Organizers say that record crowd attended Riverfest

By Julleanna Seely

A warm but pleasant summer sun helped attract thousands of people to the 13th annual Nanticoke Riverfest on Friday and Saturday. "Everything reached record numbers this year," said Trisha Booth, chairwoman of the Riverfest Committee and Seaford's economic development and information technology manager. "Great weather drove people out, and there was a continuous flow of people throughout the day." Booth said there was no way to know exact numbers. But she added that this year's attendance surpasses last year's attendance of 15,000. This year's theme, "Once Upon a Time on the Nanticoke," recognized the 400th anniversary of Captain John Smith's exploration of the area. The festival started on Friday evening with entertainment from Plenty Problems, a steel drum group and The Funsters. The evening also included the Little and Jr. Miss Riverfest Pageant. Saturday's festivities began early with the 5K Cross Country Duck Dash, the Float-In, a youth fishing tournament and canoe and kayak races, as well as a variety of live entertainment. Saturday afternoon featured a talent show, the Mayor's Challenge obstacle course race, car show awards and a John Smith costume contest. Riverfest closed that evening with a concert performed by Mike Hines and The Look. According to Booth, there was much greater participation in all the events this year, including 120 vehicles featured in the car show.

"It's a really nice atmosphere, and the weather's nice," said Brittany Trout, a 15-year-old Seaford resident who participated in the fourth annual Froggy 99.9 Gong Show. Like Trout, many of the participants performed popular songs for the talent show, but contestants could also perform any special talent with the hope that they would not be "gonged" off the stage. The cornerstone event of the Riverfest is the Float-In. On Saturday morning hundreds of people "floated in" with the Nanticoke River tide on a variety of unique floating devices. This year participation was so high that the city sold out of floating tubes. The Downtown Seaford Association helps organize the event every year. Sara Lee Thomas, current vice president of the 28-member volunteer committee, has been actively involved in planning the Riverfest since it first started. "I think attendance is better this year," Thomas said at Riverfest. "The Float In is a big draw, and there is excellent free entertainment." She believes the event improves every year with more vendors on the streets and a variety of fun activities. A unique event during the Float-In was the arrival of pirates in a helicopter that landed near Gateway Park. These pirates led the way to the 5-2-1 Almost None Pirate Island where the Mayor's Challenge took place later in the day. The Pirate Island was health-focused obstacle course designed for children and their parents to navigate through on "hippety balls" and receive a reward of water and fresh fruit at the end. Mayors from local municipalities joined in the Mayor's Challenge to race through the Pirate Island on the large bouncing balls. A group of pirates and many onlookers cheered on the mayors as they floundered through the course, some bouncing while others walked. City of Lewes Mayor James Ford bounced through the course in only 50 seconds, soundly defeating Seaford Mayor Ed Butler, Bridgeville Commission President Joe Conaway and Blades Councilman B.J. Hardin. "It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it. I've been training specifically for this event for the past year," Ford said with a smile on his face. "This has affected my ability to act as mayor, and I hope the people of Lewes are understanding."

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