Festival for the Eno

July 3, 2008 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Where you live (if you live in the U.S. — and Happy belated Canada day, btw!), Independence Day may be celebrated with as Crunchy Chicken put it “gluttony, drunkeness and blowing shit up” but around this part of the Piedmont it is all about the Festival for the Eno.

I know the local minor league ball team does a fireworks display after it’s home game this evening. And I think there may be a formal, civic fireworks display in some local town. I’m not sure because in the 19 years I’ve lived in these parts I have never attended anything like that. But I have been a very frequent (although not annual) attendee at what folks around here call the “Eno Fest” or sometimes just “the Eno.” Everyone knows what you mean.

What you mean is a three day music and crafts fair held annually on or near the July 4 weekend along the banks of a local urban river that almost certainly would not exist in it’s current form without this festival and the dedicated folks who made it happen and keep making it happen.

The legend is that an individual woman — the wife of a local professor — lived with her kids in a rambling house alongside a minor river just outside a mid-size piedmont city. The city proposed to dam the river to create a reservoir. The woman felt this would negatively effect her quality of life and the quality of life of the critters and plants who also called this river their home. She got to work, organized like-minded individuals and got that dam project put on indefinite hold.

She was still worried, tho. Rather than stay vigilant to constant and myriad threats to the river, she conceived an idea which in it’s time was, I believe, pretty novel. Raise money and buy land. Buy land alongside the river. Both sides and a hefty margin. Protect and preserve a natural area through private ownership.

This was the genesis of the Eno River State Park (as these folks eventually donated their land to the state for the establishment of a park). The Eno River Association has to date placed 5,500 acres of natural area off-limits to development. In doing so, it has preserved a river and it’s habitat — with herons and turtles, bluegills and beavers — within very easy reach of a mid-size urban area. The park is used and loved and an oasis. It’s one of the coolest examples I know about of people getting together and doing something worthwhile.

The Festival for the Eno — now in it’s 29th year — is the main, fundraising event for the Eno River Association. The gate, t-shirt sales, and some of the food sales directly benefit the land-purchasing project. The local Whole Foods outlets donate watermelons at the festival and also 5% of their daily take to the ERA on the 4th.

Because I have been a member of the ERA, I know a lot of this history. But it may not be quite as well-known by the thousands of area folks who attend the festival each year. They go for the headline musicians, the juried crafts fair, the chance to wade with their kids or without in an urban river that would probably be a reservoir if it wasn’t for…..

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Entry filed under: Piedmont.

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