By Mike Lynch
Some semblance of normalcy is returning to the events world of the Adirondacks, as organizers are planning to hold canoe races, bike tours, and a frog jumping contest in the coming months.
In Saranac Lake, the Round the Mountain canoe and kayak races are returning in early May after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“We already have 40 paddlers signed up,” said Northern Forest Canoe Trail Executive Director Karrie Thomas. “People are chomping at the bit to get on the water. They are excited to get back in competition.”
Thomas, whose organization is running the event after purchasing it from the Adirondack Watershed Alliance, said a big change this year will be the lack of crowds gathering before and after the race.
People must register online, then get the necessary racing materials at a drive-through registration station at the Civic Center, down the road from the starting line at Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. Participants will then race to Lake Flower in staggered fashion, which is normal for these races but will be emphasized even more this year. Participants will be required to fill out a health-check survey prior to racing.
NFCT is limiting the number of boats to 100, in order to ensure they meet the 200-person capacity limit outlined in the state guidelines for outdoor events. That number can bumped to 500 outdoors, if participants prove they are COVID-19 negative just prior to the event.
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Afterward the paddling race, results will be posted online.
“We’re not going to have any kind of ceremony afterward,” Thomas said. “We going to essentially encourage people to move on.”
NFCT also plans to host the Celebrate Paddling Invitational race in June and is hoping to be able to bring back the 90-Miler in September. However, current COVID-19 event guidelines in New York wouldn’t allow for the 90-Miler to happen in its traditional form because of its size. But NFCT, like other organizers, are hoping the vaccine rollout will reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and allow the event guidelines to become less restrictive in the months to come.
“We’re acting as if it’s going to happen, but we acknowledge it won’t happen without permission from the proper authorities,” Thomas said.
BikeADK will be kicking off its season with ADK Unite for the month of May, a virtual cycling, walking, or running event that raises money for community food banks. This will be the second year for the event that was created to help people during the early days of the pandemic. It doesn’t require any gathering but instead encourages people to be active on their own.
This will be one of seven events that BikeADK will be hosting this year. Others include a women’s weekend in June in Saranac Lake that is a fundraiser for PlayADK kids museum and Ride for the River, a fundraiser for Ausable River Association in July in Wilmington.
Owner Doug Haney said BikeADK’s events that involve groups will be smaller than normal this year. So far, everyone who has signed up for them has been fully vaccinated, he said. Most events are sold out.
“It’s really nice. People are really cognizant, especially in the cycling world, of what needs to be done to be safe,” Haney said.
In Wilmington, the town is gearing up to host a slimmed down version of the Ausable Two-Fly Challenge in mid-May. Anglers spent most of their time during this event trying to catch-and-release fish on the West Branch of the Ausable River. But organizers did have to switch up some of the evening get-togethers. For instance, there will be a drive-in movie Friday night instead of an indoors gathering centered around fly-tying and a comedy show.
Michelle Preston, operations manager with the Whiteface Visitors Center, said she expects a good showing, but planning has been challenging due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.
“You plan the event based upon the info you have now and then expand upon that,” she said.
Other events that are scheduled to take place in the northern Adirondacks in coming months are the Great Adirondack Trail Run in Keene Valley and Lake Placid Ironman, although officials have said the scale of that event will be determined by the state’s current event guidelines.
Some events still on pause
But not all organizers have been able to pull off events this spring and summer. The organizers of the Black Fly Challenge mountain bike race in the Moose River Plains between Indian Lake and Inlet have cancelled the event for the second year in a row due to logistic challenges.
“Successfully producing the Black Fly Challenge requires a web of logistics too numerous to detail in this post,” stated the organizers on the Black Fly Challenge website. “This includes over 100 volunteer jobs and the cooperation of numerous state, county and town agencies.”
Mike Farmer, town of Webb tourism director, said many of the hundreds of Black Fly Challenge participants normally stay in Old Forge for several days.
“We are going to be impacted, and I already have a plan,” Farmer said.
He said the plan is for Webb to increase its marketing of its mountain bike trails at McCauley Mountain and on the large network of multi-use snowmobile trails in the area. The hope is to draw many of those same participants that would normally be in town for the Black Fly Challenge.
Paddlefest, an event hosted by Mountainman Supply Company every May in Old Forge, has also been cancelled.
But Farmer said other activities will go forward, including the Great Adirondack Garage Sale and numerous smaller local ones. Those include Community Pride Day, when many school-aged kids pick up trash in early May. Then in June on Father’s Day, there is a frog jumping contest inspired by a Mark Twain short story.
“It’s fun and popular,” he said. “All you need is a leaping reptile and you’re in business.”
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