RiverFest events draw thousands

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMay 10, 2014 

Kenneth Putnam of Columbus looked out among the boats on the Chattahoochee River Saturday and said the scene really would have been something 30 or 40 years ago.

At age 79, Putnam said he's not able to get around like he used to but admits his love for the river.

"I love events like this," he said.

Putnam was among the thousands of people who filled the Chattahoochee RiverWalk for the Uptown Dragon Boat Festival and RiverFest. The event included arts and crafts, Boy Scout displays, water games for children and plenty of barbecue and other treats.

Putnam and his wife, Elizabeth, came to the river to support their son, Jamie Putnam, a crew member on the Midnight Dragons, a boat with a visually impaired crew sponsored by Country's Barbecue. He said getting on the river gives him a chance to get around.

"It's good for me," he said.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said her crew of Mandarin Mariners only filled a half boat for the noon race but had a full crew at 3 p.m.

Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, a crew member, tried to energize the crew before they started the second race.

"When you get tired, dig a little harder," she told the crew dressed in blue T-shirts.

After losing the first run, Tomlinson said the crew fared much better with a win in the second race.

"This time we smoked them," Tomlinson said with a smile. "This is the best thing to happen to me all day."

The dragon boat races attracted huge crowds along the river. Carole Montero of High Five Dragon Boat said the outfitter from Tampa, Fla., brought nine boats for 36 teams to compete in 108 races on the river.

"This is the second year and it is better than it was last year," she said. "It's marvelous to have 36 teams. It's really wonderful."

Near the sidewalk at 10th Street and Bay Avenue, Holly M.Sutherland was a busy volunteer for children taking part in the chalk art. The sidewalk was filled with smiley faces and other figures scrawled on the concrete.

"It's been a huge crowd," Sutherland said around 3 p.m. "It's a little humid but the rain held out."

John Floyd, a committee chairman with Troop 98 from Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Columbus, was thrilled to see the crowds for RiverFest where the Scouts Expo was placed along the riverfront. There were scouting tools, tents and displays at the location for troops from Troup and Muscogee counties in Georgia and Fort Mitchell and Auburn in Alabama.

The scouts teamed up with Animal Control to teach pet care, veterinarian medicine and help with adopt a pet.

The scouts came to RiverFest after the organization couldn't get the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

"It's been real good," Floyd said.

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