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River opening weekends draw tourists for Mother’s Day

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — Two Thousand Islands attractions opened for the season this weekend, welcoming hundreds of tourists on Mother’s Day outings.

Boldt Castle and Clayton’s Antique Boat Museum both attracted out-of-towners despite dank weather on Saturday and cold gusts on Sunday.

Boldt Castle’s numbers were down from last year’s opening weekend. About 500 people on Saturday visited the Heart Island mansion and its yacht house on a nearby island — about 200 fewer than last year.

Director of Boldt Facilities Shane K. Sanford said he expected Sunday’s crowd would be like Saturday’s.

“It’s weather-related,” he said. “It was a beautiful opening last year. I’ve been here for 29 years, and we’ve had better and much worse.”

This year, the butler’s pantry was unveiled to the public, showing off the floral china set gifted by George Boldt’s great-grandchildren.

Mr. Sanford said spring cleaning took two weeks to prepare the castle, which had been dormant all winter, for tourists. The lawn was manicured, the silver was polished and painting frames were dusted.

“When we first got this property 36 years ago, it was in derelict condition,” Mr. Sanford said.

He said he was confident that this would be a good season, especially as the weather becomes nicer.

“Being on an island presents its challenges, but it also is appealing to visitors,” he said. “If you haven’t been to Boldt Castle recently, you haven’t been to Boldt Castle, because we’re constantly doing renovations.”

Many of the opening weekend visitors came for the first time, taking a 10-minute boat trip from Alexandria Bay.

Marika Lucskai, Gatineau, Quebec, traveled with her family to celebrate Mother’s Day. She learned of the attraction on the Internet.

“The whole thing is great, all of it,” she said. “The view is really nice, too.”

Sheena and Brannon R. Howard, two Americans living in Ottawa, were impressed by the stately rooms and stained-glass dome above the staircase.

“We’re here for Mother’s Day,” said Mr. Howard. “It’s a gift for her.”

Another Ottawa resident, Laura Kuardal, discovered Heart Island while looking for entertainment for her mother, who is visiting from Campbell River, British Columbia.

“It’s really interesting to see something so old, especially coming from British Columbia,” said Mrs. Kuardal. “I actually like the unfinished parts.”

Her mother, Anne M. Erickson, agreed.

“The history is in the unfinished parts,” she said.

Sunday morning was quiet at the Antique Boat Museum, but free flowers and free admission for mothers with a paying child were offered to lure visitors.

“Yesterday was a really good day,” museum Director of Marketing and Communication Michael J. Folsom said Sunday. “The attendance passed 2012 by 300 percent. Being Mother’s Day, I don’t know if they want to be dragged out to a boat museum, but we’re going to take care of them while they’re here.”

He said Father’s Day is much busier at the museum.

Although the number of visitors Saturday was less than 100, Mr. Folsom said he was optimistic about the rest of the season.

“This weekend was the start ... we aren’t in our busy time yet at all,” he said.

On Friday, the museum’s opening day, he said a man from Nova Scotia was waiting at the door at 9 a.m.

The new exhibit features a canoe that carried Don and Dana Starkell from Manitoba, Canada, to the Amazon in 1980-82.

Other promotions planned include outdoor movie nights on July 19 and Aug. 23, which will cost $5 in advance and $10 at the door.

“We’re trying to go a little outside the box,” he said.



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