24th Annual Nanticoke Riverfest features outdoor fun and food

By Lynn R. Parks

Cash Thompson, the four-year-old son of Caroline Thompson, Seaford, had caught a fish. With the help of his mom and his grandfather, John Thompson Jr., he was reeling it in from the waters of the Nanticoke River.

The adults were calling out words of encouragement and caution. Cash was focused on the splashing in the water, and on keeping his hand steady on the reel.

Then, just as the fish was about to break the surface of the water, it was gone. It had slipped off the hook and escaped.

"It looked like a catfish," Caroline said.

Cash was undeterred. With the help of his grandfather, he turned to putting another worm on the hook.

Cash was one of dozens of children who participated in the youth fishing tournament that was part of Saturday's Nanticoke Riverfest. The tournament was sponsored by Hastings Marine Construction. The length of each caught fish was measured before the fish was thrown back in the water and the children whose fish added up to the most inches won prizes.

Caroline Thompson said that her son was fishing in memory of a family friend who died in May 2017. Stephen Saveikis, 34, loved outdoor activities and sometimes took Cash fishing.

Kerry King IV, 3, of Delmar, Del., was also fishing in the tournament. With the help of his dad, he pulled from the water a foot-long fish.

"We just started, and we're really excited!" said Kerry's mom, Jennifer. After the tournament, the family planned to get some food, then go to the VanSciver Children's Area for the activities there. Kerry, a fan of dinosaurs, was looking forward to the Jungle John Dinosaur Show, his mom said.

This was the 24th year for Riverfest, a celebration of the Nanticoke River and of Seaford's downtown area. The Float-In, the festival's signature event during which people float down the river, from near U.S. 13 west to the city's canoe launch on North Street, got underway at 9 a.m. with more than 500 participants.

Brother and sister Patrick and Sara Davis, both of Bridgeville, were the first two floaters to reach the canoe launch, covering the distance in 50 minutes. They had floated part of the way on foam kickboards, and had also swum part of the way.

"We do this about every year," said Patrick, 24. "We know lots of people who do it, and it gives us an opportunity to swim in the Nanticoke."

"We just like to have fun, and to make memories with our family," Sara, 20, added.

Bernie Parsons, also of Bridgeville, was at the canoe launch, waiting for her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters to complete the Float-In.

For one granddaughter, Hailey Parsons, 7, this was her fourth Float-In. Hailey's sister, Aubree Davidson, 3, was doing it for the first time.

"They say that it's so peaceful out on the river," Parsons said. And, "people give out watermelon along the way. Hailey really likes that."

Parsons, who grew up in Woodland, said that she swam across the Nanticoke River many times when she was a child. She said that her daughter's family always asks her to accompany them on the Float-In. "They might get me back out there &?mdash; I don't know," she said. "Maybe next year."

During the festival, High Street was crowded with food and arts-and-crafts vendors. In the mix was Katie Harmke, aka Cheezer the Clown. Cheezer, who wore a bathing suit and a grass skirt, had an inflatable life-preserver around her middle. She happily engaged with children who passed by, handing them small gifts. Adults walking by complimented her on her large feet, complete with painted toenails.

Harmke, who lives in Selbyville, was a special agent with the FBI before going to Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp in Maple Lake, Minn., and Clown Camp in La Crosse, Wis. This was her first time at Riverfest.

"I really believe that it's important, with all of the negativity around, for me to project a very joyful, happy-going clown," she said.

Also on High Street, owners of what they hope will soon be a coffee shop in downtown had a booth selling their brews. Alan Cranston and his fianc&?eacute;, Roxanne Murray, hope to open Every Fiber Coffee Co. on the first floor of the Masonic Lodge in downtown in the fall.

The building was constructed in 1911 by Hiram Lodge No. 21, which still meets on the second floor. The initial tenant of the first floor was Stein and Co., a men's shop.

"There is so much history here," said Cranston, whose grandfather, Charles Cranston, was a co-owner of Sussex Hardware, which was located at Pearl and High streets, and whose father, John Cranston, has Cranston Funeral Home. "It's really awesome to be the third generation of Seaford business owners," Alan said.

Festival chairwoman Katie Hickey, who is director of the city's parks and recreation departments, praised Riverfest committee members, who "work countless hours year after year to make this event a success." She said that this year's Float-In was the largest the festival has ever seen, and that more than 120 children participated in kids' activities.

"Overall, it was a great day celebrating the Nanticoke River and our beautiful downtown," Hickey said.

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