Riverfest 2018 set for Friday through Sunday at Wilkes-Barre’s Nesbitt Park
WILKES-BARRE — From paddling trips and dragonboat races on the Susquehanna to pony rides and visits from wild mammals, Civil War re-enactors and a Native American Teaching Village at Nesbitt Park, organizers have packed a boatload of activities into Riverfest 2018.
“If you look at the entire event, Friday through Sunday, it flows just as the river flows,” committee member John Maday said.
You can experience Riverfest as a landlubber, if you wish, remaining on dry land as you listen to concerts each day, soak up environmental education on Saturday, and perhaps return to watch the dragonboat racers on Sunday.
But to fully enjoy the river, committee member Vinnie Cotrone recommends signing up (participants must register in advance) for one of four paddling excursions.
The first trip, scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Friday, will travel the river from Harding to West Pittston and stop at some historic sites along the way.
“We’re calling it ‘Paddle Through Time,’ and we’re going to look at places like Campbell’s Ledge and the site of an archaeological dig near the Coxton Bridge. If someone’s really into history, that would be the one to take,” Cotrone said, adding local historian Jan Lokuta will facilitate the moving history lesson.
Paddling trips also will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, traveling from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre’s Nesbitt Park; from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday from Harding to Nesbitt Park, and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday from Nesbitt Park to Hunlock Creek. To register for any of the trips, call Endless Mountain Outfitters at 570-746-9140 or Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals at 570-388-6107.
“It’s great for beginners,” said Art Coolbaugh from Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe. “We have a lot of new people come out for the sport (at Riverfest). My favorite part is seeing their response after they get out there and start to relax and experience all that nature has to offer here in our backyard.”
“When people try it for the first time I hear lots of comments like ‘that was fun,’ ‘wow!’” Cotrone said, adding paddlers can see the Wyoming Valley from a unique vantage point and also are likely to spot some interesting animals, especially birds.
“We’re seeing more and more bald eagles on this stretch of the river. If you’re quiet enough while you’re paddling, you may see them perched in a tree,” Cotrone said. “You’ll almost definitely see great blue herons. They have that large wing span, and they just swoop by. Last year, as we came in to Nesbitt Park, we could see, or rather, hear peregrine falcons screeching.”
Saturday’s river trip will bring paddlers to Nesbitt Park in time for afternoon activities, many of them set up under a large tent.
“It’s all about environmental education,” Maday said. “The goal is, you’ll walk away from here having learned something but having had fun in the process.”
From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, folks who stop by Nesbitt Park can meet members of the 24th Connecticut Recreated Militia and the Five Mountains Bear Clan Native American Teaching Village, help paint a community mural, and give their children a chance to enjoy pony rides and a bounce house, decorate t-shirts with “fish prints,” and build things at the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA’s “Imagination Playground.”
Live mammals from the Second Chance Wildlife Center will be on hand at 1:30 p.m. “Where else are you going to see a skunk perched on someone’s shoulder? Or a possum or flying squirrel?” Cotrone said.
Also Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., dragonboat teams will be on the river, learning to paddle in sync.
“It’s very important for them to work together,” Cotrone said. “That’s the only way to win a race.”
Teams representing Geisinger, the YMCA, the Family Services Association, the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, Downtown Arts, King’s College and Penn State Wilkes-Barre will take part in the dragonboat races, which start at noon on Sunday, Maday said.
In conjunction with the races, an “Awaken the Dragon” ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the river, and a “Blessing of the River” will take place immediately before the races on Sunday.
Musical entertainment at Nesbitt Park includes the Rockology Academy Student Bands and A Proud Monkey Presents: a Tribute to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on Friday, Three Imaginary Boys and Don Shappelle and the Pickups on Saturday and Don Shappelle and the Pickups on Sunday.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.
5 to 9 p.m. Friday: Paint a community mural; enjoy YMCA’s ‘Imagination Playground;’ watch ‘Awaken the Dragon’ ceremony at 7:30 p.m., all at Nesbitt Park
9 a.m. to noon Friday: ‘Paddle Through Time’ river trip from Harding to West Pittston
4 to 7 p.m. Friday: West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre river trip
Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday: environmental education tent, Wilkes-Barre Fire Department Fire Safety House, 24th Connecticut Recreated Militia, Five Mountain Bear Clan Native American Teaching Village, ‘Imagination Playground,’ paint community mural, bounce house, pony rides, live mammals from Second Chance Wildlife Center (1:30 p.m.)
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday: Harding to Wilkes-Barre River Trip
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday: Dragonboat racing at Nesbitt Park.
8:30 am. to 2 p.m. Sunday: River trip from Nesbitt Park to Hunlock Creek
Call 570-746-9140 or 570-388-6107 to register for a river trip.