2008 Canandaigua Outlet Wild Water Derby

by Sue Freeman

Block your calendar for the end of April. That's when the "crazy" and the "not so crazy" folks converge each year in the Manchester/Shortsville region for 2 days of festivities culminating in the Canadaigua Outlet Wild Water Derby. The Derby is held in early spring when snow melt has raised the water level of Canandaigua Lake. The flood gate is opened and all that newly melted liquid snow rushes down Canandaigua Outlet creating what is appropriately called "wild water."

I paddled in The Derby years (OK, decades ago) with my friend Gerry Hargrave. I remember waiting forever at the starting point with my heart beating furiously. I watched as hand-made rafts of assorted designs launched into the creek as water gushed down Canandaigua Outlet. Some rafts were seaworthy and got swept rapidly downstream. Others didn't fare as well, and the would-be occupants got unceremoniously dumped into the frigid creek.

We were registered in the canoe division. Our canoe was filled with air bags to make sure we'd stay afloat and we wore wet suits to keep warm. Our launch time came and we hopped into the canoe (yikes the water was COLD) and paddled our best through the roiling water. I could barely bend my arms due to the tight wet suit, so paddling at all was a challenge. The trip was exhilarating. Crowds lined the banks cheering us on. We made it to the take-out point, but didn't win any awards - except for maybe looking the dorkiest. Ahh, fond memories.

The Wild Water Derby was canceled for many years, but now is again alive and well. Even if you have no intentions of getting wet, bundle up and go as a spectator. It's an uproariously good time for the whole family as you'll see by perusing the schedule of events listed below.

Typical Schedule of Events:

-The Awful Waffle Pancake Breakfast
-Dollars for Scholars Walkathon
-Wild Water Derby Race Registration (Bib hand outs, insurance forms and all the lawyer stuff associated with having fun on Sunday. All participants that register receive free admission to the Pig Roast that evening)
-The Ugly Paddle Contest (A contest highlighting the worst and best paddles used or to be used in the Wild Water Derby Race on Sunday. We have seen snow shovels, hockey sticks, tree limbs, and buckets attached to 2x4’s. It’s time to share the imagination with the crowd and let them select the winners).
-Raft Parade (A display of the rafts that will be participating in Sunday’s Derby. The public is free to walk around each raft and soak in the appreciation of the humor and craftsmanship. Spectators will judge rafts for most interesting.)
-Wild Indian Run (A foot race and Indian style steeple chase along the Canandaigua Outlet. Pilgrim attire or Indian war paint required.)
-Old Mill Kayak Drop and Jump (Watch the pro’s paddle and jump over the falls. Furthest jump out wins.)
-Kayak & Canoe Slalom Races (A traditional 1,200 ft slalom course with 18 gates.)
-Kayak Sprint (A short, timed kayak sprint over the Old Mill Falls)
-Vendor Booths and Displays at Budd Park
-Garden and Patio Plant Sale
-Pig Roast, Live Music & Bonfire (Open to the public with reduced cost for all Wild Indian Runners, Raft Parade participants, Ugly Paddle participants, Kayakers and Major Financial Sponsors. Includes awards for the events held that day.)

-The Awful Waffle and Pancake Breakfast
-The Wild Water Derby Race (The highlight of the weekend. Kayaks, Canoes, and Rafts. Start time is 12:00 noon.)
-Brunch, Lunch & Munch (A variety of concessions provided by local non-profits.)
-Awards Ceremony (Staged at various times at Budd Park during the afternoon for each racing category as they are reported. A display board and enlarged action photos will also be located inside the tent.)

Visit http://www.shortsvillemanchesterareachamberofcommerce.com/derby.html for current info.

To paddle Canandaigua Outlet on your own, order a copy of the guidebook “Take A Paddle – Finger Lakes New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks” at www.footprintpress.com or call 1-800-431-1579.

HOME to Footprint Press