One of the key ways to make a visit to the Mohawk Towpath Byway memorable and to assure a return visit is to share our local stories on a personal basis.
I enjoy providing tours for families and tour groups on a ‘step on guide’ type of arrangement. As long as someone else does the driving, makes a donation to help preserve the Byway’s historic or recreational assets, and provides me with lunch or a Stewart’s ice cream cone I can share more Byway stories than many of the residents who live within the Byway corridor. I have done this for small groups from as far away as Brazil, China, Russia, and European countries and bus loads of people from the Berkshires or professional people on a break from a local conference. I have found that the more personal I make this the more the tour is appreciated.
Nobody does this better than Russ VanDervoort as he tells about his youth on the Erie or Champlain Canals whether he’s leaning on a model of his grandparent’s canal barge or relating the story of one of the many local figures that contributed to the history of the oldest incorporated Village in the United States.
You may have visited the historic Grooms Tavern. It is becoming one of the Town of Clifton Park’s more sot after community venues. Have you ever run into John Scherer, town historian, as he impersonates James Grooms, an early tavern keeper? In character John dons a dapper wool suit, historic shirt collar and bow tie made in the collar city of Troy and an authentic beaver top hat common to formal occasions a century ago. Not only is John entertaining with his dry humor, but he is effectively telling the story in a way that is memorable to all age groups and ethnicities.
Getting one of our local personalities or unique characters to provide the voices for the Byway’s cell phone based audio tour adds authenticity to the short narration of each of the stops on the tour. Providing a historic photograph of the area that the visitor is correctly experiencing adds depth for the visitor’s imagination. An audio file coupled with a photograph is not as effective as a personal tour, but the more senses we stimulate the greater the possibility of making the connection over the years or a century. The more senses we stimulate the more memorable the experience.
Perhaps the most effective tours, and certainly my favorite, are our Byway’s “Rides into History.” With the historic narration, the sweet smell of the newly blossomed honey suckle, the sounds of the nesting avian friends, the tastes of fresh home baked cookies, the warm summer breezes off the water, and the intermittent bursts of adrenaline as we peddle between stops: what could be more effective at bringing our Byway’s stories to life?