Dragon boats, Coalminers, and more at RiverFest

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First Posted: 6/18/2013

From Friday to Sunday, June 21-23, the Wyoming Valley RiverFest will again be held along the banks of the Susquehanna in Wilkes-Barre at Nesbitt Park and the River Common.

Since 2001, this annual event has attracted thousands of people who come out to paddle, canoe, and kayak along the river; it is run by the Riverfront Parks Committee with the goal of sharing “environmental educations, environmental awareness, and environmental stewardess.”

“This started with a couple of card tables, some exhibits with some materials on the environment and how to care for it. Then we started to add different elements,” said John Maday, membership services coordinator for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

“We put up larger displays, then started to run the canoe and kayak trips on the river, then entertainment. Eventually, everything just grew.”

Friday night at 6 p.m., the opening ceremony will begin. Music, free family fishing, exhibits, food, and much more will be set up for the evening. A four-hour paddle is scheduled from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre.

On Saturday, a children’s art/nature program will be held on mammals, and pony rides, a bounce house, and guided nature hikes make it a family event. For the adults, there will be kayaking demos and dragon boat team training, which are teams of 20 paddlers and a drummer that test power, speed, and endurance as a team in races.

The demos will be presented by Endless Mountain Outfitters and Susquehanna Kayak and Canoe Rentals; all of the dragon boat racing teams will be local.

Another river trip will run from Harding to Wilkes-Barre and take about six hours. For the first, a polka on the river commons is scheduled with John Stanky and the Coalminers from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

For closing day on Sunday, Awaken the Dragons will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

“The tradition is once the dragons leave an event, they are tired. So they rest and sleep until the next event. So when they come to the next event, you have to awaken them,” Maday explained.

Children from the Wilkes-Barre Dance Studio will dance in a dragon costumes, following Chinese traditions that the committee felt were important to keep as part of RiverFest, since the dragon boat teams are their guests.

Local teams will take the trip down the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre to Hunlock Creek, which takes approximately six hours.