By MaryJo Nuzzo
Every year the Erie Canal reopens for recreational use in the spring. This year, the Erie Canal is scheduled to reopen on May 19, 2023, for the 199th consecutive season of navigation. The canal will remain open until October 11, 2023. The reopening of canal season tends to bring in many tourists to the towns along the Erie Canal. Many of these towns, including Spencerport have various events and festivals throughout the season.
The Spencerport Canal Days is an annual festival that celebrates the town’s rich history and the canal’s role in shaping the community. The festival is a two-day event that takes place every summer, on July 29 and 30 this year. The festival is a lively event for people of all ages. The streets of Spencerport are closed off to traffic and vendors set up selling various kinds of crafts, food, and drinks. There are carnival rides, games, and live music from local musicians. The canal itself is a large part of the festival, and visitors can take boat tours or rent kayaks to explore the canal.
Local people visit the Canal Days Festivals all over the region, in Spencerport, Fairport, and Brockport. Rochester native Alex Babcock has been to many Canal Days and said they’re all pretty similar but her favorite part about it all is the vendors at each festival and hand made goods that they offer.
“I really loved the booths that they had because there were a bunch of handmade things. They had handmade candles that were made by local people, so much gorgeous jewelry, and really beautiful paintings. Even if I didn’t plan on buying anything I still loved walking up and down the street just looking at all of the really beautiful things that people made,” Babcock said.
The last time that Babcock attended the Canal Days Festival was in 2021, the year after the COVID-19 lockdowns. During this time there weren’t as many vendors because of the recent shutdown. This year, however, the Canal Days Festival is back with more vendors than they have had in recent years.
Along with various foods, there will be a wine-tasting tent. This year more tastings will be available besides wine, such as beer and cider.
One of the Canal Days Festival vendors is Jeannine Pelusio. Pelusio is a vendor at several festivals and events. Pelusio is an intuitive painter. Intuitive painting is a method of creating art that aims to explore and uncover aspects of the inner self. Each work is part of an inner, meditative process of self-exploration. Pelusio also does floral watercolor works.
“Canal Days is one of the better ones, they do a great job of organizing and they allow you to leave your work there overnight with their security team,” Pelusio said. “The experience itself can be a bit humbling. As an artist whether you’re creating music, painting or whatever it is you do, you’re putting yourself out there. Getting feedback from your community can go either way but in my experience so far it’s been positive. Just being out there and seeing everyone enjoy themselves, I just love it,” Pelusio said.
The Canal Days Festival brings in many people from out of town which brings more attention to the local businesses on Union Street in Spencerport. Union Street crosses over the canal so it is a hot location for festival-goers to check out the shops and restaurants in the area. The owner of the Union Street Coffee House says that the Canal Days Festival brings in a lot of different people in comparison to their regulars.
“On Canal Days things get a little bit wild, there are people who don’t know or have never been to the location before, they have different requests, it’s a bit chaotic,” he said.
One of the festival’s highlights is the parade that takes place on Saturday morning. The parade features local marching bands and community groups. Another popular event is the classic car show that happens on Sunday morning. People come from all over the region to show off their vintage cars and visitors can get up close and personal with the restored vehicles.
Have you ever heard of a duck derby? Spencerport has its take on the race with the Canaligator Race with Ally The Canaligator. This event takes place on Sunday, July 30 on the lift bridge in Spencerport. You can enter your rubber gator and the first seven and last seven gators take home a prize.
If you haven’t been to the Canal Days Festival in a while or you’ve never been, you might want to consider exploring it this season. The Canal Days are back and in full swing with all of the activities you’ve always loved accompanied by some possible new favorites.