Ontario's Official "BEEN THERE" Websites!

Float Your Fanny Down The Ganny

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

The Great Flood of 1980…

Twenty-eight years ago the scenic Ganaraska River became a raging torrent of water that overflowed its banks and flooded the Town of Port Hope! Not to be intimidated by such a calamity, the residents of Port Hope, a year later, turned this disaster into a celebration! The celebration is called “Float Your Fanny Down The Ganny” and it is an 18 kilometres (canoeist and Kayakers) and 10 kilometres (Crazy Crafters) race that starts north of Port Hope and culminates just before all the racers are washed out to sea (well, lake!). The object of the race is to cover the 10 km course in the fastest time (about 1 hour). The canoeists and kayakers seem to be able to do this with the least amount of problems, although some have been known to lose a paddle or two, and, sometimes even a canoe! This is the “sober” side of the race. The fun really begins when those Crazy Craft participants put their oars in the water and start following the river. As you can image, the river has a mind of its own and is not always in the best interest of the Crazy Crafts! It is with this history and thoughts of the Crazy Crafts that we leave the comfort of Cobourg and head the short distance to Port Hope and its “Crazy” Celebrations!

Where To Start…

The Municipality of Port Hope is made up of two parts, the old Town of Port Hope and the former Hope Township. The actual “Float Your Fanny” race doesn’t start in old Port Hope, it starts a number of kilometers north at the Canton Bridge in the former Hope Township. (Confused yet?) This is where the canoes and kayaks start. The Crazy Crafts start further down the river at the Sylvan Glen Conservation Area. The obstacle they have in common is the “Fish Ladder” located just south of Hwy 401. This is where everyone has to get off the river and portage around the ladder. This may be easy for the canoeists and kayakers, but not so for the Crazy Crafters! Even with a large contingent of paddlers and a number of wheels, the portaging of a Crazy Craft can be quite the challenge! This is where we took up our initial vigil. We stood on the west bank, just south of the Jocelyn Street bridge. Across the way canoeists and kayakers made their way down the steep bank and into the quick flowing Ganaraska River. Each one was applauded by the appreciative crowd. The swift moving current swallowed each up and carried them towards the finish line. After the canoe and kayaks came the Crazy Crafts, some gracefully and some… well let’s just say it wasn't pretty! We left this awesome scene and headed downstream to the finish line… A View From The Bridge…

We left the fish ladder/portage area and traveled south on Cavan Street which ran parallel to the Ganny. After a short distance we reached the finishing area. The area was crowded with onlookers who had gathered to see the Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny finishers. The whole area had a carnival like atmosphere! People were milling everywhere. Vendors were selling food and souvenirs and the local radio station was broadcasting music over loud speakers! The beautiful weather had attracted a record number of visitors to the event. The two bridges that spanned the river were filled to capacity with people trying to catch a glimpse of the racers as they sped under the bridges towards the finish line. Down at the finishing area firemen and event volunteers line the banks of the Ganny, ready to help the tired and cold river racers as they finished! When we arrived several canoeist and kayakers had already completed their 18 kilometre trek down the fast flowing Ganaraska River. Their boats were already drying in the warmth of the sun! Many of the finishers were standing in groups discussing the perils of the river! After exploring the finishing area and talking with a few friends, we made our way back to a strategic viewing spot high up on the banks of the river. We wanted to watch the remainder of the competitors finish their race…

Floating Oars and Other Mysterious Debris

Having strategically positioned ourselves, we started watching for oncoming finishers! At first we only saw canoeist and kayakers. Most floated easily down to the finish line, but a few unfortunate souls had gotten caught up in the swirls of the river and had walked their craft to shore. As each craft had safely landed, firemen and volunteers helped each contestant drag their boat up the bank to high ground. As we continued to watch the river, strange objects started to float by, an oar, a paddle, a lifejacket or two, water guns, buoys and more! It was obvious that some unknown craft(s) had succumbed to the perils of the river! Shortly after the debris had passed by, various contestants started arriving. Some contestants came floating in on broken crafts while others pulled and tugged their crafts through obstacles in the river. These were the “Crazy Crafts” and their valiant captains and crew. Not all of the Crazy Crafts had had problems. Some, full of proud sailors, came floating in fully intact! When this happened a loud roar usually came from the crowd! Most of the crowd that roared was made up of friends and family who just happy to see their loved ones still alive and not beaten by the Ganny! Each craft, broken or whole was unceremoniously dragged out of the water, up the river bank to a flat storage. Each craft was followed by their water soaked crew who were talking excitedly about their journey down the mighty Ganny! The crafts kept arriving at the finishing area. The size, shape and type of each craft were only limited by the imagination of the builders! Every kind of floating material imaginable had been used, barrels, drums, plastic bottles and inflatables to name a few! There was one Crazy Craft that must have carried 10 plus people. You could hear the excited crew coming down the river. The current swiftly carrying them toward the point of no return! Fortunately some of the crew jumped into the water and slowed the craft just in time! The firemen on the bank threw life lines to help bring the craft to safety. No matter what the final outcome for each craft and participant, you could see the pride and excitement on each face as they completed their journey down the treacherous Ganaraska River. The legend of that fateful spring day, which happened so many years ago, lived on in the hearts and minds of all of us who were there and the Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny race symbolized the spirit of the town and its residents!

TPL_KALLYAS_TOTOP