Kayaks, environmental exhibitions, live music and more mark the annual RiverFest along the Susquehanna River.
The Riverfront Parks Committee-run event aims to raise awareness about the waterway that cuts through the Wyoming Valley and to educate those who live within the river’s reach, while also providing a fun-filled weekend for families.
The event kicks off at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 23, in Nesbitt Park, Kingston, with a food truck rally and live musical performances, and continues on Saturday, June 24, in the park.
According to John Maday, executive director of the Riverfront Parks Committee, the event has been ongoing for more than 20 years, but has drastically increased in size since its inception.
The nonprofit group began with just a few informational tables but, eventually, the event grew to span three-days full of educational activities, food and live music as well as canoe and kayak paddle trips down the Susquehanna River.
Each day of the event, a different river trip takes place — West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre on Friday; Harding to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre to West Nanticoke on Sunday. Participants meet at Nesbitt Park and then take a shuttle bus to the starting location.
For the second year in a row, RiverFest begins with a food truck rally organized by Maday and Mike Raub of Metz foods. Some of the trucks at the event will include Manning’s Ice Cream, Nina’s Bitemobile, Southwest Savory Grill, El Jefe, Sweet Lush Cupcake Camper and Sammy’s Caribbean Grill among others.
New to the activities this year are demonstrations by 24th Connecticut Recreated Militia Revolutionary War reenacted military regiment and Five Mountain Bear Clan Native American teaching village. The reenactment group will set up an encampment on Saturday to honor those involved in the Wyoming massacre that occurred during the Revolutionary War.
Five Mountain Bear Clan sets up its village — teepees and lodges included — prior to the beginning of RiverFest.
“They’ll have a fairly large presence on site,” Maday said. “They’re coming as early as Thursday and camping over until Saturday. It’s a big deal. They’ll have stuff for kids and adults. They like to teach about the Native American ways and traditions. They’ll have hand crafts for kids to work with.”
In addition to the new groups attending, the standard RiverFest items remain on the docket for Saturday, ranging from fly-casting practice, birds of prey and live mammals exhibitions to guided nature walks, painting a community mural and pony rides. The environmental tent will be filled with more than 40 booths of educational and environmental information provided by the Riverfront Parks Committee.
“Because we’re an environmental organization, every event we host has a component of that,” Maday said. “We’re a teaching organization. We have to get the people into our classroom. We have to get them there and have to make it fun in order for them to learn.
“Everything we do is environmental education-based,” Maday added. “We’ve committed for a long time. We’re all volunteers. We’ll continue to do it as long as people come to our events, we can recruit volunteers and are able to get financial support from the community.”
— charlotte l. jacobson
When: Friday, June 23, 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 24, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Nesbitt Park, Kingston
Schedule of Events
Live music by the Indigo Moon Brass Band and Fife & Drom
4 to 7 p.m.: River Trip — paddle from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre
5 to 9 p.m.: Food Truck Rally and Childrens’ Activities
Live music by the Three Imaginary Boys and Don Shappelle and the Pickups
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.: River Trip — paddle from Harding to Wilkes-Barre
1 p.m.: Live mammals from Second Chance Wildlife Center
3 p.m.: Birds of Prey from Endless Mountains Nature Center
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.: River Trip — Wilkes-Barre to West Nanticoke