We had a chance recently to be part of something special--the Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration at Rome's Bellamy Harbor Park, where the canal began in 1817. And we discovered something you might not know: 2017 will break records for commerce, with more goods and supplies expected to be shipped this year on the canal than at any other time in the past 20 years.

The movers and shakers pictured above, from left to right, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, Senator Joe Griffo, New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., and National Anthem singer Liz Bertrand on the far right, were all instrumental to the success of the Bicentennial celebration. (The two people second and third from the right could not be identified.)

As for the waterway itself, giant beer tanks and sonar equipment considered too large to travel by rail or roadway, have already made their way along the canal this year. The Erie Canal's parent organization, the New York Power Authority, hopes the fees, tolls, and permits generated will far eclipse the heavy costs of maintaining the canal in this day and age.

This equation would not only keep the Erie Canal operational, but justify continuing to develop its viability as a means for transporting goods. New York State officials expect 200,000 tons of parts and products will be shipped along the canal this year--the most since 1993.

The Erie Canal Corporation hopes nostalgia for the canal's history will help trigger new business. As Senator Griffo said in his speech at the Bicentennial, the canal is "a lesson that still has much to teach us today, 200 years later, as all across New York State we continue to pursue a future we should never believe is out of our reach."

One monumental project within our grasp requires the Canal to transport immense parts that are essential to construction. The New York Wheel, located in Staten Island, would be the largest Ferris Wheel in the western hemisphere. To date, cost overruns and other snafus have stalled the attraction and pushed back its opening until 2018--if at all.

If it does come to fruition, however, the ride could ring up annual revenues in excess of those generated by the Empire State Building.

So, enjoy kayaking, picnicking, boating, and biking at the Erie Canal, and think big. Supporting the famous waterway may be as vital to our future as it once was to our past.