History, music, tours, boats all set for ‘Canal Crawl’ in Amsterdam

Friday, September 21, 2012
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— Amsterdam is inviting guests to relish the history of the Erie Canal at sites along the Mohawk River from the city’s Riverlink Park to Fort Hunter on Saturday.

And those interested in taking part in the fun can consider bringing a bag of ice along to help the crew of the canal-plying Lois McClure keep their supplies fresh.

Food, live music and events will be ongoing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the “Canal Crawl,” which offers a chance to learn about the city’s ties to the historic canal system and view Amsterdam’s improvements to its waterfront park.

“This is a unique opportunity for Amsterdamians to not only experience what makes their city exceptional, but to showcase it to outsiders,” Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said in a news release.

Historians will be on hand at the city’s South Side Veterans Park, at historic Old Fort Johnson and at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter.

The Lois McClure, a replica of an 1862 canal schooner, has been traveling along the canal this summer and will be open for tours at 10 a.m. Saturday. The educational ship, which is carrying an exhibit on the War of 1812, will sit near the state Canal Corp.’s tug boat Grover Cleveland at the dock of the city’s Riverlink Park.

In keeping with history, there was no refrigerator installed on board the 88-foot craft, so the crew goes through as many as 10 bags of ice each day to keep their sandwiches and other things cold.

In the park, sculptor Alice Manzi will be discussing the unique “Painted Rocks” sculpture she completed last year in honor of the real painted rocks found just east on the shores of the river. They represent one of only two such paintings found in the state, according to City Historian Robert von Hasseln.

On the other side of the river, historians plan to point out the few remaining aspects of the enlarged Erie Canal that once traversed what is now the city’s South Side. These include historic Sweet’s Canal Store that once sat in a basin considered an essential stop on a canal journey. Much of what’s known as Amsterdam’s 5th Ward on the South Side was a large basin before it was built up to today’s neighborhood, von Hasseln said. It was originally known as Brockway’s Basin, where numerous people plying the canal would stop to get provisions like bacon and gunpowder.

In earlier times, it took about three days to get from the western stretches of the Erie Canal to Amsterdam, von Hasseln said. But the major dip in elevation from Amsterdam to Schenectady and then to Albany required about two days of travel due to all the locks.

Farther west, historians plan to be on hand at Old Fort Johnson and at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site to offer insights on canal and regional history.

Several musical features will take place at Riverlink Park.

World champion Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band members Misha Murdock and Reid Perry will perform on the bagpipe and drum and other entertainers will present Celtic music and tunes with a Canadian-Irish flair, in honor of the city’s earliest European settlers and those who built the Erie Canal.

The event is free.

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