SHORTSVILLE — The 40th anniversary celebration of the annual Wild Water Derby will have to wait a year.
Citing conditions on the Canandaigua Lake Outlet after this year’s harsh winter and the continued cold weather, derby organizers have called off this year’s event. It’s usually held the last weekend of April.
“Normally, in a typical year we would be out this weekend in the water, clearing logs and trees that came down in the winter,” Derby chairman Matt Schaertl said, “but it is still cold outside, and the water is running fairly quickly.”
This will mark the third time the event, which is sponsored by the Shortsville-Manchester Chamber of Commerce, is not being held since the first derby in 1975. The event, which annually attracts thousands of spectators, was last canceled three years ago due to low water flow in the outlet.
Schaertl, a Manchester town councilman and Chamber of Commerce member, said it would be nearly impossible to have the derby at its usual time without clearing out debris this weekend. Saturday’s high temperature was forecast to be below 30 and not much warmer Sunday.
“It takes several weekends to clear out the water and do the course, and there is a lot of erosion on the outlet banks this year, which we anticipate has dropped more trees than normal. Those eroding banks have become more of an issue for us,” he said. “We are disappointed in some ways, but relieved in others. To be out with a chainsaw in the water when it’s below freezing for hours and hours would not be a good situation.”
A smaller factor in the decision was the roof collapse of a Shortsville building last month owned by New Energy Works, a primary sponsor of the derby along with its sister company, Farmington-based Pioneer Millworks. Heavy snowfall caused the collapse.
“They are actually recovering much better than anyone can imagine. I don’t see much of a hiccup in their business,” Schaertl said. “New Energy was part of the formula, but it was a manpower issue and a weather issue mainly. We made this decision several weeks ago, and it looks like we are going to have snow on the ground into the middle of April. That snow will continue to melt and go into the outlet.”
Schaertl said while 2016 won’t be exactly 40 years after the first derby, organizers will still treat it like an anniversary.
“We are going to make up for this year and then some,” he said. “Whether it really is the 40th anniversary or not, we are going to celebrate like it is. That’s the way the derby is. We have our own set of rules.”