Orange Solstice Riverfest back in full force

  • Paula Boyle and Will Stoddard paddle their dragon boat along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest in 2019. The event returns on Saturday. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • Spectators line the South Main Street bridge to watch the daylight portion of the lighted boat parade along the Millers River during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest in 2019. The event returns on Saturday. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • Boats paddle along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. The event returns on Saturday. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • Spectators line the banks of the Millers River to watch the lighted boat parade during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest in 2019. The event returns on Saturday. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

For the Recorder
Published: 6/20/2022 3:36:59 PM
Modified: 6/20/2022 3:36:39 PM

ORANGE — After more than two years of the pandemic, and still reeling from a devastating fire at an abandoned cereal factory earlier this month, Orange will once again host a full-fledged Solstice Riverfest on Saturday.

The event will be held along the Millers River from 5 to 10 p.m., with the traditional lighted boat parade starting at 9 p.m. Canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft paddle near the Orange Community Boathouse and the Fire Station for judging. Attendance and entry to the boat parade are both free.

Solstice Riverfest is organized primarily by Jerry Whaland, owner of Billy Goat Boats. Whaland describes himself as “the last guy to come onto the scene,” as most of the original organizing team was near retirement when he joined to help put together the sixth annual event in 2019. Solstice Riverfest was originally organized by a committee led by Brenda Anderson, former owner of Trail Head Outfitters and General Store.

After the pandemic hit, the event had to be canceled altogether in 2020. Still, Whaland and his family managed to throw together a reduced-scale festival, consisting mainly of the lighted boat parade, in 2021.

This year, though, the festival has returned to its original scale. According to Whaland, there will be a full entertainment lineup with at least four bands, stand-up comedians, fire dancers, wine tasting and more than 20 vendors (including at least four food vendors). The entertainment is organized by Rick Innes, owner of Clear View Composting, and Natasha Hanna, one of the original members of the organizing committee.

But, as is the case every year, the most excitement at Solstice Riverfest will be in the river itself. In addition to the lighted boat parade, which Whaland describes as being “amazingly elaborate,” there will also be floating fire pits spread across the river.

The boats will be judged by judges on a floating dock. Each boat is numbered for the convenience of the judges. Prizes given out include Best in Show, Most Creative, Best Lit Boat and Best Family Boat, with the prize money being donated by local businesses.

Regarding the effect of the recent fire on the festivities, Whaland said the “genuine outpouring of support” that he saw afterwards proves that Orange is a “strong, resilient community.” He noted that he talked with the Fire Department regarding safety regulations, and that the fire pits, which are floating in the water, are not a danger to anyone.

Whaland believes a community event is exactly what Orange needs right now.

“(Solstice Riverfest is) really just something that brings our whole community together,” he said.

Those who are interested in participating in the boat parade can still sign up by calling Trail Head Outfitters and General Store at 978-249-8500 or the Orange Community Boathouse at 978-577-8420.


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