Catawba RiverFest Success!

Bluegrass music and Carolina blue skies go hand-in-hand and that’s exactly what more than 900 festival-goers got to enjoy at the 9th annual Catawba RiverFest at Lake James State Park, September 15. Billed as a celebration of the cultural and ecological signifi- cance of the Catawba River, RiverFest is also a chance to introduce North Carolinians to the concept of stewardship for the river that originates in McDowell County , winds through the piedmont and South Carolina low country, before it finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Lake James is the first of 13 man-made reservoirs along the 220-mile Catawba and boasts excellent water quality because of its proximity to the headwaters of the river.

Among the many highlights, a rehabilitated red-tailed hawk was released back into the wild as camera shutters clicked and youngsters gasped with delight. The majestic bird-of- prey was nursed back to health over a period of months by dedicated volunteers from the Carolina Raptor Center in Charlotte.

Like many of the center’s feathered patients, the hawk was a casualty of a collision with a motor vehicle.

The annual canoe and kayak races were supplemented with a chance for visitors to tryout all manner of hu- man-powered watercraft, including the hugely popular sport of paddleboarding.

In addition to hosting the event, Lake James State Park rangers offered waterborne eco-tours and a “Fairy House” building station to encourage creativity and outdoor fun for youngsters. The park’s maintenance crew and an army of volunteers provided much of the legwork for set-up and take-down of the event.

“The success of this year’s event is proof of this com- munity’s appreciation for the river and Lake James,” said park ranger Nora Coffey. “With the enthusiasm shown today for the state park and the myriad organiza- tions dedicated to maintaining the health of the Cataw- ba River basin, RiverFest will go on to be bigger and better in the years to come.”

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