Witches riding broomsticks? That was so two years ago.
The second annual Witches Paddle in the Brightwaters Canal took place on Halloween Saturday, Oct. 31.
Paddlers from Bay Shore, Brightwaters Village and south Islip donned witches' costumes and gathered at Gilbert Park at 10 a.m. to begin their voyage around the park into the Brightwaters Canal.
With social-distancing measures in mind, a coven of roughly 40 witches paddled along the waterway to greet the viewers at the end of the canal. One witch in the front of the group shouted “Happy Halloween” as she approached the viewers near Concourse East.
Mayor John Valdini said this year’s paddle was larger than the first: over 40 paddlers traveled into the canal this year, and some opted for canoes.
“They’re being safe, they’re on the water and they’re enjoying themselves. It’s just a group having fun,” Valdini said. “That’s what Halloween is all about.”
The event was organized last year by a grassroots group of paddlers who meet weekly and frequently depart from the Bay Shore Yacht Club. Last year’s event was in conjunction with the annual Pumpkin Run.
Although this year’s run was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the local group still took off in high spirits. This year, they were joined by South Shore Paddlers of Babylon.
Patti Rock, of Bay Shore, a longtime member of the local paddlers group, said being on the water serves as a positive distraction from the negativity tied to the pandemic.
“It was pure bliss to be out on the water,” Rock said. “We’re naturally socially distanced. It’s amazing – you feel like life is normal.”
Despite the chilly temperatures – it was the coldest day the group had faced this year, Rock said – they were all eager to get out on the water.
Suffolk County Legis. Steven Flotteron (R-West Islip), who was unable to view the paddlers last year because he was actively campaigning, said he was pleased to attend.
Brightwaters resident Colleen Valdini, an active paddler who works in Flotteron’s office, told him about the event, Flotteron said.
“I knew some friends and neighbors that were participating as well… I love these small events that the mayor and the village pulls together. It makes us a small town, we’re like our own little Mayberry,” he said, referencing the tight-knit community backdrop of the 1960’s sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Self-proclaimed intermediate paddler of three years, Mary Allegretta of Brightwaters, said she’s grateful that the group’s journey down the canal kept Halloween fun for children who may not be able to enjoy the holiday as they have in years past.
“What was so nice about going up the canal was there were so many kids on the side, that for whatever reason may not be able to go trick-or-treating this year,” Allegretta said. “It’s just not fun because of everything going on. But if seeing some spooky witches come up the canal made them smile… it’s just a great thing for us to do.”