The annual Camillus Towpath Day, part of the larger Canal Splash celebration, was held on August 13 at the Sims Store Erie Canal Museum. The Camillus Towpath Day is one of the largest Canal Splash celebrations, with 115 volunteers and more than 1,500 attendees converging on the Camillus Erie Canal Park. This year’s theme was “Stepping Back in Time.” This remarkable event involves the entire Camillus Erie Canal Park.
In keeping with the theme, the parking lot transformed into a “village green,” hosting artisans from the canal period, such as quilting, pottery and wood carving, and tin smithing. Live music also entertained the attendees. The Village Green center was home to performers like the Morris dancers and a flutist, who did multiple dances around the Maypole wearing bells on their legs. “Soda Ash 6” played music in one of the boats as it floated down the Canal and over the aqueduct and “Diamond Sunday,” a bluegrass band, played under the pavilion as attendees ate hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage and peppers, and salt potatoes. Volunteers also demonstrated old fashioned butter churning and made ice cream using antique tools.
All three boats ran continuously all day with full loads, along with their wagon pulled by a tractor, over the aqueduct. The Canal village also hosted a tinsmith from Syracuse, who spoke about his previous work repairing the Statue of Liberty and Amelia Bloomer, in full period costume with her bloomers, who spoke about the women’s rights movement. Al Hinman brought his mule Patty and spoke about the role mules played on the canal.
Across the street from the Sims Store museum, the Steam Engine building/museum, which is home to a full scale “steam up” demonstration that includes the whistles & horns of antique steam engines draws one of the largest crowds. On the berm side of the Canal, across from the museum, volunteers organize children’s crafts such as rock painting, tin smithing/piercing, doll making, buzz-saw making, kazoos, and face painting. Children played with antique toys, including hoops, tops, nine man Morris and checkers on barrels and dress up clothes for the kids. The Rotary Club sponsored a 5K Mule Skinner race at the park as well.
According to event co-organizer Linda Vishnesky, despite the heat “everyone had a good time and I think we stressed the history of our wonderful Erie Canal with a wide variety of things to do for everyone.”