ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Wyoming Valley RiverFest: Part III

Okay, lets' cover this right out of the starting gate.

No, Kayak Dude did not devour the poor, little crayfish, even though that innocent-looking crayfish tried to pinch his finger off. Although, he tells me he has eaten them in the past. Better ones. Shipped overnight in dry ice. That sort of thing. I'll stick with the grilled cheeses, thank you very much.

Anyway, for the first time ever, we did not paddle from Harding to Nesbitt Park. Since KD was scheduled to be at his own protest on the bridge by 11, we beached the hulking Iowa-class U.S.S. Dude by the dike at the Wyoming Valley Airport and waited for transport. You know, I figure if I'm to carry that monster up boat launches a half-dozen more times, I'll be collecting disability. Welfare, unemployment, disability; no matter which, I guess that would make me a new Democrat.

Once he had most of his protect materials in place and fellow protesters were arriving on the bridge, Zach and I headed down to the festival in Nesbitt Park. First of all, Zach said he was hungry. And I wanted to get on down there and look for familiar faces. Plus, it's always fun to watch people who just paddled their first 15 miles arrive at the boat launch. You know, just to see how spent they might look. And I wanted to see if either Chesapeake or Williams had set up informational booths amongst all of the environmentally-themed booths that always dominate under the tents at RiverFest.

There was no contingent from Chesapeake, which was probably a good thing. This outfit is to punishable fracking incidents what water is to the key our existence. And if they were actually on scene making with the good neighbor bit, I know damn well that my juvenile side would have been fighting for control of my being. Like I said, it's better that they weren't there.

But I did spy the Williams booth, which cracked me up to no end. The first thing I noticed was that the folks manning the booth were very physically attractive. In addition, they were so friendly and smiling away and so accommodating and very engaging. And if that's not enough, they were handing out premiums to the children. Frisbees, and Yo-Yos and...get this, ironically enough, water bottles, and all splashed with their company logo. Uh, did I mention the good neighbor routine? Yeah, I think I did.

With fracking only increasing in frequency in this area, it's the least they could do to pass out water bottles until the caravans of water buffaloes arrive. And Yo-Yos? Uh, since fracking came to town, that would be us...the Yo-Yos being yanked up and down and sideways and whatnot. So you know I just had to have one. And I do have one.

All of the folks who rented kayaks were given official 2011 RiverFest T-shirts which adorned the Williams logo on the left sleeve. And for ten bucks, even the non-paddlers could wear those very same shirts with that very same logo. RiverFest 2011, brought to you by...BIG OIL. (?)

You tell me, man. I just kayak here.

I guess the dragon boats were a cool addition and all, but I was totally disinterested. And I can tell you that Zach has been memorized by the fan boats, the hovercrafts and some of the muscled-up power boats at this event, but not by the dragon boats. Actually, he said they looked weird. That they do.

It was reported in the Citizens' Voice that protesters on the bridge were shouting down at the paddlers passing underneath through a bullhorn. While that was reported accurately, know that it came to an abrupt halt just as soon as it began. As KD explained, the protest was meant to send a message to the organizers of the event, but not meant to detract from the experience of the participants in any way.

I would identify the overzealous bullhorn operator, but since she and KD made peace near the conclusion of the event, I see no need. But if you read blogs and listen to WILK on a regular basis, her name has become a household name of late. That's your one and only hint.

I got to gab a bit with Carl Romanelli, the Green Party's representative at the protest. God love him, he gets so wound up. He's so dead serious all of the time. After I reminded him that he and I were the only Zappa Freaks at Coughlin High back in the days before the advent of electricity, and that it kind of figured that we'd both be so screwed-up later on, he smiled and admitted that perhaps he should have been omitted from the procreation list. And you have to like a guy who chuckles at his own attempts at self-defecating humor.

Enough with the long-windiness.

The annual RiverFest event was originally intended as a clarion call to all of us to get on our river, learn something about it and to raise awareness about the issues that have now led to it being named America's most endangered river. And what led to that disturbing classification? Unchecked sewage outflows and unregulated industry.

And now, five decades after the environmentally-unforgiving coal mines were shuttered, the sewage still flows into the river, and newer loosely regulated industries are being encouraged by the State of Pennsylvania to set up shop on the shores of the Susquehanna River, to inject lethal chemicals under it, to draw water from it and to discard "treated" waters into it.

So the question begs, did we learn anything from our destructive industrial past? And, five decades from now, will the inhabitants of this area be wondering how we could make the same mistake, not once, but twice?

We shall see.

Dude, as always, thanks.


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