NEWBURYPORT – An upcoming food, music, and cornhole festival aims to raise awareness and raise funds for efforts to clean up the Merrimack River.
Zack Hoover, co-founder of NBPT Cornhole, started running local cornhole tournaments a few years ago.
Aside from being a fun community activity, the focus is often also on promoting and raising awareness of specific causes like a family member battling cancer or a school sports team in need of money, he said.
Hoover, who grew up in Chelmsford and moved to Newburyport about four years ago, is an avid user of the Merrimack. Whether he’s kayaking in it or playing cornhole next to it, he’s learned to appreciate the importance of the river.
As he learned more about the river’s impact on community ecosystems and drinking water, Hoover became a big believer in the Merrimack River Watershed Council and its commitment to raising awareness and promoting legislation to end mixed water overflows.
CSOs occur when there is too much rainfall for a community’s sewer system, causing untreated sewage to be discharged into the river.
“I just think a lot of people, especially people who might be a little upstream, aren’t even aware that it’s a problem,” Hoover said.
He and longtime best friend Dan Leahy, also from Chelmsford, started NBPT Cornhole in 2019 and are in talks with the Watershed Council to run some kind of fundraiser. The hope is that it will be an annual event.
The COVID-19 pandemic put plans on hold for a while, but now the two groups are meeting for the Save Our River Festival 2021 on September 18 at Newburyport Elks, 25 Low St.
The event starts at noon with cornhole tournaments for beginners and competitive divisions. Some details are still in the works, but the organizers plan to have a food vendor on-site, as well as a few bands that play later in the day. There is also an interest in showcasing local art and offering different visions that artists have of the Merrimack River.
“The goal of the event is to create a festival atmosphere where everyone can have a fun and awareness day, and a little money to save and clean up our river,” said Hoover.
Entry to the Cornhole tournament is $ 60 for a team of two, with at least half, if not more, of the proceeds going to the Watershed Council, he said.
The council will hold raffles to raise funds for further efforts to combat CSOs.
John Macone, a policy and education expert for Merrimack River Watershed Council, said he was excited about the event, adding that cornhole “is such an accessible and fun thing for the people”.
He acknowledged that there is a lot of interest in the Merrimack right now, especially with awareness of CSOs increasing.
The community will have several opportunities at the event to help people learn more about the river and how to help. Macone said the council has a lot of up-to-date data gathered through water testing that will help answer any questions people have about the health of the river and when is it safe to swim, boating, fishing, etc. .
The organization is currently working on a number of key initiatives, including an attempt to protect the river in its headwaters, mostly in New Hampshire, Macone said. Some recent grants have enabled the council to explore protected areas along the river.
“If you have a forest area near the river, this is really your most important way to protect water and keep it clean,” he said.
Further details on these initiatives will follow in the next few months and will lead to work over several years. For the latest information, visit https://merrimack.org.
Save Our River Festival 2021 still needs sponsors and people to donate prizes for raffles. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/295193665738462 or E-Mail email@example.com.
To learn more about CSOs, watch a recent video from the Watershed Council at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS6ACfygDU4.
Hoover acknowledged that there has been a lot more talk about CSOs on community Facebook pages and groups lately, saying, “It seems like a good time to create greater awareness about putting our money there, where we are and try to stand up for this cause and really help. “