubber duck race, a fundraiser for the New Paltz Youth Program. Call (845) 255-5140 or e-mail email@example.com for details on how to bet on a duck.
Immediately following all the activity on the Wallkill, the celebration continues with an afterparty downtown, with Yard Sale and the great kindie-rock band Ratboy Jr. set up to play at the Water Street Market. There will be tee-shirts for sale displaying the handsome New Paltz Regatta graphic. Volunteers from the Woodcrest Bruderhof Community in Tillson will be doing free face-painting for the little ones, as usual.
The practice of having food vendors at this event was discontinued some years back, since part of the reason to hold the annual wingding is to lure visitors to discover the many restaurants in the Village and the Town. There are some new ones to check out this year, ready to fulfill your needs for refreshment after all the excitement.
For more information, to register your boat, become a sponsor or make a donation, visit www.newpaltzregatta.org. All of age 18 and up who will be aboard a boat during the race will need to submit a notarized waiver form (a notary will be available on-site on Regatta day) and also show a valid ID. The form can be downloaded from the website.
Additional Regatta sponsors and prize donors are also being sought at this time. This year for the first time, Mohonk Mountain House became a Gold-level sponsor, and the resort’s co-president Eric Gullickson joined the organizing committee. Visit the Regatta website to view the sponsorship form.