By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — For decades, Haverhill people talked about the Merrimack River as the community’s greatest natural resource.
It was something the city needed to take advantage of, they said, as Haverhill was trying to reinvent itself.
Consider it done.
As boating increases on the Merrimack and downtown festivals use the river as a drawing card, the latest river-focused event has emerged.
The River Ruckus festival will be tomorrow, with a variety of events along or near the Merrimack — capped off by a fireworks display.
From a classic car show to live music to pontoon and kayak rides on the river, the downtown will be filled with activity tomorrow with River Ruckus 2013, organized by the Team Haverhill civic organization.
The event will be from 2 to 9:30 p.m., rain or shine, and will be held in conjunction with the fifth annual Haverhill Rotary Club Rubber Duck Regatta. The regatta starts at noon with kayak rides and duck adoptions, followed by the duck drop from the Comeau Bridge about 3:30 p.m. The person who “adopted’’ the duck that wins the race will receive $10,000.
The River Ruckus main festival will begin at the boardwalk behind The Tap Restaurant.
“We have something for everyone and the weather should be great,” said Tim Jordan, co-chair of this year’s river festival.
After successful River Ruckus events in 2010 and 2011, Team Haverhill put the event on hold last year so it could focus on the Essex Street Gateway Community Mural, which was unveiled to great fanfare in June of last year.
Now, the ruckus festival is back and better than ever, Jordan said.
“We have this incredible natural resource that is underutilized and the River Ruckus festival gives people an opportunity to enjoy the river and also helps draw people to the downtown,” Jordan said. “We’re expecting a large crowd this year, and from a broad area.”
Due to concerns for the West Nile Virus, which was detected in mosquitoes in two areas of the city last week, festival organizers suggest wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts after dusk and using a bug repellent on any exposed skin. For more information, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health online at www.mass.gov and search for WNV Fact Sheet.
The festival’s fireworks display is scheduled for 9 p.m., and will be launched from a barge on the river, behind The Tap.
The Rotary Club event is known for its annual race of yellow rubber ducks on the river to raise money for local charities. Ducks can be adopted for $5 each, or a “Quack Pack” of six ducks for $25, a “Quacker’s Dozen” of 13 ducks for $50, or a “Flock” of 28 ducks for $100. The ducks will float down river about 700 feet to the finish line behind The Tap.
The first duck to enter a tube that marks the end of the race wins $10,000 for its sponsor. The money is donated by Rockingham Toyota-Honda Scion of Salem, N.H. The money raised by this event provides support for a number of organizations, including the YMCA, YWCA, the Boys & Girls Club, Emmaus Inc., Community Action, Bethany Homes, Team Coordinating Agency and Merrimack Valley Hospice, said John Cuneo, co-chairman of the duck regatta.
The River Ruckus kicks off at 2 p.m. with a Classic Car Show on Washington Street, sponsored by Haverhill Bank. The show will feature cars from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Custom hot rods will also be on display. The public can vote for a favorite car for a “people’s choice” award. The winning classic car owner will receive a trophy and a $100 gift certificate to Keon’s Bistro 105.
Children’s activities are from 2 to 5 p.m. and include a drum circle, face painting and balloon animals. Live music kicks off at 2:15 on a stage behind The Tap.
Sponsors of this year’s River Ruckus include the HTM Credit Union, Pentucket Bank, Haverhill Bank, Lowell 5 Bank, Pentucket Medical Associates, Trinity EMS, Rockingham Boat and Whole Foods Market of Andover. Haverhill Bank sponsors the Classic Car Show. HTM Credit Union sponsors the fireworks display.
RIVER RUCKUS SCHEDULE 2 to 5 p.m.: Classic Car Show sponsored by Haverhill Bank, Washington Street. 2 to 5 p.m.: Children's activities at the gazebo area, offered by Girls Inc., Trinity Episcopal Church and Haverhill YMCA, include face painting, a drum circle and balloon animals. 2 to 6 p.m.: Public voting at Art Exhibition of the Merrimack River, Sage Art Gallery, 22 Washington St. 2 to 7 p.m.: Merrimack River pontoon boat rides provided by Rockingham Boat to benefit the Clean River Project, $2 cost and $1 for children 12 and younger. 2 to 4 p.m.: River geology tours by Haverhill Mine & Gem, Team Haverhill booth. 2 to 7 p.m.: Arts & Crafts Faire organized by Haverhill Cultural Council, 90 Washington St. 2 to 9:30 p.m.: Taste of Haverhill at restaurant booths, food for sale from local restaurants including Keon's, Haverhill Beef, Barking Dog Ale House, Artist Café, Scovotti's Cooking and Confections, Cakes by Erin, Romano's Pizza and Kona Ice. 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.: Jason Spooner Band, sponsored by Pentucket Medical Associates, main stage. 4 to 5:15 p.m.: Music by Marina Evans, sponsored by Rockingham Boat, main stage. 5:30 to 7 p.m.: Skinny Cleveland Band, sponsored by Lowell 5 Bank, main stage. 7:20 to 8:45 p.m.: Headliner Aldous Collins Band, sponsored by Pentucket Bank, main stage. 9 p.m.: Fireworks spectacular over the Merrimack River, sponsored by HTM Credit Union (rain date is Sunday at 9 p.m.) DUCK REGATTA SCHEDULE Noon to 2:30 p.m. or until sold out: Last chance to adopt ducks and a chance to win $10,000, Haverhill Rotary Club booth. Noon to 4 p.m.: Merrimack River kayak rentals and rides provided by Plum Island Kayak, single rentals are $10, doubles are $15, Plum Island Kayak booth. Noon to 4 p.m.: Touch tank teeming with life, plus other displays from the Joppa Flats Educational Center of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, gazebo area. 3:30 to 3:45 p.m.: Rubber Duck Regatta sponsored by Rockingham Toyota-Honda Scion of Salem N.H.; starts at Comeau Bridge and ends at boardwalk near city docks behind The Tap. 5:15 p.m.: Rubber Duck Regatta winner announced and $10,000 awarded, main stage. NOTE: Times depend on the tide, current and wind.