Let’s be clear — we are grateful to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for establishing the Adirondack Challenge Festival. Local towns and counties couldn’t afford to buy that much publicity for our tourism-dependent region. For a weekend, the Adirondack Park was in New York’s limelight, and it felt great.
It felt even better for the governor, who was able to award himself the Adirondack Challenge’s top prize for winning the whitewater rafting races on Sunday, July 21 on the Indian River. The Senate came in second. The Assembly third.
Did they let him win? Did he have a head start? Were State Police scuba divers holding back the other rafts? We know he had a strong team and a top-notch rafting guide in Bone Bayse of Beaver Brook Outfitters. But still ... the governor wins his own challenge?
Sounds fishy. We’ll never know the whole truth (the governor’s office isn’t always forthcoming with such information). On face value, it looked like the Adirondack Challenge was one big dog-and-pony show for Cuomo’s ego.
But we’re OK with that.
Maybe Cuomo deserved the win, maybe he didn’t. It doesn’t matter. For the amount of positive national exposure Cuomo gave the Adirondack Park, he can have a dozen first-place paddles. And if he ever makes it to the White House, he’ll remember the good times he had in the Adirondack Park. Maybe he’ll set up a summer White House here like Calvin Coolidge did in 1926 at White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths. That would be great exposure, too.
New York governors have come and gone, and most have just ignored the Adirondack Park. Gov. George Pataki was a strong advocate; heck, he even bought property here in Essex. And, like Pataki, Cuomo genuinely likes spending time in the Adirondacks. He vacations here with his family, sneaking away from Albany many times without the expectation of a headline or a photo opportunity. That, in itself, is the best testimonial.