The Chattahoochee River begins as a tiny stream in North Georgia and flows over 430 miles. (Photo courtesy of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.)

By Hannah E. Jones

This Earth Day, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is hosting its inaugural Waterfest — an annual, free festival in Gainesville, Ga. The new event is intended to celebrate our local waterways, educate residents and raise funds to support the nonprofit’s efforts to protect the Chattahoochee River watershed. 

Waterfest will be held on Saturday, April 22 at Midland Greenway from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. The outdoor event will feature festival classics with an environmental twist, including live music, a silent auction and an Environmental Expo.

“I’m hoping people will bring their picnic blanket and spend the whole afternoon with us,” said Mallory Pendleton, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s headwaters outreach manager. She is also the head organizer of Waterfest. “It’s going to be all smiles — with people having a good time, learning about the community and about why they should care and why they should get involved.”

The live music line-up includes a variety of local musicians like Let There Be Rock School, Malachi Mills, Fukushima Tuna, Sweet Auburn String Band and Velvet City Sound

An example of the hand-painted rain barrels. (Photo courtesy of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.)

The virtual auction includes a plethora of North Georgia outdoor adventures, including boat rentals, weekend mountain retreats, a day trip to Helen, a paddling tour and more. These offerings are available from April 17 to 24. At the festival, folks can bid on rain barrels designed by local artists. 

There will also be an educational component with the Environmental Expo, where local organizations will inform attendees about issues facing our region and how to support these local causes. Groups like Sierra Club – Greater Gwinnett Group, Keep Hall Beautiful and Friends of Gainesville Parks & Greenways will be in attendance.

The festival is presented by NoFo Brew Co. and held in partnership with the City of Gainesville Parks & Recreation and Department of Water Resources. 

An intern collects water samples from River Forks Park in Gainesville, Ga. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Riverkeeper.)

Established in 1994, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is the only nonprofit dedicated solely to protecting its namesake. The organization monitors water quality, conducts trash pickup, removes harmful algae blooms, works with local officials to promote environmental policy and engages nearby communities. The funds raised from Waterfest will directly support these efforts. 

Previously, the Riverkeepers held an annual fundraising event called the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, which required a ticket to attend. This year, the team wanted to create an event that is free and open to the public and decided to pivot to an annual Waterfest. Additionally, the festival is held within walking distance of the square and the city is offering transportation via the trollies. Ultimately, the team hopes to remove barriers to access for anyone who wants to attend.

“I wanted to make an event that was going to attract people of all ages and all backgrounds, and hopefully not create any financial challenges [by requiring] tickets,” Pendleton said.

People looking for a more hands-on activity for Earth Day can sign up for one of two river clean-up events hosted by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Pendleton hopes that folks take Earth Day as an opportunity to reflect on the value of our natural world and the importance of protecting local habitats, wildlife and resources.

“We’re all here because of our beautiful planet Earth and the resources that we are working so hard to protect. If we lose them, we don’t have backup resources,” Pendleton said. “Every day should be Earth Day — we should always celebrate this planet. But I think [Earth Day] does help have an emphasis on it and helps people get excited to do more for the [resources] we all depend on.”

Avatar photo

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.