Riverfest successful by land and sea

By Lynn R. Parks

On Saturday afternoon, Clay Chaffinch of Seaford and his aunt, Doris Marvel of Sudlersville, Md., sat in the shade, looking out over the Nanticoke River. They were waiting for Clay's brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Kay Chaffinch, who were floating down the Nanticoke as part of the annual Float-In, to land at the city's canoe launch near Water Street.
This was the second time that Ben and Kay had participated in the Float-In, Clay said. And why wasn't he out in the river? I can't swim! he said, laughing.
The Nanticoke River Float-In is the cornerstone event of Seaford's annual Riverfest, a celebration of the river and of Seaford's downtown. This year's festival, the 21st, was held Friday and Saturday.
Attendance throughout the weekend was good, said Trisha Newcomer, head of economic development for the city of Seaford and festival chairwoman. On both days, High Street was lined with food and craft booths. A carnival was in full swing in the empty lot behind city hall and there were children's activities, including a fishing tournament.
Even with a little bit of rain in the morning, we had a great crowd, Newcomer said. The car show had fewer participants than usual, 51 as compared to about 100, but all of the festival's vendors showed up. And once the sun came out, there were tons of people.
As for the Float-In, more than 400 people participated, the most that the event has ever seen, Newcomer said. Splash-off time, which varies every year according to the tide, was 3 p.m. And it wasn't until 4:15 that city employees and volunteers had gotten all of the crafts from simple inner tubes to complicated crafts made from several floating devices roped together and designed to hold several people into the water.
Siblings Madisen Sammons and Gideon Sammons and their cousin Paige Sammons were the first floaters to finish the Float-In. Each was wearing a life jacket and they were riding a large circular float, red, green and white like a huge slice of watermelon.
There at the canoe launch to greet them was Paige's grandmother, Ann Sammons, Seaford.
I am the welcoming party, she said. I knew that it was them because I recognized the watermelon.

The trio's trip from the launching point at Peninsula Urology near U.S. 13 to the canoe launch took about an hour, they said. They took turns swimming and resting, with two of them swimming at a time and the other resting on the float. Along the way, they had some refreshment, real slices of watermelon, provided by people on another craft.
The watermelon was the best part of the trip, Gideon, 7, said.
Madisen and Paige agreed that the best part of the Float-In for them was getting to participate in it with their friends and members of their family. Other people in their party were yet to land. Participants in the Float-In weren't the only people at Riverfest to get wet. On High Street, in the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church parking lot, Charlie Towers of Seaford sat in the dunking booth seat, soaked from the numerous times he had ended up in the tub of water below.
I've been here about a half an hour and have another half an hour to go, he said. He didn't seem shy about getting wet: When people walked by, he encouraged them taunted them, even to try their hand at hitting the dunking booth lever with a softball to dump him into the water.
Proceeds from the dunking booth will to help pay medical costs for five-year-old Brayden Houston of Delmar, who had a heart transplant in April.
Also on High Street, Seaford city Councilman Bill Mulvaney and his wife, Darlene, sat in the shade of a tent, enjoying ice cream from the Vanderwende Farm Creamery near Bridgeville. It's our favorite flavor, orange pineapple, the councilman said.
And he had no apologies for eating the sweet dessert. I spent two hours on trash duty this morning, he said.
Back at the canoe launch, Clay Chaffinch was still waiting for his brother and sister-in-law. After their arrival, he said, the family planned to walk up to High Street to get something to eat.
I really like Riverfest, Chaffinch said. It's good for the town to do something like this.

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