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Canal Day doubles the fun at Ryder, Cedar Bay parks

Mark your calendars -- Canal Day is coming!

DeWitt's 42nd annual event is taking on wider territory this year, too. The all-day affair continues at Ryder Park, but with additional activity scheduled at Cedar Bay State Park, which the town just recently obtained.

"Cedar Bay is a picnic area that sits in the town of DeWitt," said Karen Keast, director of parks and recreation. "It was a perfect fit to take over."

The town signed a 25-year agreement with the state that puts the park, part of the state's 36-mile stretch of the canal, under DeWitt's care. Now called Cedar Bay Park, officials have plans for their new place.

"The state is really excited because we're going to do things with it that they originally wanted to do but didn't have the time or the funds," said Mike Moracco, assistant director of parks and recreation. "And now we're going to go ahead and make that happen."

The department's hope is to transition the old Canal Center building, once used by the Erie Canal Museum, into an educational center for visitors. At this time, the town of DeWitt does not have a go-to historical guest house.

Additionally, once approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, officials will have a portion of the park landscaped for an outside amphitheatre -- that's about two years down the road, Moracco said.

On Canal Day, which starts at 1 p.m., Ryder Park will be bustling with carnival games, a dunk tank, displays and music; fireworks will finish the night. Cedar Bay activities also begin at 1 p.m. with an opening ceremony, followed by canal games, crafts, historical exhibits, and a display of an original lock. Guests include a quilter, to be dressed in period costume, making presentations throughout the day and are hoping to book the Open Hand Theater group that performs a puppet show about life on the canal. Moracco is in the process of firming plans for wagon rides on the towpath, too.

Admission to Canal Day is free and runs until 10 p.m. Saturday Aug. 7 at Ryder Park; 5 p.m. at Cedar Bay Park.

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