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The greatest slough on earth

Rivertown Revivals set for Saturday, July 20.

Victoria Webb/Argus-Courier file photo
Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

Petaluma's quirky celebration of its beloved tidal slough known as the Petaluma River is back. The fourth annual Rivertown Revival takes place Saturday, July 20 at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center.

The music, art and community festival with a turn-of-the-century carnival theme attracts thousands of local residents, many in costume, to make merry along the river until the sun goes down.

“Attendance last year was around 7,500 people — and it was 102 degrees,” said Kelin Backman, Rivertown Revival director. “We were so pleased so many came out to join us in that heat.”

The all-day festival will have five stages for music this year, including a children's area with performances for kids featuring James K, the Ukelady, a magician and sing-alongs. A variety of old-time games, a petting zoo, and a natural dye workshop are also planned in the kids' area.

“New this year is our revival tent stage where we will have music and sideshows,” said Backman. “It will be a fun place to hang out. It's also shaded, which is nice since we're pretty exposed to the elements out there.”

The Rivertown Revival music lineup includes 35 local bands, including Homebrew, Misner & Smith, Kazamose, The Easy Leaves, Smokehouse Gamblers, John Courage, Alison Harris and the Barn Owls, Highway Poets and David Luning.

“We have two marching bands coming,” said Backman. “The Hubbub Club and a church marching band will be roaming throughout the event.”

Local lovebirds will be pleased to know that the $5 weddings are back. Backman said that they have about 30 couples set to tie the knot, and two of them will be same-sex weddings.

“One couple is coming all the way from Washington D.C. to get married at the Rivertown Revival,” said Backman. “Councilman Gabe Kearney will be our officiant in the morning. State Senator Noreen Evans will be an officiant in the afternoon.”

Not looking to get hitched this weekend? There are plenty of other activities to check out at the revival, from live music and art boat races, to arts, crafts and plenty of food and drink. Backman added that Heritage Salvage has constructed a trapeze and attached it to the back of a boat.

“We have an arielist coming from Vermont who will be doing her act on the trapeze off the boat and landing in the river,” said Backman. “It's going to be really great.”

With more people expected to come out to this year's revivial, Backman said “revivalists” are encouraged to walk, bike or carpool.

“Parking is very limited and traffic on East D Street on a regular day is a nightmare,” said Backman. “So add to that close to 10,000 people with cars, it's a real challenge. Not to mention if the drawbridge goes up. We really encourage people to carpool, bike or walk to the event, especially if you live in town. We have bike valet parking for free.”

Rivertown Revival is also a “green” event. Single-use containers are not allowed to be used by any of the vendors. Drinks are served in BioCups, or people are welcome to bring their own water bottles. There will also be reusable water bottles for sale, and BioCups available for free at water stations. Backman said it all helps cut down on waste and environmental impact.

“We compost 100 percent of the waste from this event,” said Backman. “We have a 98 percent diversion rate and create around 1,600 pounds of compost from our waste. We work in partnership with Green Mary. It's a great feeling to bring so many people together and still have little impact on the environment.”

There will be more food and drink options available this year, including kid-friendly, gluten-free and vegan. The meat eaters will have options, such as ribs and oysters.

New parents are invited to take advantage of the support tent, where moms can go nurse their children, change diapers or sit in the shade in a rocking chair.

“We want parents to know that this is a family-friendly event and encourage everyone of all ages to join us,” said Backman.

Rivertown Revival is also primarily volunteer-powered. There is a team of 30 people who organize the event, and Backman 98 percent of them are volunteers.

“On average we use 200 volunteers,” she said. “We couldn't do this event without them. We also still need volunteers. We promise to treat them right.”

Volunteers can have their pick of shifts and will receive a T-shirt, free admission, drink coupons and entry into the VIP tent.

“The VIP stands for 'Volunteers are Important People,'” said Backman. “They are the only folks at the revivial who get their own tent to hang out and relax in. There's also the volunteer party at the end of the day.”

It's recommended that revival-goers bring cash, since most the vendors won't be able to take “plastic.” There will be an ATM machine available. Backman added that most things cost $5.

Rivertown Revival is held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center at Copeland and D Streets. Admission is $5 per person and benefits the Friends of the Petaluma River organization.

“Every year Friends of the Petaluma River picks a project and we raise money for it,” said Backman. “This year we helped rebuild the south wall of the barn (David Yearsley River Heritage Center) on the McNear Peninsula. This year, depending on our budget and how much we make at the event, we would love to get water sprinklers in the barn to bring it up to fire code.”

Once sprinklers are installed, Backman said the barn can be used for dances, art shows and more community events.

“We have been prohibited from doing that because of it not being up to code,” she said. “The mission and core of Friends of the Petaluma River is to celebrate and conserve our river. The way we can do that is through events like this one.”

Guests should be advised that this is a no-dog or pet event. For more information on Rivertown Revival, visit www.rivertownrevival.com.

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna.bieberich@arguscourier.com)

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