Capital Region Scrapbook

White Water Derby rowers brave Mechanicville’s chilly Tenandeho

Monday, March 31, 2014
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Capital Region Scrapbook

The Owen-Kenner entry, left, battles the team of Richard Grosh and Ronald Morask during the 1992 derby.
The Owen-Kenner entry, left, battles the team of Richard Grosh and Ronald Morask during the 1992 derby.

The brave and bold have always tested the Tenandeho.

Every spring, canoeists and kayakers paddle the waters of Mechanicville’s famous creek — the Tenandeho White Water Derby has become a sign for both adventurer and spectator that winter has finally departed. The sign of the times often means some people take their first spills of the season in icy-cold water.

In 1988, the gathering was held on Saturday, March 26. Purists know the event is generally held on the first Sunday in April; in ’88, the show took place on a Saturday because Mechanicville school regulations prevented the use of school property on Sundays. Racers used the rest rooms, snack bar and gymnasium lobby to prepare for rambles on the white water.

“The stream was fast, showing plenty of white water, and was roaring at the Round House Turn as the stream cut through the railroad yards,” wrote Hal Sheehan of the Schenectady Gazette. “Eleven of the 14 canoes tipped over in the rapids here.”

The 1991 and 1992 gatherings put more canoes and people in the drink.

“It was drudgery, but it was fun,” said race chairman John Erano after he completed his 1992 jaunt. “I think I hit every rock in the creek.”

Other competitors shared Erano’s senses of humor and daring. “Fun, but freezing,” said Thomas Fuller of Mechanicville, describing his outing in a two-man rubber raft.

Mark Harrison was the second man. “We should get an award for this,” Harrison said, showing Gazette reporter Kevin Conlon red skin under white gloves.

The watercraft teams always have company. People with no skills in buoyancy stand on creek banks and show off boisterous vocal skills, cheering on paddlers during their times of need. They know that for relaxing times, it’s Tenandeho time.

“It’s a fun race,” said Bob Underwood of Glens Falls, who competed in the 1992 race. “It’s more like a carnival atmosphere.”

Set for Sunday

The carnival is back in town on Sunday. The 41st Tenandeho White Water Derby will begin at noon at Coon’s Crossing. Spectators are reminded they will not be allowed on railroad property.

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