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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Riverfest! 2006: The Perfect Party

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, May 27, 2006

HooRWA Executive Director Eileen Fielding and a paddling companion guided a decorated canoe along the Hoosic River as part of a Riverfest! canoe parade.
View Slide Show
Williamstown - There were no complaints from Eileen Fielding.

"The Perfect Party"

"We couldn't ask for better," said the executive director of the Hoosic River Watershed Association. "It was the first real summer weather day and it was the perfect party."

The "party" was the May 27 20th anniversary HooRWA Riverfest! celebration, and the river, the weather, and the over 300 "guests" cooperated to pull off a fine, festive, family day.

Families and individuals passed through the Cole Field gates throughout the afternoon, with many folks already on the field and on the river's banks prior to the official 11 a.m. festival opening.


Gazing along the Hoosic River
A raft ride sign-up booth was almost constantly swarmed with people interested in a trip along the river. Ponies brought to the festival by Oak Hollow Farm, which hosts the Equus Therapeutic riding program, plodded patiently along as child after child clamored for a free pony ride. Booths and exhibits set up beneath a large white canopy-style tent did not want for visitors.

Land-Lover Nature

Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation Director Leslie Reed-Evans staffed a WRLF booth that featured original art and haiku poems by Williamstown Elementary School third-grade students. Reed-Evans explained that she visits the class taught by Carolyn Agostini and delivers presentations about local birds. A field trip is part of the education, she said.

"It's part of a Williamstown Rural Lands effort to integrate Sheep Hill programs into school curriculum," Reed-Evans said.

Sheep Hill is a 50-acre property that serves as the WRLF headquarters as well as the site of the Mary and Craig Lewis Center For Nature and Rural heritage.

Sheep Hill is located at 671 Cold Spring Road. Upcoming events include a June 11 "butterfly safari," a June 26-30 "Early Summer at Sheep Hill" program for children aged 7 -10 [registration required], and a June 29 evening "firefly hike and star-gazing night" that includes s'mores.

Botzow: It's About Here

An aquarium that held trout from the river captured the attention of dozens of toddlers and students of the Berkshire Arts and Technology charter school conducted a water testing demonstration.

Amy Bryan and four-month-old daughter Kaylie Bryan enjoyed the River Works Art Gallery walk.


A River Works Art Gallery lured folks along a sculpture-dotted path that wound its' way to the Hoosic River banks. Artists including Bill Senseney, Paul Garnish, Len Poliandro, Robert Stone, and Vermont state Rep. Bill Botzow [D-Pownal, Woodford] showed their works along the outdoor exhibit.

Botzow and his wife Ruth strolled the riverside display and paddled as part of a noontime canoe parade. Botzow is a renowned New England sculptor and his art has been an almost constant presence at Riverfest since the event debuted in 1986.

"I've made a sculpture for this every year except twice, one year when I was out of town and last year, when they didn't have the event," Botzow said.

Botzow said that he looks forward to Riverfest! and appreciates its' local focus.

"It's a homegrown celebration that's all about here," he said.

Parade and Presentations


Bill Seneseny's "Great Heron" River Works sculpture.
The canoe parade found four decorated canoes and one kayak launched soon after noontime. What the parade may have lacked in numbers was more than made up for by enthusiasm. Fielding, Botzow, newly-elected town Selectmen Richard "Dick" Steege" and Deb Burns were among those who paddled along the slow-moving river.

Live music performers began entertaining crowds under the canopy at noontime.

Children and adults were captivated by a 1 p.m. Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences raptor presentation. Raptors, defined as being birds of prey, include eagles, hawks, and falcons. A small falcon and a red-tail hawk were included in the live demonstration.

Richard Schlesinger is a HooRWA river monitoring coordinator. Schlesinger was among those guiding the raft rides that traveled to Lauren's Launch and back.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm for the rafting," Schlesinger said. "The water level is ideal today."

Hoosic River A Healthier Waterway Today

The Hoosic River is now classified by state officials as a "Class B Impaired" river. Fielding has said that the river may be safely swum and fished most of the time, but noted that pollution problems caused by storm run-off remain.

The Hoosic River experienced significant pollution from dyes and other contaminants during the mill and factory era of the Northern Berkshires but has undergone a significant turnaround since the industrial pollution ceased.

A red-tailed hawk was part of a Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences raptor demonstration.


The Hoosic River is fed by Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts streams and flows 70 miles from its' start at the Cheshire reservoir to the Hudson River in Stillwater, N.Y., according to information provided at a HooRWA Internet web site. The major river tributaries are the Hoosic North Branch, the Green River, the Little Hoosic, the Walloomsac, the Owl Kill, and the Tomhannock.

Schlesinger is among those with vast experience monitoring and assessing the condition of the Hoosic River.

"This river has improved a lot," he said.

Additional information about the Hoosic River and the HooRWA organization may be acquired at a www.hoorwa.org web site.

Additional information about the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation and its' programs is available at a www.wrlf.org web site.

A multi-photograph Riverfest! slideshow will be posted at www.iberkshires.com during the upcoming week.

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