Canal Bash founder says adaptability has helped event last 25 years

Rick Doyle clears the ice as he prepares for the 25th annual Newburgh Canal Bash, set for Feb. 17. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme
Beaver Staff

Newburgh’s Canal Bash will hit the quarter-century mark this year, returning with all the crowd favourites on Feb.17.

The outdoor event will once again include pond hockey, horse drawn wagon rides, a bonfire fuelled by discarded Christmas trees, snow mountain, chilli, hot chocolate, canal tails, skating and fireworks.

“Same program as last year, we’re just hoping we don’t have the same weather challenges we had last year,” said Rick Doyle, who founded the event and for the past 25 years has maintained the pond ice next to his house. “It was 14 (degrees) the day of Canal Bash (last year).”

Already he’s had to weather his share of challenges, forging through a myriad of temperatures in advance of the bash. Still through it all there’s never been any doubt that the event would take place.

“I think that’s part of where we’ve grown to now,” said Doyle. “We’re flexible. Despite the fact we didn’t have good weather for skating (in 2017), we had our most successful Canal Bash ever. We had close to 2,500 people here.”

The ice pad may have been liquid, but event organizers were quickly able to adapt. What was scheduled as pond hockey was simply relocated to the street next to the canal, the puck replaced with a ball. As of right now they plan to have a pond hockey tournament, on ice, featuring IP, tyke, novice and atom ages.

“Over the years we’ve had a lot of curveballs thrown at us,” said Doyle. “We’ve had the 14 (degrees), we’ve had minus-30 (degrees), we’ve had the 30 mph winds, the two feet of wet snow. There’s been a lot of different weather scenarios over the years, we’ve gotten better at adapting.”

He credits the many volunteers from the local fire department for helping to stage the event. Without an ever growing supply of volunteers, Doyle says there’s no way it would have been able to endure nearly as long as it has.

“It’s transcending a general and more,” said Doyle. “That’s unusual. I think there’s something special about Newburgh. It’s like the Whalen family Christmas concert. You wouldn’t normally expect something to be able to last that long and yet this last concert was more successful than any previous one and the same with (Canal Bash).”

Doyle says the fact that several who attended the event as kids are now attending as adults with kids of their own bodes well for Canal Bash, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

As always the day of winter activities will kick off at 8 a.m. with the Newburgh Ball Association’s pancake breakfast, held inside the Community Hall until noon. All-you-can-eat chilli will also be sold outside the Newburgh Fire Hall for $5 a person or $15 a family. The hockey tournament will run from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with wagon rides available from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free skating is available on the canal all day with the bonfire at 4 p.m. following by fireworks at 7 p.m.

To enter a team in the hockey tournament, contact Cost is $20 per team.

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