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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Riverfest Returns On May 27

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rafting and canoeing are on the Riverfest! agenda. [Photo courtesy of the Hoosic River Watershed Association]
Williamstown - If you have a canoe, bring it. Just please, call first.

Can You Canoe?

A noon "canoe parade" is among the many events scheduled to be part of the May 27 Hoosic River Watershed Association's Riverfest! festival.

The festival kicks off at 11 a.m. at Cole Field, and the canoe parade, also being described as a "short and silly flotilla," will help welcome the event after a year's absence. The festival is celebrating its' 20th anniversary on Saturday.

Hopes are high that a display of extravagantly decorated canoes can become a Riverfest! tradition, said HooRWA Executive Director Eileen Fielding during a May 23 interview.

"Right now, I'm expecting a whopping three canoes," Fielding said. "But they will be decorated - wait 'til you see them."

And if folks want to call Fielding at 413-458-2742 over the next few days and sign up for the parade, they are welcome to add a canoe, with decorations, to the roster, she said.

"We're planning to be in the water for about a half hour with the decorated canoes," she said. "We are trying to create a spectacle for people on the shore."

The "parade" is not a river excursion but more of a floating exhibit, Fielding explained. Advance sign-up is requested so that Fielding can plan for river traffic and explain requirements. Life jackets for those in canoes are mandatory, she said.

Ride A Raft, Ride A Pony, Catch A Fish

Raft rides will be offered, with ride registration beginning at 11 a.m.. Rides will get underway at 11:30 a.m., noon, and 12:30 p.m., according to an event schedule. Another sign-up is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. for rides that are slated to run at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2 p.m.. A final raft ride sign-up will get underway at 2 p.m..

A "high-tech treasure hunt using GPS [global positioning system] units" is slated to begin at 11 a.m., as is a fly-fishing demonstration.

Pony rides are on tap from noon until 2 p.m., and a 1 p.m. live raptor demonstration offered by the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences is a scheduled festival facet.

While waiting for time-specific events, families may enjoy a series of ongoing activities scheduled to continue until the festival concludes at 4 p.m.. An aquarium and a "bug-quarium" are being promoted as a means of getting "close to live trout, insects, and all small the crawlies of the river bottom."

A toddler fishing game promises a "catch," and photographs may be taken at an outdoor photography booth. A "critter craft" activity will allow children to build a bug, and Bowie the Clown will be circulating throughout the festival grounds.

Art Along The Water

Musical entertainment begins at noon and is set to continue until 4 p.m.. "Nobody's Business" is slated to kick off the musical menu followed by the "High Spirits Singers," Amanda and Tom Plunkett, Bernice Lewis, Kalafya Brown, and Papa Bodhran 'Ran.

Students of the Berkshire Arts and Technology charter school plan to host a water testing demonstration and display exhibit.

Area environmental groups plan to sponsor numerous exhibits.

A very popular River Works Art Gallery, which features artwork erected on a riverside path, is returning to the festival and the participating artists are "wonderful," Fielding said.

Proceeds from a hand-crafted canoe raffle will benefit a HooRWA youth rafting program. The canoe is on display at the Williamstown Savings Bank. The festival is sponsored in part by the WSB. The 17-foot long cedar-strip canoe was crafted by Ernie LeClair.

Calling All "Hoosicians"


The Hoosic River is now a community asset, said HooRWA Executive Director Eileen Fielding.[Photo courtesy of the Hoosic River Watershed Association]
Riverfest! is an opportunity for all residents of the river's local watershed to celebrate the river's turnaround over the past years.

"Watershed" refers to "the region that drains into a particular body of water such as a river or lake," according to information available at a www.hoorwa.org Internet web site.

Informally dubbed "hoosicians," the folks who reside within the Massachusetts communities of Adams, Berkshire, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Hancock, Lanesboro, New Ashford, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown, the Vermont towns of Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, North Pownal, Shaftsbury, Stamford, and Woodford, and the New York municipalities of Berlin, Buskirk, Cambridge, Cropseyville, Eagle Bridge, Grafton, Hoosick, Hoosick Falls, Johnsonville, Middle Falls, North Hoosick, Petersburg, Schaghticoke, and Valley Falls dwell in the Hoosic River watershed.

The River: Making Friends Again

Once a polluted, dangerous waterway, the Hoosic River is making a comeback as an amenity that can be enjoyed by its' land-dwelling neighbors, Fielding said.

"The river was the enemy for so long," she said. "In the 20th century, it was dangerous; it was a flood hazard and it was polluted. In Adams and North Adams, people were separated from the river with walls."

With the demise of the mills that greatly contributed to river pollution, the river has been able to restore itself to a much improved condition.

"The destructive trends have been reversed," she said. "The river is now a community asset."

Designated by state environmental officials with a "B impaired" classification, the river is considered safe for swimming and fishing "most of the time," Fielding said.

There are still some problems with pollution introduced by storm run-off, which, while troublesome, is far less damaging than the gallons of dye and other contaminants that were routinely dumped into the river during decades past.

"We completely trashed the river in the 20th century and it has recovered," Fielding said. "We now have a decent river and a fairly well-forested watershed. We are at a good stage in the river's history. The river needs to be making friends with people who will stand up for it."

"We wouldn't want to trash it again."

Tickets for Riverfest! are $6, and children age 10 and under will be admitted free. The admission cost includes a raffle ticket for a prize of a sit-top kayak, a mountain bicycle, a two-person kayak and a GPS unit.

Additional raffles that offer an assortment of prizes will be held during the event and tickets may be purchased on site.

Additional information about the Hoosic River Watershed Association and the Hoosic River is available at a www.hoorwa.org Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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