July 20, 2013

'Whitewater game on, Governor'


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The Governor’s Invitational Adirondack Challenge faces some Class III rapids Sunday, along with some early North Country bragging rights.

Boatloads of Adirondack officials wielding paddles are hoping to get the best of the Indian River race.

Drawing attention to wilderness summer leisure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo challenged dozens of officials from throughout the state to race him to the confluence of the Hudson River.

The course is about a half-hour long.

But the deep forest river delivers some fast water along the way.


The Governor’s Invitational rafting race is part of the Adirondack Wild celebration that wraps up in towns throughout the central Adirondack region this weekend. Events are planned from Inlet to Indian Lake.

Randy Douglas is town supervisor of Jay and chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

“It’s game on, Governor,” he said on Friday, fully expecting a solid win for his raft.

“We have an experienced kayaker with us, Dan Manning, the county attorney. We gained an advantage putting him on our boat. 

“We had a secret placement there and didn’t tell all our secrets to the governor’s office.”


Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, helped coordinate the day’s race.

He said the only power allowed on the course is muscle.

“I’ve really given this a lot of thought,” he mused on Friday.

“I’ve weighed out the teams entered. And I think, if I were going to bet, I’d bet on the governor. That’s why they won’t let me participate. 

“I’m too competitive.”

On second thought, he speculated, Hamilton County’s raft would likely prevail. But such a win could prove detrimental, he quipped, to state funding.

“I’m smart enough not to be in the raft in case they do.”


The Essex County team pits Douglas, Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee, Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall, North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey and Manning together against some two dozen other boats.

Ferebee said Sunday’s race should be boatloads of fun.

The course runs about 15 miles from the put-in at the Indian Lake dam to the Upper Hudson.

“We are going to give it our best shot. We’re going to paddle hard and show him (Cuomo) what we’re really made of,” Ferebee said.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

“I’m looking so forward to it,” Douglas agreed. “Honestly, we’re going to win.” 


Friday, the Essex County team talked about holding a practice session this morning.

“We appreciate the invitation from the governor,” Douglas said. “I’m glad he’s promoting the North Country.”

The invitational race, which is closed to the public, has a 1 p.m. start time in Indian Lake.

Video footage and winners of the Governor’s Challenge will be presented amid festival events on Sunday afternoon.

The entire weekend is meant to highlight the beauty of the heart of the Adirondack Park.

“The goal is really to bring people in and share the Adirondack summer,” Farber said.


After the “Capital Pressroom” radio show with Susan Arbetter on Friday, Cuomo’s comments to the press included a few jabs at race competition.

“It’s good fun” he said. “We’re bringing people from all over the state to participate in this race. Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg from New York City is coming. All of this has a purpose … tourism is a big industry for this state.”

Fifty million people visit New York City every year, the governor said.

“Let’s get some of them to come on a day trip up north. If people just see it, they will come. This is an opportunity to show them.”

He admitted that “scouting reports” indicate the city contingent has had some training for its whitewater entrance.

And officials from Herkimer County presented the governor with pastry on a recent visit — in an attempt to add weight to his raft.

“Winning isn’t everything, but it’s very nice,” Cuomo added.

“Whoever wins the actual race, the (people of the) North Country will be the winners.”


Others here are getting geared up for Sunday.

In Saranac Lake on Friday, Mayor Clyde Rabideau bought an official “friction-less, perpetual motion, hydro-foil-equipped, race-ready pair of swim trunks for the Adirondack Challenge,” according to an all-capital-letter post on his Facebook page.

“With a plug for the Community Store in the village downtown,” he added. “Watch out Guv, Team (Saranac Lake) is bringing in new swim trunks and their best paddles!”


The public cannot access the launch site Sunday strictly due to physical limitations at the put-in area, Cuomo told reporters on Friday.

The launch area doesn’t have room for a lot of spectators.

“It’s just a physical limitation,” Cuomo said.

The race is about getting the publicity for the Adirondacks, he added.

“Whatever happens will be duly reported.”


The governor’s presence will also bring some protesters to Indian Lake.

The NY2A Grassroots Coalition, made up of more than two-dozen local, regional and state groups fighting for repeal of the NY SAFE Act firearms law, has given the Adirondack Challenge a name of its own.

“We invite you to join us at Sink Cuomo’s Boat and watch us use the First Amendment to defend the Second Amendment,” a press release said.

Protesters plan to meet at Puterko’s Family Pizzeria in Indian Lake at 9 a.m. Sunday morning to form up for the demonstration, the release said.


The Adirondack Challenge comes toward the end of a week of summer celebrations throughout towns in Hamilton County, with festivals, music, movies, art shows, historic tours, street dances and even cardboard boat races. 

“The culmination roars to a grand finale through the next two days.

The New York State Outdoor Guides Association encampment is in Indian Lake this year with lots of information about outdoor-guide training.

An antique and classic car show rolls into the hamlet on Saturday, along with a fiddler’s fair, farmers market and a street dance.

“There is a lot going on in Indian Lake, with a block dance Saturday night, the Knights of Columbus chicken barbecue and then the Indian Lake Volunteer Fire Department barbecue on Sunday,” Farber said of his county’s festivities. 

“There will be free music in Byron Park, a big Taste of New York tent on the (Indian River) spillway with vendors from all over the state. It’s a huge festival. 

“The communities worked very hard together to make this event benefit everyone in the entire region.”


Lake Placid Visitor and Convention Bureau President Jim McKenna said the festival really pooled resources from towns and villages in the central Adirondack Park.

“This was a unifying effort for the two counties (Hamilton and Essex) totally inside the park’s borders. A lot of good people have kicked in and done a lot of good work,” he said.

Central to planning efforts were staff from the Adirondack Watershed Alliance, the Hudson River Professional Outfitters Association and Empire State Development.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, winners of the annual Flatwater Challenge and of the Governor’s Invitational Challenge will be announced in Byron Park.

Find the complete Adirondack Wild schedule at:

On Monday, after all that is Adirondack Wild ends, Cuomo will face off with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a race down the Indian River. 

Several area officials are also slated to compete in that event.

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On his Facebook page, Mayor Clyde Rabideau posted a picture of his official "friction-less, perpetual motion, hydro-foil-equipped, race-ready" pair of swim trunks. Check them out at: