By Mary Therese Biebel , Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Celebrating Susquehanna at RiverFest
WILKES-BARRE — If any area residents still harbor animosity toward the Susquehanna River because Hurricane Agnes made it overflow into their homes and businesses 45 years ago this week, John Maday from the Riverfront Parks Committee hopes they’ll finally bury the hatchet.
“We are fortunate in this area, to have a river running through it,” he said, praising the beauty of the water and the nearby riparian forest, the recreational opportunities and “just the chance to sit along the river and see how quiet and peaceful it is.”
People already familiar with the river, as well as those awaiting an introduction, are welcome to attend this weekend’s Wyoming Valley RiverFest 2017, which includes paddling opportunities, concerts and plenty of environmental education.
New to RiverFest this year are members of the Five Mountain Bear Clan, who will set up camp Friday night and welcome visitors on Saturday afternoon to their Native American Teaching Village.
Also new to RiverFest — although some members did attend a winter event along the Susquehanna — will be the 24th Connecticut Recreated Militia, who will give visitors a taste of what life was like during the time of the Revolutionary War.
“We’re really excited about having them come,” Maday said of the two groups.
RiverFest activities begin 5 to 9 p.m. Friday in Nesbitt Park, with a food truck rally, children’s activities and live music by The Indigo Moon Brass Band and the Fife and Drone.
Activities continue noon to 5 p.m. Saturday with environmental exhibits under a tent, guided nature walks, fly-casting practice, a bounce house, pony rides, and the chance to help paint a community mural. At 1 p.m. Saturday, you can see live mammals from the Second Chance Wildlife Center, and at 3 p.m., you can see birds of prey from the Endless Mountain Nature Center.
Live musical performances on Saturday will feature Three Imaginary Boys and Don Shappelle and the Pickups. Shappelle is noted for writing songs that celebrate the Susquehanna.
Paddling trips also have been planned on Friday afternoon from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre, on Saturday from Harding to Wilkes-Barre and on Sunday from Wilkes-Barre to Nanticoke. Interested participants may register for the guided trips, and rent a kayak or canoe if needed, by calling Endless Mountain Outfitters at 570-746-9140 or Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals at 570-388-6107.
River enthusiast Jan Lokuta, who recently welcomed youthful artists to help paint a river-themed community mural at Barnes & Noble, organized an additional paddling trip that ventures into the river Friday morning in Harding. Participants in that trip would be accompanied by naturalists who would point out and discuss the wildlife that lives along the river and soars through the sky above it.
“The wildlife has really made a comeback,” Lokuta said. “It wasn’t there in 1970, but now it is. It’s back.”
By the way, for anyone who remembers that Dragon Boat racing coincided with June RiverFest events in previous years, Maday said they can look forward to that activity Sept. 23 and 24 this year.