River reporter’s live coverage of Riverfest

Dateline: Sangamon River Music Festival – somewhere east of downtown Mahomet, Friday, August 26, 2016, 5pm

The USRC display booth is set up and ready to sell ducks for the Sangamon River Duck Race. Mary brings by a box of cute little giveaway ducks for the kiddies.

Meanwhile, rain is threatening as clouds are roiling. But it’s an exciting time as Riverfest begins – one of the most important events of the USRC year and one of the only events in this area with “Sangamon River” in the title.

Volunteers mill about with smartphones in their faces. No, they’re not playing “Pokemon Go”, rather our crew of lawn-chair meteorologists are watching weather radar and prognosticating about the forecast. “We’re definitely getting rained out tonight – look at that bright red band down near Monticello” says one.

Don’t worry about it, we’ll be fine, said I. But I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Somewhere in the distance, music can be heard. It is a music festival after all.

Dark clouds roil. Lightning streaks across the sky. Sprinkles begin.

Finally, my wife Carol stops by. She twists my arm to take her down to JT Walker’s for dinner and a Sangamon River Amber. The only beer in this area with “Sangamon River” in its name.

Before leaving for the night, we batten the hatches and lower the tent, but it looks like the worst may have moved on. Phew. But I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Dateline: Lincoln Trail Parking Lot, Saturday Morning, August 27, 2016, 8:45 am

Several USRC members are waiting for the Sangamon River Music Festival Parade to begin. We’re having a hard time taming a particularly unruly, impatient and rather large bright yellow duck.

From downtown there’s a report that something like a tornado struck the display tent area overnight.  Several vendor tents were apparently completely wiped out, stripped of their covers, twisted and mangled and left for dead several yards away.

However, the USRC tent managed to survive, unharmed somehow while the tents on either side were practically gone. This may have been thanks to the weight from the birdhouses Alan tied around the tent frame as part of our display.

Reports from the river tell of rising floodwaters as whispers begin of having to cancel the duck race this year.

Egads! It’s verboten to even utter such words! Thinks I.

The Riverfest parade goes extraordinarily well and the weather turns out to be lovely. Kids and their parents laugh as the big yellow duck squats down and poops tootsie rolls at their feet. NFTR has the inside scoop that the big yellow duck is laughing inside the whole time.

After the parade, the duck reports that he’s exhausted, dehydrated, sweaty, with sore shoulders and sore quads from all that squatting. But that’s life as a parade duck. At least it’s only once a year.

Dateline: Mahomet Bicycle Bridge, Saturday August 27, 11 am

USRC President Bruce Colravy and I stand on the bridge pondering the state of the Sangamon River. It’s all worse than we thought. The floodwaters are rising and the river is flowing high and fast and according to the Fisher Gage (far upriver from here), it’s still trending upward.

Bruce opines that there’s no way we can mount the duck funnel apparatus used to catch the winning ducks out in that current, or guarantee that the ducks would stay corralled at the end, creating a mass duck exodus far down the Sangamon River.

I opine that I still think we should try, but I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Reluctantly I listen to reason as Bruce and I map out a twisted course through Mahomet resident Matt Pommier’s flooded backyard just below the bridge.

Dateline: somewhere east of downtown Mahomet, Saturday, August 27, 2016, 4pm

Duck sales have been brisk and amazingly the rain has held off.

Riverfest patrons seem impressed by the museum-quality river trash on display , including a typewriter, an old tire, bottles of motor oil, shards of glass and an empty plastic bag of “environmentally friendly” wood stove pellets. Ironically, I point out that that would refer to the pellets that were once inside the bag, not the bag itself which was tossed in the river.

Mahometans also seem increasingly excited about Sangamon River float trips. This could be because we posted a sign on our tent that read “Free Sangamon River Float Trips”.  And yes, the USRC does host bi-monthly free float trips during summer months, mostly led by me. You can join in at www.sangamonriver.org!

There’s also interest in our annual upcoming mussel survey (river conditions permitting) and in our annual river cleanup scheduled for September 10 (river conditions permitting).  Join us!

Finally duck sales close as post time for the duck race begins!

Dateline: Mahomet resident Matt Pommier’s flooded lawn below the bicycle bridge, Saturday August 27, 5:55 pm.

It’s post time for the 6th Annual Sangamon River Duck Race, the culminating event of the USRC’s Riverfest experience.

Several members are milling about in knee deep water in Matt’s flooded lawn with canoe paddles ready to push those racing ducks against the slight current eddy and on to victory! I’m paddling around Matt’s lawn in the USRC’s newest kayak, ostensibly to pick up stragglers, but mainly because I like kayaking.

At precisely 6pm, Mayor Sean Widener and kids dump the ducks off the bridge and they rain down into the floodplain.

The race goes very well, even though the Sangamon River Duck Race is not actually in the Sangamon River. The twisted race course was very popular with race spectators and the $500 winner was right there among the spectators on the bridge!

Dateline: My living room, Saturday August 27, 11 pm.

It’s been another successful Sangamon River Music Festival where once again I didn’t see any actual music. I imagine I heard some a few times though. And once again, I didn’t win any actual prizes, but I’m convinced that in losing, I’ve used up more of my “bad luck quota” so that next year I’m certain to win big! But I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

I’m sitting here working my legs with our Shiatsu electric massager because I have the “inside scoop” that all those parade duck squats can be absolute murder on the quads.

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, September 1, 2016, by Scott Hays

Comments are closed.