Housatonic River Floatilla: A parade on the water

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — Celebrate the Housatonic River the best way possible, by being on the river. Even better? Make it a parade on the river.

On Sunday, Sept. 10, at Bartholomew's Cobble at 105 Weatogue Road in Sheffield, Mass., the Trustees of Reservations is holding the first ever Housatonic River Floatilla; a festival centered around the Housatonic river, with a boat parade at its center, made of entered decorated and hand-crafted boats.

According to Carrieanne Petrik-Huff, the Floatilla organizer, the trustees wanted to throw the festival in an attempt to reclaim the Housatonc's image as a positive place for recreation, rather than a damaged river. It was a natural fit for Bartholomew's Cobble, which the trustees owns and manages, as staff of the national natural landmark often hold canoe trips down the river.

"By having a festival, you can't help but enjoy the natural beauty of the river," Petrik-Huff said, noting that, due to its history of contamination, many residents don't appreciate the river or use it for recreation; instead, they just drive over it and ignore it. Petrik-Huff notes that many of the people she has encountered are unaware of the clean-up efforts of the river, and as such, Petrik-Huff and her coworkers often have to educate people on the safety of the river.

"Recreation in the river is not a danger to the community," she said. Over the last decade, cleanup efforts mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency have made sections of the river usable again, but it will still be quite a while until it fully recovers. However, for what Bartholomew's Cobble has in mind — canoeing — the river is perfectly safe.

What kind of boats can you expect to see at the floatilla? At the time of this reporting, that remains to be a surprise for Petrik-Huff, as it will be to Floatilla attendees, as few boat submissions were finalized. But she did note while some people chose to make boats themselves, others decorated boats. It will hopefully make for a lot of variety. But all boats have to be functional, as their creators will man them during the boat parade.

Food will be viable during the event, but according to Petrik-Huff, the venue is the ideal spot to hold a picnic with family. Various fair activities will also be there, but everything is dependent upon weather.

"Rain cancels the whole thing," Petrik-Huff said.

The theme of the parade is "River Heros," and as such, will most likely feature boats inspired by environmentalism. Boats will win awards in various categories, such as "Best Boat" and "Most Creative."

"It's going to be a spectacular parade that's on the water," she said.

If you go ...

What: Housatonic River Floatilla

Where: Bartholomew's Cobble, 105 Weatogue Road in Sheffield, Mass.

When: Sunday, Sept. 10. Boat parade starts at 1 p.m. The Berkshire Bateria will perform noon to 2 p.m.

Information: If you want to register a boat, call 413-298-3239x3013 or email cpetrikhuff@thetrustees.org.


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