From paddling in canoes on the Delaware River to learning about native fish species, about 600 people who attended the inaugural Trenton River Days Fair on Saturday learned about the river’s history, inhabitants and recreational offerings.
The free community event at South Riverwalk Park interwove learning with fun – including rides in a horse-drawn wagon, planting a wildflower meadow, arts and crafts, environmental displays, free food and live music from Son 7. Participants also learned juggling and other acrobatic tricks from the Trenton Circus Squad and discovered River-Friendly tools and habits to bring home.
Sandy Beckman said she walked to the festivities from her Lamberton Street home to spend a day outside with her two grandsons. “I think this is fantastic to have all of these educational activities about the river on the river.”
Several members of the Boys & Girls Club of Trenton donned life jackets and canoed on the Delaware River, many exploring their city from the water for their first time. For safety, each canoe carried an adult from The Watershed Institute or the men’s swim team at The College of New Jersey, and the boats were shadowed by lifeguards in kayaks.
Twin brothers Davon and Dejuan Gonzalez, 11, of Trenton, said they had canoed last summer at a Princeton camp, but neither had boated on the Delaware River. After a 15-minute paddle, they returned brimming with stories about their trip and what they had learned from Watershed Educator Sam Bernstein.
“We saw some butterflies and birds migrating to the south as we were going along at the same time,” said Davon. Added Dejuan, “She said Delaware goes right out into the ocean and that’s a long way. From the water, the city looks so nice.”
As Jaden Jackson, 10, of Trenton, climbed out of his boat after his canoe trip, he offered a cautionary note, “We have to take better care of the water because it’s got nasty stuff in it.”
Jennifer Breza came to the event with her children, Meadow, 3, and Canyon, 17 months, who enjoy playing outside. She participated in the Watershed’s stream cleanup in Princeton last April.
“This event is super kid-friendly and gets them interested in nature. My daughter just learned about the type of fish she’s using, a walleye, for this art project.”
Levi Bland, 2, of Burlington caught some common shiners and minnows in the baby pool while his grandmother, Shirley Hicks, of Trenton watched him play. They learned about the fish from several participants in this past summer’s Watershed Academy for High School Students.
“We’re being educated today to be aware of all the nature-related things we can do with our children. My grandson is having a ball,” she said. “When I read the email from the county parks commission and saw all the different activities, I thought this would be a great family day and decided to come.”
Daryl Young, 48, of Trenton brought his three children to the event and helped them decorate bandanas with fish art. “I grew up hiking the nature trails, learning about local history, and going fishing, and I’m teaching my kids to enjoy the same things.”
Volunteers from Trout Unlimited helped locals try their hand at fly fishing in a pond near Arm & Hammer Park, while representatives from outdoor retailer REI offered guidance on hikes and backpacking in the region.
The fair’s activities were organized by The Watershed Institute, Mercer County and the Mercer County Park Commission, The City of Trenton, D&R Greenway Land Trust, Howell Living Farm, Tulpehaking Nature Center, and the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) of the Delaware River, a network of 23 member centers that are located near the major Circuit Trails or connecting trails throughout the Delaware River watershed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The event was partially funded by the William Penn Foundation.