RiverFest is Coming to Occoquan
by Sarah Hitchcock Burzio
The event, originally planned for June of 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, two years later, the Town of Occoquan is thrilled to be cultivating a dynamic new craft show which also celebrates the historic town’s natural beauty along the Occoquan River. In addition to numerous regional artists and craft vendors, this popular weekend will include live entertainment, a beer garden, great new food options, and a host of river activities.
Shoppers will enjoy strolling from tent to tent to find endless handmade items, jewelry, candles, fine art, and more. Over 200 artisans, merchants, and crafters from around the area (and throughout the U.S.) will line historic Mill Street for the event. “I’m excited to take part in the upcoming RiverFest. The Craft Shows always allow us to connect with new customers and visitors,” said Ben Rasmussen of Potomac Chocolate.
“We are excited to finally see RiverFest become a reality in 2022, after more than two years of planning,” said Julie Little, Director of Events for the Town of Occoquan and the architect of RiverFest. “I think people will be excited to see what we have planned and are still planning! We will have some of the best of our traditional arts and crafts show in the streets, plus a whole host of river activities, fun for the whole family, and even a few surprises we will announce soon.”
The 2021 Occoquan Fall Arts & Crafts Show in September drew over 10,000 people, according to the Town of Occoquan.
Betsy Merklein, owner of Personally Yours Inc. said, “The Occoquan Arts and Craft Show has always been a must do show for me. You can always count on it. I’m already planning what to sell at the new RiverFest!” Merklein has participated in 70 of the craft shows since 1986, in addition to owning a physical shop in Occoquan from 1992-2021. She says she is “really looking forward to the new RiverFest event this year.”
Once you’ve made your way down Mill Street, take a break in River Mill Park while you play lawn games and listen to great local bands. The popular beer garden will accompany live entertainment on both days of RiverFest and the views of the river and Occoquan Dam are not to be missed!
Out on (or in) the Water
Fans of watching and participating in water sports will be pleased to learn about the variety of races and water-based activities planned for RiverFest.
Events are currently being planned for kayak, stand up paddle board, and scuba diving enthusiasts, including kayak and stand up paddle board races and opportunities to try scuba diving in a tank through Patriot Scuba.
Looking to find some balance (both literal and spiritual)? Try stand up paddle board yoga out on the river. It is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the river while channeling your physical and inner balance.
If you’re heading to town via boat, the public pier is available for docking. Contact Town Hall at 703-491-1918 for information on docking fees and restrictions.
Our river is an intricate part of the town and its history. The word Occoquan was derived from an Algonquian Doeg Indian word meaning “at the end of the water.” This June you can expect to see river clean up initiatives, plastic collection for the bags-to-benches program, and other conservation river efforts and activities.
Kids can participate too, by learning about water and wildlife protection through a fun passport/scavenger hunt activity.
Speaking of kids, there is plenty of family fun to find during RiverFest! When you’re done with the conservation scavenger hunt, head to the rock wall, have your face painted, get your dancing on down at the concerts in River Mill Park, or head out to the public dock to watch the races and say hi to the ducks.
Ways to Participate
Registration is now open to participate as a food or craft vendor. Applications are juried on a first come basis and considered regularly until the category is full. Vendor rates increase on May 1, 2022, so the Town recommends getting applications in as soon as possible.
Opportunities are now available for organizations and nonprofits supporting local conservation efforts, wildlife, river protection, or other environmentally focused ideas. Sponsorship and advertisement opportunities are also available. For details, please contact Julie Little, Director of Events at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 491-1918.
This event enlists the help of volunteers to help make it all happen! If you are interested in volunteering, please email email@example.com.
More to Come
“We are working on lots of great ideas to add to this already exciting event!” said Julie Little.
She recommends keeping an eye on the website or following the Town on social media to make sure you get the latest details and updates.
Good Things to Know
This is a free event and no tickets are required. The main streets in the historic district are shut down to allow room for vendors and visitors to walk freely. Shuttle service is provided from multiple nearby locations for $5.00 per person (12 and under free).
Well socialized dogs are welcome at RiverFest! Many shops and restaurants are pet friendly and Town of Occoquan public parks have waste receptacles and bags for your convenience.
Local lodging is available for out-of-town guests. Check airbnb.com or vrbo.com for in-town rentals or find hotels and inns in nearby Woodbridge.
Learn more at occoquanva.gov/riverfest.