This morning, the New York State Canal Corporation began celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal's groundbreaking. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul officially opened the canal's 2017 season.
Pleasure craft lined up for the annual opening of the locks at Waterford — which sets into motion a series of events hosted by the Canal Corporation and local communities throughout the summer to celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal’s groundbreaking. A group of schoolchildren were among those enjoying live entertainment along the canal shore.
Brian Stratton is Director of the New York State Canal Corporation: "Very little in our modern world today is today what it was 200 years ago. But each and every year since that first 15-mile section of then the carved Erie Canal opened in 1819, there has always been navigation on the Erie Canal."
The canal was completed in 1825, linking the waters of Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east. "Today's Erie Canal is fun, beautiful and dynamic. Today's Canal helps to irrigate farmers’ fields, powers homes, businesses. Provides a dependable source of drinking water for the city of Utica, and drives nearly $400 million a year in tourism spending all across upstate New York. And today's Erie Canal is a national historic landmark."
An engineering marvel when it was built, some called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. Others called it "Clinton's ditch." Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul lauded the vision of Governor DeWitt Clinton, often referred to as the "Father of the Erie Canal." "We had a governor who thought bigger than most. A governor who said 'this could be the catalyst' to jumpstart not just our state, but truly the westward expansion. And that's our place in history, opening up the world from New York City to Albany to Buffalo to the west. That was incredible. But when you think about the fact they did it in eight years. And we're gonna celebrate this for the next eight years. I'm gonna tell ya there's gonna be so many festivals like the great one here tomorrow in this beautiful community, but all over, the countless ways to learn and study and embrace this history, because, to the children here, this is who you are. You're part of a state that believes in the impossible."
With boaters ready, Hochul led the children in a countdown to open Lock 2's gates.