Return to Riverfest

By Makenzie Holland (makenzie.holland@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 22
Return to Riverfest

The 14th annual Riverfest returns to Valle Crucis Park June 21, offering family fun in the park and on the Watauga River.
Photos by Frank Ruggiero



In celebration of the High Country’s vast network of rivers, creeks, streams and their occupants, the 14th annual Riverfest will be overflowing with educational activities, demonstrations and fish-mobile hay rides for children and adults.

On Saturday, June 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Valle Crucis Community Park, Riverfest will combine learning and fun to provide an educational experience to the public, while also celebrating the Watauga River and natural resources of the High Country. The event is free and open to the public.

Wendy Patoprsty, who has worked with Riverfest since 2001, said the festival teaches folks how to be good stewards of all water in the High Country.

“It is just such a good little community event,” Patoprsty said.

This year, the festival is being put on by Watauga River Partners, a group whose main objective is education, Patoprsty said.

“Not many people realize how we live can affect our water quality,” Patoprsty said.

The Watauga River Partners, established in 1999, was created as a chapter of the Western North Carolina Alliance. The group was formed in response to a number of growing demands and pressures on the quality of water in the Watauga River and its tributaries, according to the WRP website.

As the importance of keeping water in the High Country clean and up to standard continues to rise, Riverfest is a way for area residents to learn and involve themselves in keeping the area the way it needs to be: clean.

In order to keep things light, while at the same time educational, old-fashioned hay rides will be conducted in a trailer, called the “fish-mobile,” kids can run through a 50-foot watercycle course, a hands-free watermelon eating contest will take place at 1 p.m., and Mandy the Mayfly will be making an appearance in the creek.

Mandy the Mayfly has been a presence in classrooms all around the High Country for years. Area resident Joan Hearn portrays Mandy the Mayfly, and her husband, Dick, plays the stream doctor. The couple feels it is extremely important to start teaching children, while they’re young, the importance of maintaining rivers and the surrounding environment.

“I don’t think I’ll ever retire,” Joan Hearn said. “We’ll do it as long as we’re able, I think, because we enjoy the children so much and getting what is actually a very simple message out to them. We live here in the headwater of several rivers; it’s important for everyone to understand they take the message home, and we’ve got to protect our water.”

She said her demonstration for the children will vary only slightly at Riverfest, as she will have access to an actual river instead of small buckets of river water she typically brings into classrooms.

“This is a great way to start, educate the children about how important our water in the High Country is,” Hearn said. “And I think it is important. We’re protecting the river.”

Children will be able to have their picture taken with Mandy the Mayfly and receive her autograph.
“She gives a lot of autographs, some kids get so involved,” Hearn said of her character, Mandy. “Now there’ s a moment of ‘Oh, my gosh, what do I do? Do I write my name or draw a bug?’”

From petting live animals, tubing down the river and looking at insects through microscopes to meeting Rocky, N.C. Zoo’s official hellbender salamander, fly-fishing and eating from Feastie Boys Food Truck, Patoprsty said the goal of Riverfest is to engage people to learn about the environment in which they live.

“The more that kids can get involved with learning about our natural resources of the High Country, the more they can really learn to appreciate what we have up here,” Patoprsty said. “That’s kind of our goal, to help kids appreciate our natural resources.”

Valle Crucis Community Park is located at 2918 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis. For more information, contact Patoprsty by phone at (828) 264-3061 or e-mail at (wmpatopr@ncsu.edu)

Additional Images

The 14th annual Riverfest returns to Valle Crucis Park June 21, offering family fun in the park and on the Watauga River.
Photos by Frank Ruggiero

Watauga River Partners’ Wendy Patoprsty, right, shows off a denizen of the Watauga River to curious onlookers at 2011’s Riverfest.

Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby, left, referees a watermelon eating contest at 2011’s Riverfest.

Rocky, the N.C. Zoo’s official hellbender salamander, will make a Riverfest appearance Saturday.

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