Andre Gardner

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Andre Gardner, 14, and Ralph Collins, 15, help build the "WAVG Over Medford Lakes Airwaves" Float in the 1975 Medford Lakes Canoe Carnival.

Have you ever been to the annual Canoe Carnival in Medford Lakes, New Jersey? It’s this Saturday, August 6th, and it is such a fun event – certainly one of the most unique “carnivals” you’ll ever see.

The town of Medford Lakes is such a lovely place. I lived there as a teenager from 1973 to 1978 and, in addition to all the woods everywhere (it’s located at the edge of the Jersey Pine Barrens), there are dozens of man-made lakes, carved out of old cranberry bogs, that residents use to swim, boat, tube or canoe. Virtually everyone who has lakefront property in The Lakes owns a canoe, so every year a competition is held where residents can build floats, held together by two or more canoes and some two-by-fours, and they paddle these floats along Lower Aetna Lake in a water parade, if you will. The floats get judged on a variety of factors, and each year dozens of floats participate. Unlike the rather ‘organic’ float I made in the 1975 Carnival (pictured above), the floats that enter are so incredibly elaborate and clever, I can see it’s hard picking a grand prize winner each year. The whole week leading up to Canoe Carnival is a party in Medford Lakes. There are all sorts of events, a “Miss Medford Lakes” and “Mr. Medford Lakes” are crowned, and the place is hopping that weekend!

In 1975, my friend Katherine talked me into entering the Carnival, and making the subject of the float all about my then-bedroom radio station, WAVG. I have no idea where we got the canoes, as none of us lived on a lake, but we did and our friend Mike Matta’s parents let us use his dock to construct our float. For the next few weeks, we got to work. Katherine’s sister Laurie helped us, and I roped my pal Ralph Collins into helping with wiring the lights up to the generator (yikes, I know!)

The really cool thing about the year we entered a float in the Canoe Carnival was, in the next dock over, Flyers player Orest Kindrachuck (who lived in Medford Lakes) was constructing HIS float that he was going to enter in the Carnival. We had some nice, good-natured trash talking while we worked on our respective masterpieces.

Compared to the other floats in the that year we were clearly outmatched, but at least we made it all the way around the parade route without sinking, and we had a blast! The picture you see at the top of this article was taken at the Matta dock as we were putting our “WAVG Rocks Medford Lakes Airwaves” float together!  The 1975 Canoe Carnival was certainly one of the highlights of the five years I spent living in Medford Lakes.

The Medford Lakes Canoe Carnival, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, is Saturday August, 6, 2022. For more info, click here.

– Andre Gardner

Andre Gardner is a 45 year radio broadcast professional who continues to live the dream.