On July 20, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, USDA Forest Service, Corazón Latino and multiple partners hosted RioPalooza - an event focused on celebrating the river with friends and family. There were loads of activities to participate in ranging from rafting to dancing to a fish petting zoo! Despite some last minute cancellations due to a dreary weather forecast the night before, at least 40 people came from all over to spend a fun day at RioPalooza. People came from Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, and Mexico! Talk about well traveled.
Upon arrival, everyone became well acquainted with U.S. Forest Service icon Woodsy Owl and his messages of conservation. Let’s just say that everyone gave a hoot and didn’t pollute. Will they lend a hand and care for the land? Stay tuned…
In the spirit of adventure, several families set off on a rafting trip down the scenic Shenandoah River. The river was calm, but that didn’t mean they didn’t get a workout - in total, the ride down the river took about two-and-a-half hours of light, yet persistent, paddling. Needless to say, everyone returned with an appetite and a sense of accomplishment. There was a feast of hand-made pupusas, carne asada, salad, and fruit awaiting them. Hunger pangs didn’t stand a chance against this delicious smorgasbord of Latin American foods.
Meanwhile, back at the campground, there were activities happening both above and below the water’s surface! Kids and adults alike threw on wetsuits, goggles, and snorkels and stuck their faces into the river to see the minnows, crayfish, and other critters swimming about below. One young woman overcame her fear of water to take a peek underneath the river’s surface and see the creatures beneath. The water was shallow, so to an observer, the river looked like a proverbial sea of snorkels, behinds, and flippered feet.
Back on land, the Buffalo Soldiers provided excellent historical accounts of their role in protecting public lands and our country for over 100 years. The 9th and 10th mounted cavalry troopers brought their horses and demonstrated the basics of horseback riding. Some folks were more interested in making a furry friend than going for a ride, and the horses seemed to welcome the attention. The rest of us were able to ride around the campground on some very well-mannered steeds and observe some of the other activities happening at the campground.
If you’d preferred to befriend Earth’s scalier creatures, the fish petting zoo would’ve been right up your alley. It was certainly a hit with the younger kids. A fish and wildlife expert set up a glass fish tank to exhibit a large, whiskered catfish, a sunfish, and a large minnow species. Passersby were drawn in by the opportunity to pet the fish and stayed to learn about the sources of pollution threatening their habitat in the Shenandoah River.
The day concluded with some dancing and danzatone. For those who aren’t familiar, danzatone is similar to zumba but with more choreographed dance moves worked in. With the music turned up, everyone danced salsa and worked up a sweat before winding down for a raffle. Our partners at the Hispanic Access Foundation brought some awesome outdoor gear which was given to the winning ticket holder. It was a great way to end a fantastic day celebrating the Wild and Scenic Shenandoah river!