River Festival Links Susquehanna County Communities

Airyll Rockwell (above) won the Competitive Canoeing division of the downriver races that were among the activities at the Second Annual North Branch River Festival (top) near Lanesboro, Aug. 4 to 6. Additional winners are listed below.

Photos contributed by Jon C. Burdock, Wanda Rockwell, Peck Joseph Milbauer and Dana Rockwell

Story by Rick Hiduk

The North Branch River Festival held in and around Victory Park in Susquehanna County over the weekend provided opportunities for recreationists from numerous communities to celebrate their stretch of the famous interstate waterway in grand style.

From Friday through Sunday, River Festival participants camped along the river banks, raced in kayaks and canoes and enjoyed live music and food. A six-mile, family-friendly float was one of Saturday’s highlights, drawing multiple generations to the river.

It went well,” said Dana Rockwell, Susquehanna Depot borough councilman and one of the event coordinators. “We had a lot of enthusiasm from the people that were there that I think we can build on in coming years.”

Food, drink, bands, and camping were featured on both Saturday and Sunday. Live music was provided by Lindsay Nulton VanGorden, Jake Lee, the Steve Lawrenson Band (above), and The Look Band (below). VanGorden displayed and sold paintings as White Fox Art, and an exhibit highlighted the work of Jon Burdock, who took a number of the photos featured in this story, as well as a some historic photographs of the area.

The music was all local and featured some very talented folks,” said Susquehanna County Commissioner Betsy Arnold, who participated in Saturday’s activities. “My only regret was that I did not take my tent and sleeping bag.”

Red Rock BBQ provided food for the paddlers on Saturday, and the Spanish Club of Susquehanna Community High School sold chicken speedies to fund an upcoming trip to Peru. Wanda Rockwell (below) staffed the Susquehanna Rocks tent, painting whimsical images on river stones for guests.

Paddling intensified on Sunday with a 2.5-mile downriver race and a quarter-mile oval race within view of the spectator area of the festival grounds. Medals were distributed for the top three finishers in eight categories and classes. Another crowd-pleaser was an open category for those with a dog in their canoe or kayak.

Winners in the various categories included: Jonathan Jenkins, Boys’ Kayaking; Kim Carpenter, Women’s Competitive Kayaking 50+; Jennifer Rivera-Rockwell, Woman’s Competitive Kayaking (17-49), Charlie Anderson, Men’s Kayaking; Airyll Rockwell, Competitive Canoeing; Jackie Stockage, Recreational Canoeing; Jeffrey Benson, Kids Oval Course; and Dana Rockwell & Jock, canoeing with your dog.

Any time that we can get families out of the house and off electronics and actually doing physical activities together is a good thing,” Arnold (below. left) said of the festival. “For me, being on the water in a kayak is therapeutic. It melts your stress away. If you get to see an eagle or any wildlife, it is a huge bonus.”

Dana (above, right) related that organizers are already looking forward to next year and will begin brainstorming over the winter. One suggestion is a longer river race. “There is quite a race circuit in Pennsylvania and New York state,” Dana noted. “We can attract those people. We certainly have the space to grow.” He is also hoping to add more vendors.

Readers interested in participating in or supporting the 2018 North Branch River Festival is welcome to contact Dana at 607-765-6087.

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