Sunny skies are forecast for the region this Memorial Day weekend, when motorists are expected to travel slightly more than last year despite gas prices rising steadily in recent weeks.
Memorial Day weekend traditionally has been a time for veteran remembrances, including parades, ceremonies and decorating gravesites. Most area communities have planned events for Monday.
State police in the local Troop C area will have increased patrols to check for speeders, aggressive and drunken drivers and if seat belts are being worn, said zone commander Capt. Rodney Campbell.
The hope is for no accidents, he said, and he encourages motorists to allow sufficient travel time.
``Plan ahead,'' Campbell said.
Also, this weekend attracts thousands of paddlers and spectators to the Susquehanna River for the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, which courses from Cooperstown to Bainbridge.
More than 1,000 paddlers are expected, including in relays Sunday and professional races Monday, organizers said. Band performances, an antique tractor parade and fireworks are among activities planned at General Clinton Park in Bainbridge.
``It's going to be a ball,'' said John Harmon, chairman of the regatta and a member of the Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce.
The Catskill Garden Tractor Club plans a pull from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday, he said, and the park will offer free admission and parking on Monday.
Harmon said a schedule and details are available at www.canoeregatta.org.
Nationally last year, motorists traveled 9 percent fewer miles, with decreases coming on each of the six major holidays _ New Year's, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Ed Welsh, general manager of the central region for AAA in Utica.
However, travel this weekend is expected to rise by 1.5 percent, to 32.4 million travelers, Welsh said, with travel being defined as trips of 50 or more miles. Last year, 31.9 million Americans traveled during the same period, a decline from the 35.3 million travelers in 2007 attributed to a deteriorating economy and rising gasoline prices.
While gasoline prices have risen sharply in the past month, they are ``a deal'' compared to the $4-per-gallon price of a year ago, Welsh said.
AAA said the average cost Thursday for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in New York state was $2.51, compared with $2.20 a month ago and $4 a year ago. The highest recorded average price was $4.31 on July 9.
Travel will be on the rise also because of deals on hotel, car rentals and meal prices, Welsh said.
Average spending will top $1,000, and average distance traveled will be 620 miles, estimates slightly lower than a year ago, AAA said.
``The economy has pushed a lot of bargains to the forefront,'' he said Thursday. ``The weather is getting nicer.''
Today's mostly sunny skies and temperature highs in the upper 70s are to be followed by partly sunny skies Saturday with high temperatures in the upper 60s, according to the National Weather Service. Skies are to be partly sunny Sunday and Monday, with temperatures in the lower 70s om Sunday and in the upper 60s on Memorial Day.
No rain is forecast until Tuesday.
Area has other events, too
On Thursday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for this weekend's opening of parts of the Cannonsville Reservoir for recreational kayaking, canoeing, sculls and for sailboats. Access is from sunrise to sunset and will run from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus weekend, New York City Department of Environmental Protection officials said.
Elsewhere in Delaware County, farmers' markets will be open, a Civil War re-enactment will be held at the county fairgrounds in Walton, and Fleischmanns will have a street fair from 10 to 4 p.m. Saturday, said Patty Cullen, county tourism director.
Second-home owners and tourists are expected to visit, she said, with more details available at www.greatwesterncatskills.com.
On Monday, communities throughout the area will have Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, though some commemorations will be held on other days. Veterans, scouts, service groups and other organizations will fill the ranks, and traditional recitations of the Gettysburg Address and playing of taps are planned at many events.
Military personnel who died serving their country will be remembered with wreaths, speeches and dedications.
Glenn R. Hamilton, superintendent of Gilbertsville-Mount Upton Central School, said he was honored to be asked to speak at Gilbertsville Memorial Day ceremonies, particularly because he isn't a veteran.
``I've been giving it quite a bit of thought,'' said Hamilton, whose research revealed only about 13 percent of the population 18 and older has served in the military.
Memorial Day is one of the many times during the year when Americans can meet an obligation to veterans, he said.
``We do owe our basic freedoms, every day, to what veterans have done for us,'' Hamilton said.