Riverfest makes a splash in downtown Newnan

Who would have thought that a tug-of-war featuring participants in canoes would ever happen in downtown Newnan? But that is what happened June 25 when 400 participants in the Paddle Georgia 2014 trip down the Chattahoochee River spent time off the river and were honored at the RiverFest event on the courthouse square. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Downtown Newnan was awash Wednesday evening with a water-themed event that included a tug-of-war contest between canoes in a 60-foot by 20-foot pool. “Riverfest” was a way for Newnan to provide the 400-strong 2014 Paddle Georgia group traveling 110 miles of the Chattahoochee River a place to step out of the river and enjoy the city.

Paddle Georgia 2014 is a project of the Georgia River Network. This year’s river trip by canoe and kayak included 400 people who began the journey in Buford on June 21 and ended in Franklin some 110 miles to the south on June 27.

Sponsored by Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, the downtown Riverfest event around the historic courthouse featured live music, exhibitors, demonstrations of paddle sports and outdoor sports and a free-standing pool measuring 60 feet by 20 feet on South Court Square for kayak demonstrations and canoe tug-of-war games.

“It’s an exciting privilege for our local Friends group, our state park and Newnan to host this year’s Paddle Georgia River event,” said Friends board member Greg Hyde. “Georgia River Network is an important inclusive resource. They work in partnership with the RiverKeepers and the Georgia Water Coalition to engage and empower Georgians to protect and restore our rivers for clean water. Paddle Georgia is their premier vehicle to help Georgians enjoy our rivers.”

Aside from everything going on around the old courthouse Wednesday evening, it was the watery events in the pool that garnered the real attention. First up were the kids trying their hand at paddling through the pool’s calm waters. But after that it was the adults in three-seat canoes creating waves of water as they tried to outdo each other in tug-of-war contests.

Participating in the 2014 Paddle Georgia trip down the Chattahoochee was Fayette County resident Tami Morris, who serves on the board of Southern Conservation Trust, and her daughter Jessie.
The two are no stranger to paddling events, having participated in several during the past decade.

Jessie said there is usually one stop along the way, but Newnan was the first city to have a pool set-up downtown.

“When people do something like this it’s good,” Jessie said of the city’s Riverfest event.

“It’s a nice break in the week,” Tami added.

Though her kids are older today, Tami noted that they were much younger during the family’s first Paddle Georgia outing.

“It’s for all ages, young to old, from little kids to people in their 80s,” Tami explained. “Paddle Georgia is very family-friendly and provides something for everyone, including in lodging - everything from camping to a dry bed.”

Friends board member Dean Jackson said the RiverFest event was a way to welcome the participants to town, encourage them to get to know Newnan and enjoy what the downtown has to offer.

The event focused on Newnan’s historic downtown, encouraged participants to dine at downtown Newnan restaurants and shop in downtown retail establishments as a part of their stay in the community. 

Friends board member Vicki Kaiser said the event was an excellent opportunity to promote outdoor sports and showcase what Chattahoochee Bend State Park and the Chattahoochee River offers the community and the state.

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