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End of the Hanmer era?

July 7, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - On Sunday, July 1, more than 60 guideboats were on display for a parade held prior to the 50th running of the Hanmer Guideboat Races, dozens participated in the races and hundreds of spectators viewed the festivities from shore.

This traditional event, held in Saranac Lake every year since 1963, was created to memorialize renowned guideboat maker Willard Hanmer, who died the year prior to the first race.

Hanmer learned how to build guideboats from his father Theodore and ran his business out of a shop on Lake Street near Lower Saranac Lake.

Article Video

50th Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race

After Hanmer's death, the shop was sold in 1963 by Hanmer's wife Pauline to Carl Hathaway, who now lives in Tupper Lake. Hathaway owned it until 1991, then sold it to Chris Woodward, who still operates his business there.

The 50th Hanmer Guideboat Races on July 1 was potentially the last of the Hanmer Guideboat Races, a sign of the changing times.

Once attended by thousands as the biggest summer event in the region, the Hanmer races have drawn small crowds in recent years for a variety of reasons. For one, the event now competes with numerous other July 4 weekend activities in the area. Plus, in recent decades, people have become reluctant to race their guideboats on the traditional course from Lake Flower down the Saranac River because of the damage that can be done to them in the shallow sections of river.

Article Photos

Guideboats gather on Lake Flower for a parade that was held prior to the 50th annual Hanmer Guideboat Races.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

In addition, organizers Chris Woodward and Chris Covert have said that it is time for them to pass on race director duties to another group.

So right now, the race's future is in limbo until someone else steps up with a plan for its future.

Here are some photos of 50th Hamner, which many said was the best in many, many years because of the large number of participants and spectators.



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