BUCKHANNON – Since local people can’t congregate at the Buckhannon River for an annual celebration of clean water due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers of the fourth annual Buckhannon Riverfest will bring the river to the people.
That’s the philosophy of Riverfest organizer Kevin Campbell, president of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance. Campbell is working with City of Buckhannon information coordinator and grant writer Callie Cronin Sams and Autumn Crowe with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition to host a weeklong virtual Riverfest.
This year’s celebration, which kicks off at noon Monday, Aug. 17 and concludes around 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, is being held in memory of Riverfest founder April Pierson-Keating, who sadly passed away in September 2019 after a years-long battle with breast cancer.
The purpose of Riverfest is to highlight how invaluable the Buckhannon River is to the Buckhannon-Upshur community, educate people about drinking water protection and showcase local efforts to protect drinking water supplies.
“We’re continuing it for the same reason we started it – to bring attention to the wonderful resource that our county has that runs through our city, and is an economic engine that we’re underutilizing,” Campbell said. “It’s also a reminder of the fragility of the river and that we don’t have a backup source.”
Campbell said West Virginia waterways like the Buckhannon River are crucial economic drivers for the tourism industry in the Mountain State.
This year’s Riverfest is being funded, in part, by grant money that was originally intended to pay for the monitoring of the construction and functioning of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which has been discontinued. The W.Va. Rivers Coalition is repurposing that grant money to help make Riverfest even bigger and better this year.
“We’re going to start at noon on August 17 with a water blessing by an indigenous American Elaine Tanner, who April and I were friends with,” Campbell said. “She’ll be in Kentucky.”
In fact, Campbell urges anyone interested in participating in Riverfest to register online ahead of time by clicking here.
“When you register, you’ll be eligible for prizes, and there will be different prizes each day from the 17th through 22nd,” he said.
Prizes will range from gift certificates to local eateries to packages with Day Trippin Adventures, a local water adventures outfitter. The grand prize, Campbell said, is a free all-day guided fishing trip with Day Trippin. Participants are invited to partake in a photo scavenger hunt.
Here’s a look at some of the event highlights:
- Monday, Aug. 17 – Pierson Keating, April Keating’s son, will perform ‘This is My West Virginia’ from his home in North Hollywood, California. The song was written by his grandmother, Iris Bell, and is one of several official state songs.
- Tuesday, Aug. 18 – Participate in a yoga session with Wild Vinyasa Yoga Studio owner Sheray Efaw and watch Leah Barbor with Moms Clean Air Force conduct an educational demonstration about the water cycle. Tune in, too, for storytime with the Charles W. Gibson Library and more music from Pierson Keating.
- Wednesday, Aug. 19 – Watch two videos, one that will give a tour of the City of Buckhannon’s Water Plant and a second by the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection regarding the fragility of the state’s water cycle. City horticulturist Dixie Green will discuss sustainable gardening, and city personnel will talk about sewage and water treatment.
- Thursday, Aug. 20 – Tune in for a roundtable discussion with officials from the DEP, Buckhannon River Watershed Association, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, City of Buckhannon, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, W.Va. Sierra Club, Moms Clean Air Force and more. A question-and-answer session will follow.
- Friday, Aug. 21 – Enjoy live music by Seth Maynard, Emay and Carrie and Michael Kline followed by prize giveaways. “We give away some stuff at the end of each day,” Campbell said. “Information from the events ties into questions on the scavenger hunt, so if you want to score good prizes, you’ve got to tune into the information, and the scavenger hunt’s the test.”
- Saturday, Aug. 22 – Watch a sacred water blending ceremony, an interfaith water blessing and the presentation of the April Pierson-Keating Water Warrior Award. Campbell is also planning a livestream river tour and is seeking a volunteer willing to kayak the Buckhannon River with a GoPro camera from Hampton to the Riverwalk. The trip will be live-streamed via the Facebook.
To read more about Riverfest or sign up, click here.