23rd Annual Nanticoke Riverfest draws early crowd for float-in

By Rachel Lord

Saturday morning began bright and early for many; with a sunny 73 degrees at 7:30 a.m., dozens of kayaks and paddle boards, blow-up rafts, and inner-tubes entered the Nanticoke River at First State OMS to kick off the 23rd Annual Nanticoke Riverfest. Splashes, laughter, and music filled the air as the floaters made their slow way towards the end site at Middleford Rd. and beyond during the float-in.

Meanwhile, kids ranging in age from 3 to 16 were choosing their spots and preparing their fishing rods for the annual fishing tournament that began at 8:30. Nancy Mears was there with her son, Carson, while her other son, Connor, volunteered elsewhere. Carson had been participating in the tournament, only missing a couple of years, since he was 2 or 3; he was now 13. Connor had won several times, Nancy said, the trophies up for display in his room.

They do such a nice job, she said of the tournament, adding that Hastings Marine Construction donated the bait and prizes (Walkers Marine of Seaford also donated prizes for the giveaway). Enrollment is down a little, Nancy added; you used to hardly be able to get a spot to fish in years past.

By the time the opening ceremony began at 9 a.m., the temperature had risen to 79 degrees. Its going to be a hot one, Mayor David Genshaw said. Though there were not many in the seats at the main stage, and his own kids were fishing in the tournament, he added, there is an incredible vibe walking up and down High St. Of the seven businesses that participated in the window decorating contest, first prize went to the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce. A grand prize drawing between sponsors for $2,000 worth of advertising by 107.1 The Duck went to Bartons Grand Rental.

As High St. quickly filled, vendors opened and various shows began, such as the Sussex Sassy Dancers and the Harvest Christian Church praise and worship team. Many watched from the shade of a pavilion in the corner of the main stages lot rather than in the chairs laid out in direct sun as temperatures continued to climb.

The relentless heat was not enough to stop many from attending the Nanticoke Indian performance; the drum beat heard throughout the festival was more than enough to draw in curious children. Boe Harris educated those children, and the adults present, about their traditions before the performance, telling them that dance is a story in motion.

The car show was another popular attraction. By 10:15 a.m., there were 83 cars registered in the show, which was very on-par with previous turnouts. Last year saw a slightly lower number as there was rain to contend with, said Deena Yale, chairperson for the car show. They expected to have anywhere from 85-100 cars in the show by the end of the day. She noted that there were a lot of cars from across the bridge, with many license plates showing Maryland and Pennsylvania in particular.

Just down the street, the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church continued to fill their yearly niche selling fresh-squeezed lemonade. Susan Hickey was confident that they would have plenty of business throughout the day. The proceeds, as always, would go to the yearly mission trip to Cherokee, NC. They have been going there for at least 15 years with a group of 40 people as young as 8th grade attending this year. The biggest thing, apart from the actual construction projects, is the relationship theyve had with the people down there, Hickey said.

Of course, the vendors are only a part of what draws the crowd in from year to year. I like the museum, said Michael Abbott of Blades. He and his family often go in the museum during Riverfest. I know its not part of it, but I wouldve never even known it was there if not for Riverfest. His wife, Courtney, said her favorite part of the festival is the float-in. The couple, along with their two children, attend every year.

Whether they were cooling off in the river, getting a funnel cake, or awaiting one of the various shows throughout the day, it was clear at high noon that a hot day was not going to stop people from making the 23rd Riverfest a success.

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