Over 10,000 visitors ushered in another summer on the river with Tappahannock’s annual RivahFest celebration. “The turnout was terrific” said event co-chair Kristen Morris “it was a great day to showcase Tappahannock and everything about what our community has to offer and it all came together like clockwork!”.
This was probably the best RivahFest festival ever in the eleven years since it began in 2003. The perfect low 80’s temperatures and cool breeze helped make this the perfect setting for thousands of visitors to enjoy the multitude of activities in the 3 by 5 block area in historic downtown. Sharon James co-chair since 2011, said many first-time visitors were very impressed with the variety and quality of the event “They had heard about RivahFest but didn’t realize it was this big! Many said they will definitely be back next year! Visitors were totally impressed with our great community festival and obvious spirit!”
What made this festival such a success apart from the weather? One of the Steering Committee’s aims is to provide “something for everyone” – fun activities, shopping, games, displays, food and beverage, music and entertainment for the entire family whatever age. Some of the major crowd draws were 100 plus arts and crafts vendors on Prince Street especially appropriate since Sunday would be Father’s Day. Just down Prince Street, two major East Coast bands on Stage One provided entertainment continuously from 12:30 through 8 PM – the B2B Richmond band and The Main Event Band provided excellent musical entertainment. The kids area and teen activities on St. Margaret’s campus were a big draw and reported record levels of rides on inflatables, climbing rocks station, a multitude of rides and a new attraction this year – pony rides.
Katherine Newman, past chair of RivahFest 2009 through 2011 was enthusiastic “The great weather brought everyone ready to shop, play and eat good food. This year’s vendors provided a variety of unique items to appeal to everyone. The Main Event Band closed out the day with everyone dancing to everything from beach music to Johnny Cash. All in all it was a great day.”
Another highly popular activity was the revamped RivahFest Idol under the leadership of WRAR’s Terry Brooks and Rich Morgan. This year the preliminary tryouts had a record 38 registered contestants which presented a tough judging decision to select the 10 finalist contestants who would to sing at Saturday’s finals on Stage One. Judged by Anthony Campbell, Megan Green & Jim Payne, the winner TreVon Waters of Lancaster County won the $1,000 prize sponsored by Bill Talley Ford of Mechanicsville. The runner-up was Nia Jones who just graduated from Northumberland High School that morning.
A very successful activity this year was the revamped Cornhole tournament under the chairmanship of Billy Healy. Relocated to Lowery’s Captain’s Grill area where a ladder of 28 two-man teams could imbibe while competing in their favorite game created a dynamic and exciting competition. This year’s winner repeated their 2012 victory. Brad Poore and Mike Jenkins of Aylett won the $300 cash prize and runners-up were Barry Fearnow of Hanover and Chad Tate of Varina.
Adding a ceremonial and patriotic touch to the day’s activities the national anthem heralded the kick-off for the Rappahannock River Rubber Duck Race. Hosts John and Joni Lawler appropriately dressed in yellow duck outfits emceed this highly anticipated event in the style of a Kentucky Derby. Three local organizations came together under the chairmanship of Katherine Newman to sell tickets for the duck race: the Boy Scouts local troop, the Tidewater Whitecaps – a traveling girls softball team, and the Warsaw YMCA. On the river a flotilla of six boats managed the launch and recovery of nearly 3,000 ducks under perfect wind and tide conditions. The winning ducks were plucked from the “Rivah” by Margaret Broad and the three leading ticket holders won $1,750 in total prize monies. First place: Lisa Whitty of Amissville, VA wins $1,000, second place: Chandler Chevrolet of Tappahannock wins $500, and third place was Carol Smith of Tappahannock who won $250. All three winning tickets were purchased from the Boy Scouts.
An event of increasing popularity in the festival is the antique car and hot rod show held on Gilchrist Field and Water Lane. This year there were over 120 entries ranging from 1933 to 2000 coming from the Northern Neck, Richmond area and many out of state entries indicating the success of the event spreading to car and hot rod clubs far and wide – the secret bonus attraction allows car owners and mostly their spouses to take advantage of the multitude of shopping opportunities close by! The car show was judged in three categories by David Laughton, a veteran classic car restorer from Urbanna, assisted by Gordon Slatford and Burch Vickery. Classic Cars first place was won by a 1956 Mercury Monterey owned by Paul West of Henrico. Under the Hot Rods and Muscle Cars category, first place was won by a 1951 Ford F-1 owned by Bill Clifton of Fredericksburg. In the Antique Cars (over 25 years old) category, first place went to a 1962 Chevy Corvette owned by Ward Sevila of Heathsville. The top prize of Best in Show went to a 1932 Hudson Essex owned by Melvin Knight of Tappahannock.
One of the unexpected events at RivahFest was a flow of political candidates appearing at various locations throughout the festival. Rob Wittman, first district congressman won his Rotary Crab Race against Virginia Attorney General and candidate for Republican Governor Ken Cuccinelli, beating Keith Hodges to the finish line, Virginia’s 98th District representative. Also attending was Bishop E W Jackson, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
The smooth running of the festival was accomplished with the help of the Essex County school board generous use of the school buses which provided a continuous shuttle service to visitors from the north end of Tappahannock satellite parking areas and from the Rappahannock shopping center into the festival area with a seamless operation running from 10am to 8 PM. Behind the scenes the maintenance department of the Town of Tappahannock worked for many days before and all day Saturday keeping the festival area and the Town Of Tappahannock looking immaculate for the visitors to our community. Essex County Emergency Services assisted the RivahFest Steering Committee with hands on support and logistics, radio systems and incident management. RivahFest is also proud to have a strong partnership with St. Margaret’s School who provide the hallmark setting of their Rivah-side campus for much of the activities throughout the day.
Commented councilman Pete Trible “RivahFest serves as the cornerstone for the future of Tappahannock. The organizers proved that if you plan it they will come. I believe the Tappahannock Main Street Program, the Farmers’ Market resurgence, the towns purchase of riverfront property and the revitalization activity can all trace itself to RivahFest.”
The Steering Committee voted to acquire picnic tables and shelters for the Tappahannock Riverfront Park as part of their contribution to improving the lifestyle of the community. For 2013 the Steering Committee was led by co-chairs Sharon James and Kristen Morris, both with Essex Bank, David Broad at Digital Wisdom, John Clickener with Essex ESO, Kevin Dolan at Union First Market Bank, Elizabeth Franklin with EVB, Rebecca Hubert at Bank of Lancaster, Jeff James, Chris Quann with CH2M, and Joey Reinhardt at Barbour Printing, also assisted by Public Relations specialist Lindsey Harmon with SMS, and Katherine Newman managing central reservations for RivahFest.
For more information about RivahFest, the mission and organization and the local community grants, visit www.rivahfest.com or check out the FaceBook page. RivahFest 2014 is now in the planning stages and the Steering Committee welcomes volunteers to help and provide their knowledge and skills to continue making Tappahannock showcase event a success.