In Tappahannock and Essex County, we know about tradition. Believe it or not, we even have something in common with the ancient Egyptians, who also found significance in their own “Rivah.” In ancient Egypt, citizens along the Nile celebrated “The Festival of the Beautiful Reunion,” which was a time for both the rich and the poor to put away their worries for a day or two to celebrate the best of ancient Egypt. Here, we do the same thing—except that here, we call it RivahFest!
Now in its 9th year, the community celebration held on the streets of Tappahannock alongside the Rappahannock River gives us an excuse to celebrate the best that our area has to offer. The activities of RivahFest mirror the reasons that citizens and visitors love this area and will return on June 18 for “beautiful reunions” of their own.
The festival is a time to enjoy (and to show off) our local wares and products. On the day of RivahFest, guests will visit over 125 arts & crafts booths, many with crab- and nautical-inspired themes in jewelry, pottery, paintings and prints, candles, purses, and so much more. Local businesses and organizations will be represented in the Merchant’s Market area, exhibiting the goods and services that are important to the success and culture of Tappahannock and Essex County. A farmers’ market will feature the fresh local produce, seafood, flowers and plants that our farmers and watermen are so proud of. Guests will feel the Rivah in the air as they eat a local crab cake sandwich or sip on fresh lemonade from one of the dozens of food vendors included in the Tastes of Tappahannock.
RivahFest is also a time to celebrate our young people—or simply to feel a moment of nostalgia about when we were young ourselves. Parents and grandparents will swell with pride as children take part in the Miss RivahFest and baby pageants, or while watching talented young people sing on stage vying for the title of RivahFest Idol. The family-friendly event always coaxes thousands of smiles from kids that enjoy the rides, games, and art workshop in the children’s area, or when they stop by and take a moment to color in a section of a giant dinosaur drawn on the street with chalk. There’s always a huge turnout at the antique and hot rod car show for grownups who want to reminisce about simpler times.
People of Tappahannock and Essex County also realize the importance of our local history and arts, and we take time to respect that during RivahFest as well. Signs of Essex heritage will be seen throughout the day on June 18 as horse-drawn carriages take to the streets, and tour guides share the stories behind our historical and architectural gems like the Customs House, Debtor’s Prison, St. John’s Church and Emerson’s Ordinary.
And of course, central to the theme of RivahFest is the “Rivah” itself. Signature events that make the festival special are the Rotary Crab Races (yes, they are what they sound like) and the Rappahannock River Rubber Duck Race, which is not only fun to watch but also boasts a $1,000 cash prize for the owner of the lucky duck. The maritime area with its boat displays, Captain Thomas River Cruise, and the Golf Hole-in-One on the water make sure that guests never forget where they are and how vital the river is to this area.
Last but not least, RivahFest is a celebration of just—well, fun. Like the Egyptians, we realize that there is a time to take a break from the regular routine of life to celebrate. Some RivahFest activities and traditions are all about having fun, spending time with our neighbors, and in some cases being just downright goofy. Citizens will want to come by and see our local “celebrities” and dignitaries lose a bit of their dignity in the dunking booth, and locals and visitors alike will enjoy playing in—or just watching—the fierce competition of the cornhole tournament. Entertainment at RivahFest is a great time to kick off your shoes and relax—or maybe dance instead—along with Steve Bassett, Ammon Tharpe and the Mystic Soul Bubbas while enjoying refreshing beverages from the beer and wine garden. Music will accompany the fun all day of the festival, which also features performances by Flashback and Susan Greenbaum.
And just in case you’re afraid you might feel guilty for spending all day on a river bank, don’t forget that RivahFest benefits the community in so many ways. In addition to stimulating the economy and providing a time and place for people to get together, the Grants Committee also gives back to the community in the form of cash awards to deserving organizations each year. Thanks to the dozens of sponsors and the hard work put in by volunteers year round, RivahFest is proud of these contributions to organizations like the Haven Shelter, the Community Food Bank, the Essex Animal Shelter, the local chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Tappahannock Main Street Program.
At RivahFest, we don’t mind that we might have stolen ideas from the ancient Egyptians, because the Egyptians really knew how to have a good time. And even though our river is the Rappahannock instead of the Nile, and our tradition is nine years old instead of a few thousand, it doesn’t really matter—because for Tappahannock and Essex County, there is cause for celebration.