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River District Festival comes back bigger

October 04, 2012

Danville Register & Bee

By: Tiffany Holland

The River District Festival, held for the first time last year, will makes it return to Danville this Friday and Saturday but it’s much bigger than its predecessor — an extra day was even added to take on all the new events.

The festival was the brainchild of several interns at the Danville Regional Foundation and became a catalyst for celebrating the change and additions of downtown Danville. This year more organizations and businesses have been involved in the collaboration and more places have been incorporated — including the Community Market, Main Street and a lot more of the Riverwalk Trail.

“Last year we tried to get them closer to the river, but this year we are getting them on the river,” said Wendi Goods Everson of foundation.

There will be several canoe trips on the Dan River all day Saturday, a “Mutt Strut” for people to take their dogs on the Riverwalk at 9 a.m., and a family “race” beginning on Newton’s Landing. With the weather expected to be in the 80s and sunny, organizers are trying to take advantage and allow people to access one of the region’s most preeminent natural features.

One of the biggest additions is Friday night’s festivities on Main Street. Beginning at 6 p.m. the local businesses and restaurants will open their doors. Live bands will also be playing down by the river and a beer garden will be set up.

Everson said the idea is for Friday night to resemble “First Fridays” that occur in other communities and highlights the local art scene.

Another big theme for the River District Festival is recreation geared toward getting people out of the house and being active. One of the best places to do some working out is along the Riverwalk Trail, according to YMCA executive director Sarah Folmer.

The YMCA is sponsoring an “Adventure Race” at noon where teams of four or more people and must stop at different checkpoints across the entire festival. The top finishers will be rewarded but all participants get a T-shirt and a medal.

Folmer said the race is designed like the popular television show “Amazing Race” on a much smaller scale. Danville Regional Medical Center sponsored the race this year, so participation is entirely free.

“This is about encouraging families to get out and be active together,” said Folmer.

Right before the adventure race there will a “zumba-thon” at 11 a.m. which the YMCA also supports.

Over in the Community Market there be a Cultural and International Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate the diversity of the Dan River Region. She pointed out that many new businesses and companies have come from abroad and they are bringing some of their culture with them. The international festival gives some of the new locals a chance for people in the community to peek into their culture.

“There are a lot of people here from different countries,” said Everson. “And we can celebrate that.”

Across the street, the Danville Science Center is sponsoring many of the educational events of the festival. Assistant Director Sonya Wolen said there are events ranging from a Native American interpreter to water safety instruction to teaching children how to fish with plastic fish.

The Danville Science Center will also have electric bikes on display near its building and there will be health screenings and body mass index readings in the nearby Pepsi Building. Wolen, who was involved with the River District Festival last year, said one of the biggest differences this year is that will be more cohesive and easier to move from place to place.

“I’m proud of the way it’s more cohesive,” said Wolen. “By using Bridge Street and adding the community market it will be apparent on how to move fluidly … everything got pulled in this year. It’s more of the one stop shop to river entertainment.”

However, one of last year’s most popular events will make its return — the trapeze. The Imagine Children’s Festival, in its fourth year, once again is combining with the River District Festival. And it is bringing back the trapeze for people to swing through the sky.

Lynette Anderson, the special events coordinator at Danville Parks and Recreation, said the group from Aerial Trapeze Academy, who taught people how to swing on a the circus toy, was wildly popular last year and people are encouraged to come early to sign up, since getting to participate is on a first come, first serve basis.

The Children’s Festival also has storytelling, activities and special vendors just for kids and will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by Carrington Pavilion.

“A lot of times, it works best if there are two types of events,” said Anderson who added that parents can split up their time and see some of the stuff they want but still have a place to take their children.

The River District Festival is free and the entire list of events, including bands and locations can be found online at riverdistrictfestival.org.

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