It was a memorable 29th Mendon Riverfest, although not for all the right reasons.

It was a memorable 29th Mendon Riverfest, although not for all the right reasons.
The three-day festival concluded Saturday but a number of river-related activities – including the canoe swamp showcase event – were casualties of last week’s heavy rain.
Riverfest chairman Roger Cupp said the event’s planning committee met Friday and determined the height of the river and pace of its current were too dangerous to allow the canoe swamp, canoe race, toy-boat race and rubber-duck race to take place. In all cases, the activities require at least two volunteers in the water.
“We had a couple of young men go out there and do a quick swim just to see what the current was like and everything, and it was over seven foot … way above their heads, obviously,” Cupp said. “And the undercurrent, it was way stronger than what you’d see on the surface going by.”
Cupp said it wasn’t worth the risk to stage the water events with the river in such a state Saturday.
He noted the irony because the river is at the heart of Mendon’s annual community festival. Still, nobody was comfortable taking a chance on staging any of the events.
Volunteers during the canoe swamp typically are needed to keep the canoes from drifting outside a marked-off area. As for the toy-boat and rubber-duck races, volunteers in the water are needed at the finish line to gather the objects as they float downriver.
Cupp said nobody had any business being in the St. Joseph River Saturday.
“The guys didn’t even go out that far before it was clear the water was going to be over their heads,” he added. “The river is what we’re all about but it was just one of those years where we had to exercise caution and it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Cupp said the majority of the problem was related to the heavy rain that fell Wednesday, a day before the start of the festival. The grounds were blasted for a short time Saturday afternoon, but the deluge occurred after the parade and well before the event-ending fireworks display.
Festival-goers, however, were reminded again Saturday night who’s in charge, ultimately.
“Mother Nature in her orneriness at least gave us a window,” he said. “Right after the grand finale, it started to sprinkle and then the skies opened up …I’m sure people going back to their cars got wet, but at least they didn’t get wet watching the fireworks.”
He said the fireworks display lasted about 20 minutes and was well attended.
Cupp said he still claims 2016 Riverfest a success, primarily because of a solid commitment from the seven-person planning committee that, in addition to Cupp, featured Pat Tompkins, Susie Ettinger, Mindy Kline, Patty McClain, Jay Moore and Sharon Moore.
Cupp said countless hours were devoted in the months and weeks ahead of the festival to ensure the success of what its organizers could at least control themselves.
“Everybody worked hard, we did more than we need to but I just want to thank them for their commitment,” he said. “They are the core of this event and without their devotion, we wouldn’t have the sponsors and volunteers and everything else good that we have from year to year.”
Winners of the cornhole tournament were Steve Heath of Three Rivers and Wayne McGlothlen of Mendon; second-place went to Troy Weinberg of Mendon and Bill Rager of Kalamazoo.
The fishing tournament was won by Steve and Gail Heath from Three Rivers for bass; Tom Slider of Webberville for carp/catfish. Slider also won the largest species category.
The inaugural trivia contest was won by the five-person team “Vote For Carol.” It featured Democrat candidate for state representative Carol Higgins.