Fenton — Paloma Sweetman, 7, of Fenton Township piloted her cardboard box boat down the Shiawassee River on Sunday afternoon, during the 2019 River Fest in Rackham Park on June 23.

 Her sister Victoria, 9, designed the craft, utilizing four 4-inch cardboard pontoons below Paloma’s makeshift cockpit, which was, of course, a cardboard box. Victoria and her parents, Romina and Chris, applauded her from shore, taking photos and video.

 The cardboard box regatta drew 11 participants, the most so far in this unique event of the Shiawassee River Fest. The festival returned to downtown Fenton this year after being held in Linden in 2018, and at Bush Park in Fenton in 2016 and 2017.

 River Fest is run by, and is the primary fundraiser for the Keepers of the Shiawassee, the local non-profit group that maintains the river between Holly and Argentine Township.

 Rackham Park also held two dozen vender stands, and a bounce house for children. Across S. LeRoy Street, live bands played, the music wafting across the bustling downtown.

 “One of our goals is to demonstrate the economic connection the Shiawassee River has with the communities that it runs through,” said Brad Jacob of the Keepers of the Shiawassee. “We want the festival to reflect the same family fun opportunities that the river provides.”

 Jacob said attendance is hard to track at such an event, but he estimates they had about 2,000 visitors throughout the day.

 Jacob wanted to thank the volunteers who made it possible and the visitors who came to the event. “The warmth and support from the local business community is truly amazing,” he said. “And we are grateful.” 

 There were 108 entrants into the rubber duck race. Jacob said the festival raised approximately $2,000, in preliminary counts.

 Other future projects could include new launches, maps and kayak lockers, which locks a kayak so paddlers can stay downtown and not worry about their gear.

River Fest 2019 first place winners

Kayak raffle: Kristi Miller

Duck race: Bill Miller (donated $150 prize back to Keepers of the Shiawassee)

Cardboard regatta: Sanibel Stack in “The Watermelon Boat.”

Fishing contest: Payton Van Pelt

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