Helium balloons danced along the water’s edge, holding up a sign that read, “Keep the French Broad River Clean,” on Saturday. The shore was lined with watercraft of all sizes, from sleek kayaks to square wooden barges, for the unofficial kick-off of RiverFest.
The Anything that Floats Parade, a contest to test the creativity of water-lovers, welcomed any vessel that could successfully float down the French Broad River. Hominy Creek River Park was the starting point for the parade, and the shore was lined with rafts by 11 a.m. Old-time music tinkered below the sounds of staple guns and air pumps, as Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks serenaded the group.
The head of an inflatable doll wearing a tie dyed t-shirt bobbed above the water. Her name was Cupcake and she and her kayak had an important job: to compete for most creative, unusual or hilarious raft in the parade. Chris Moody, member of the team “Smoke Scum on the Water,” stressed the teamwork involved in getting ready to enter the contest. Plenty beer and conversations at the Wedge were part of the planning process, she said. With Cupcake in tow, members of team Scum stood proudly over their creation. They later crossed the finish line with a cooler of dry ice dragging behind them and the song “Smoke on the Water” playing from a boom box attached their kayak.
Further down the shore Santa, the Easter Bunny and a leprechaun dragged their watercraft, a series of planks and empty barrels, to the shore. Happy Holidaze was painted in red across the front. Joelle Wicker, dressed in bunny ears and a tail, used RiverFest as a reason to pull out old Halloween costumes. “It’s a good excuse to dress up. There aren’t too many opportunities in the summer, so we had to make our own holiday.”
RiverLink, an Asheville-based environmental organization that works to preserve the French Broad River, once again put on RiverFest. The afternoon’s festivities began in earnest at French Broad River Park at 1 p.m., where a full day’s activities took place. The park was filled with colorful pockets of belly dancing, aerial arts, hula hooping and Tai Kwondo until early evening. A musical showcase rounded out the afternoon, followed by a soulful performance by Josh Phillips Folk Festival.
Photos by Jonathan Welch