Take Me to the River
Graphic illustration by Dan Talsky, daniel.talsky@journaltimes.com; photo courtesy of the Racine Arts Council

Take a ride in a horse-drawn wagon along the scenic Root River Pathway. Paddle peacefully down the river, in a canoe or kayak. Listen to live music and poetry while having lunch and a local brew in a festive beer garden. And learn about the Root River and the role it has played in our community since its founding, through presentations and storytelling.

These experiences and more will be offered on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 27, at the Root River Festival in Lincoln Park, 2200 Domanik Drive.

The free, community festival, which runs from noon to 5 p.m., is presented by the Root River Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the Root River Corridor (www.rootrivercouncil.org). And its goal is to provide people of all ages with a “lazy summer afternoon of fun, learning and celebration of our river.”

Hidden gem

In its fourth year, the Root River Festival takes inspiration from the Chautauqua movement — a popular adult education movement founded in Chautauqua, New York, which brought a combination of entertainment, learning and spirituality to communities throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Previous Root River Festivals have been held in Island Park and at the River Bend Nature Center, and this year the council is excited to be able to hold the event in Lincoln Park, according to Jim Chambers, council chairman.

“It really is a hidden gem,” Chambers said of Lincoln Park, located just north of Spring Street and west of Northwestern Avenue.

He and fellow organizers have done a lot of research about the park — which is defined by the Root River and the three pedestrian bridges spanning it — and are glad to be able to share its virtues with the public.

Even a lot of lifelong Racine residents don’t know the park by name, Chambers said. But, “once you are in there, you’ll see what a lovely venue it is.”

Gaining knowledge

One of the things festival-goers can learn about Lincoln Park is its heritage as part of the park system designed by famed landscape architect Jens Jensen, according to Chambers. Jensen, a Danish immigrant who also designed parks in Chicago and throughout the Midwest, will be the topic of an educational presentation given by local Jens Jensen historian Kay Gregor at 1 p.m.

Other educational presentations that afternoon will include a history of the Root River presented by educator Keith Kohlmann at 12:30 p.m.; a program about Natural Treatment Systems, presented by Steven Lyons, an environmental engineer, at both 1:30 and 4 p.m.; and one about climate change, presented by Aszya Summers, Racine Zoo conservation education manager, at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Storytellers Mark Sommer and Geraldine Bodi will also be on hand, sharing stories about the river and about mindfulness. And festival-goers can enjoy live music — ranging from folk and alternative to gospel and hip-hop — performed on stage throughout the afternoon (see accompanying box for the performance schedule).

The festival will also offer booths and tents where about two dozen nonprofit organization will offer information and interactive displays, including children’s activities, related to the river.

“I think the mix we have planned will make for a fun and interesting day,” Chambers said.

Hitching a ride

Most of the festival’s attractions will be located in and around the park’s pavilion. The launch site for canoes and kayaks (provided by the Root River Environmental Education Community Center) will be on the section of the river located behind Lutheran High School, and attendees can hitch a ride to that site via a horse-drawn wagon, provided by Black Tie Carriage.

The wagon fits up to eight passengers and will travel on a continuous loop from the main festival area to both the canoe launch site and the park’s Root River Steelhead Facility throughout the afternoon. The cost per rider is $2, with both cash and credit cards accepted.

Riders departing at the Steelhead Facility can take tours of the hatchery, provided by the Department of Natural Resources. And, when back at the main festival area, they can grab a bite to eat from one of several food trucks on site, featuring everything from Jamaican and soul food to hot dogs, popcorn and homemade ice cream.

Local refreshment

New to the festival this year is a biergarten (beer garden) featuring local brews by the Benjamin Beer Co. It will be located in a grove of honey locust trees and offer an atmosphere reminiscent of German biergartens, Chambers said.

The Root River Festival is much more than entertainment. It is an event that gives us a sense of community and raises awareness about the river and its importance in our lives, he said.

“It is really neat to see all of the connections made at something like this,” Chambers said.

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Features Reporter

Lee Roberts is the features writer for The Journal Times, covering a wide range of subjects, from the local arts scene to profiles of interesting people and places in our community. She is also a part-time page editor.

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