Hooked on Riverfest

Posted on Jun 8, 2015 | 0 comments

On Saturday, June 13, Riverfest returns for its 15th year, bringing awareness to the fragile ecosystems of our High Country rivers through a fun-filled day of swimming, watermelon eating, hayrides and more.

Riverfest was started in 2000 by the Watauga River Partners, now a chapter of the Blue Ridge Conservancy, an organization committed to protecting and preserving the scenic rivers of the High Country.

“We’re continuing to protect and preserve over the years because it’s so important,” WRP board member Joan Hearn said. “Our main goal is to bring awareness to the public how importation it is to protect our rivers.”

Highlights of the festival will include rides on the Fish Mobile, which is a hayride that travels alongside the river, a Watermelon Eating Contest, a River Parade presented by Lexi Danner at Elkland Arts Center, a raffle featuring a Perception kayak, wetland tours and more.

According to fellow WRP member and event organizer Wendy Patoprsty, Riverfest will feature about 30 to 40 booths of other conservation-minded organizations. Each booth is dedicated to a different aspect of the river, whether it be education, preservation or conservation.

“We’re trying to bring a lot of the different conservation-minded organizations together, so it’s also a great way for us to network together and see what everybody is up to,” Patoprsty said.

Some of the organizations include Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the Appalachian Water Project, Valle Crucis Community Park and the Blue Ridge Conservancy.

Each booth will bring something unique to the festival. For example, Kelly McCoy from RiverGirl Fishing Co. will bring a live hellbender salamander, a subspecies that is nicknamed the “snot otter” because of its large size and “slimy” appearance, Patoprsty said.

However, McCoy will not be the only representative bringing live native animals. Genesis Wildlife will be present with live raptors, such as red-tailed hawks and an owl, as well as reptiles and other animals, including a mink.

Other booths will feature educational topics that cover not only the river, but the ecosystem as a whole. For example, Patoprsty said there will be a pollinator station presented by the Watauga County Beekeepers.

Festivalgoers will also learn about erosion, native and invasive plants, water conservation, pollution reduction and more. A wetland tour will be available for those who want to learn about the river and its abundant wildlife firsthand.

Attendees are able to put their newfound knowledge to use with some take-home items, such as water conservation kits, which include low-flow spigots. Kids will be able to take home an activity book presented by Mandy the Mayfly, played by volunteer Joan Hearn, who will also be available for pictures and autographs.

“This is just one of the events to make the public aware of how important the river is, all while having fun, too,” Hearn said. “Educating through having fun sometimes goes a longer way than preaching.”

The Farm to Flame food truck will provide food for purchase, and Italian Icees, new this year, will also be available. The WRP will be selling brown bag lunches for $5.

The money raised at the event will go toward the WRP’s many projects, such as the Shade Your Stream vegetation workshop.

Riverfest takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Valle Crucis Community Park (2892 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis). Attendance is free, and ample parking is available.

Patoprsty said that the event would not be possible without her army of WRP volunteers, particularly Caroline Gandy, Dick and Joan Hearn, Laura England, Janie Poe, Teresa Buckwalter and Mariel Gampe.

Watauga River Partners is a nonprofit, volunteer-only organization comprised of High Country residents with a passion for protecting and preserving the area’s scenic streams. In May 2015, the WRP officially became a chapter of the Blue Ridge Conservancy, as the two organizations have the goal of conserving the pristine natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including its farmlands and rivers.

For more information, contact Wendy Patoprsty at (828) 264-3061, or email wmpatopr@ncsu.edu.

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