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Rollin' on the RiverFest

Article Published: Jun. 2, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Rollin' on the RiverFest

Appalachian Voices' second annual RiverFest, and it's rowing into Valle Crucis Community Park on Saturday, June 4.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

What do hellbender salamanders, live music and a tractor dressed like a trout have in common?
It's 99.8 percent safe to say there's only one answer: Appalachian Voices' second annual RiverFest, and it's rowing into Valle Crucis Community Park on Saturday, June 4.

With fun in mind, the festival features a lineup of things to do for all ages, including live music, hayrides, local foods, workshops, educational activities, vendors aplenty and, of course, river floating.

"So, bring your swimsuits," festival coordinator Parker Stevens said. "The high's in the upper 80s, so it'll be a really good time to take a dip in the river and cool off."

River and Earth Adventures will be running float trips down the river, along with a shuttle service to get folks back to the festival.

Before hitting the river, folks can also learn about its many denizens. Representatives from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Zoo are bringing Rocky, a live hellbender salamander. Native to rivers in western North Carolina, hellbenders can grow up to 15 inches long. Reclusive by nature, they serve as natural indicators of a waterway's cleanliness, as they only thrive in pristine, clean waters.

But hellbenders aren't the only river creatures about. Watauga River Partners and the Watauga office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service are hosting a bug station, where kids can examine mayfly, damsel and stonefly larvae.

"Then they'll go out on the river and pick up rocks and find them for themselves," Stevens said. "In the larval stages, they live and scurry around under the river rocks and, interestingly, you can tell the difference between them by the number of tails they have."

For those who prefer manmade flies, Foscoe Fishing Company will host fly-tying demonstrations and casting lessons.

Festival-goers can also attend demonstrations in primitive skills, like making shelters, building fires and cooking in the woods, while representatives from Earth Fare will teach folks how to make their own trail mix.

Consider it something to munch on while hitting the park trail with dogs and puppies from the Watauga Humane Society, which will have some pups on hand (or paw) for adoption.

Other activities include a river parade courtesy of Elkland Art Center, a water cycle obstacle course, a talk with Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby, nature walks, cakewalks, piñatas, face-painting, a no-hands watermelon eating contest, storytelling by Orville Hicks and Gyotaku fish prints, a Japanese style of art using paint and rubber molds to create colorful prints of fish.

"It's shaping up to be a lot of fun and a really great way to get people engaged and excited about the river," Stevens said.

It's also a chance to explore offerings from local organizations and businesses, with an expanded selection of vendor and informational booths, including Alakazam Toys, High Country CSA, New River Organic Growers, Appalachian State University Sustainable Development, Fox Creek Press, Tsuga Canopies, Jake's at the Rock, Hoopla Hoops, Pika Mountain, Crissy Cole Pottery, Brandon Thompson Pottery, Tea & Leaf, Turtle Island Preserve, GOat GREEN, Middle Fork Greenway, Caravan Botanicals and Bead Box.

Lunch is provided by Bandana's Bar-B-Que, serving up a barbecue lunch with a barbecue tempeh option for vegetarians, with cole slaw from Black Cat Burrito, fresh-baked bread from Hob Nob Farm Café and homemade desserts.

A meal ticket costs $6 in advance by visiting or $7 at the festival.

This comes with a free side of music, courtesy of finger-picker extraordinaire Bill Adams (11 a.m.), students from the Watauga Arts Council's Appalachian Junior Musicians program (1:15 p.m.) and area bluegrass favorites Upright & Breathin' (2 p.m.).

And for those who'd care to pick their own tunes, The Mountain Times is bringing its Pickin' Parlor tent, meaning festival-goers can bring their own musical instruments for an afternoon of laid-back jamming.

RiverFest also serves as Appalachian Voices annual membership meeting, to be held at 1 p.m. as a chance for members to get a quick update on the Boone-based environmental advocacy organization's latest work and efforts. "And, of course, people can become members there if they want," Stevens said.

The second annual RiverFest is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, at Valle Crucis Community Park, located off Broadstone Road (follow the signs). For more information, visit

RiverFest is sponsored by Mountain Times Publications, Alakazam Toys, Mast General Store, Precision Printing and Boone Ford Lincoln Mercury.


Bill Adams - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Watauga County Jammers - 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.

Upright & Breathin' - 2 to 4 p.m.

Pickin' Parlor - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Membership meeting - 1 p.m.

Storytelling - 12, 2:30 p.m.

Nature Walk - 12:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Cakewalk - 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Hayride - 12, 2 and 3 p.m.

Piñata - 1:30 and 3 p.m.

Watermelon contest - 2 p.m.

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