Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kipona - A Celebration of Sparkling Water

Bright and early on Saturday morning, we set off for the Kipona Celebration in Harrisburg, PA. This annual three-day event takes place in downtown Harrisburg along the shores of the Susquehanna River. The festival is billed as "Kipona - A celebration of sparkling water." This huge event offers something for just about everyone.
Watching the boat races on the river in Harrisburg on Labor Day weekend was a long-time family tradition for us for quite a few years but we have had other plans for the last 7 years so this was like a homecoming for us. (Although neither of us has ever called Harrisburg "home.") The cigar boats have been replaced by dragon boats since we've been there and, unfortuantely, the dragon boat races were cancelled this year. It was apparently a last minute cancellation as they were still listed in both the printed programs and on the website.

Even without the boat races, it was a beautiful day on the river. The sun was out, a light gentle breeze blew all day and the temps hovered at about 80 degrees with fairly low humidity. Literally thousands of folks joined us in the park. We set our chairs up at the top of the river bank near the food stands and a short distance from one of the stages so we could sit and watch the river traffic, listen to music and munch on some goodies.

The boat of choice on this part of the river seems to be a rather small flat-bottomed pontoon style, generally seating 5-8 people. A number of them anchored just off the bulkhead to listen to the music. This was the first time I ever witnessed water skiing done from the back of a pontoon boat. I'd never seen one that could produce that kind of speed. (We, on the lower end of the river, have deeper, rougher water and you see very few pontoon style boats. In our end of the pond, we need longer keels and deeper draws for balance.)

At one end of the festival, one of the local grocery chains sponsored the Pennsylvania State Chili Cook-Off. In addition to the official competition, there was a salsa contest, a people's choice chili sampling for charity, a jalepeno pepper eating contest, a "hands-free" chili eating contest and a hot wing eating contest. There was also some music and entertainment on that stage. I'll admit, we never hiked all the way down to that end of the fair! (this festival runs for about 1 1/2 miles along the banks of the river and also has activities across the river on City Island.

There was a children's area featuring special entertainment, theater productions, games, crafts, and rides. Since we didn't have any munchkins with us, we also didn't venure into that area.

We did check out the many food booths. (I mean, they have LOTS of food there!) We sat near the stage that featured rock and alternative rock bands. I highly recommend a young rock band called The Milwaukees who played Saturday afternoon. They were followed by another rock/alternative band known as Knotfal. We also enjoyed them very much. We wanted to stay for the featured entertainer, The Sauce Boss - Bill Wharton, who plays fantastic slide guitar blues and also cooks a huge pot of gumbo on stage while performing and shares it with the audience at the conclusion of the show, but we needed to get on the road home as we had a long trip ahead of us.

Over 100 performances on 4 stages are scheduled throughout the weekend. One of the stages in the main festival area features folk music, salsa, classical music and Dixieland jazz. There is also a large presence of local Native Americans at this event ("Kipona" is an Indian word meaning Sparkling Water.) There is a Pow Wow conducted out on City Island and a ceremonial procession begins on the downtown side of the pedestrian bridge with the Indians dance stepping across the bridge to open the Pow Wow. There are Indian musicians playing at the main festival area and some dance demonstrations by the Aztecs and the Iroquois, such as the Candy Dance, Fire Dance and the Hoop Dance. There is also Intertribal dancing at the Pow Wow. The Wacongo Dance Company is also scheduled to perform authentic ancestral songs, drumming and dances of Central Africa.

Sunday's schedule featured a Bass Masters' "Bass Classic," canoe races and evening fireworks, one of the largest displays in the area. A soccer tournament will take place on Monday.

At one end of the festival, The Greater Harrisburg Arts Council presents the annual PSECU Artfest featuring over 150 juried artists from across the country. While the Kipona Festival is a free event, the craft show does have a minimal admission fee which does not seem to deter the crowd. The Big Guy chose to stay sitting along the river and listening to the music while I hiked through the craft show. (I'll tell you much more about this part in my Working the Shows Wednesday feature.) The show, itself, probably stretches out to about a half mile in length so he really wasn't up to the heavy duty walking. My legs are aching today. I must say, this was the highest quality craft show I have attended in several years. There was absolutely no buy/sell merchandise and just about every exhibitor had something new and different to look at. I spent about 2 hours walking the show and could have stayed much longer admiring the work and chatting with the artists and crafters. By the time one walks to and from the garage area, around the festival for a few hours and then adds in the craft show, you've covered a few miles.

One of the festival features that we have never done is walk the pedestrian bridge across to City Park. Unfortunately, it's a long walk and there is no shuttle back once you're over on the island. (I start hearing the tune about the guy who boards the subway and never returns when I consider that walk!) There is , however, a continual heavy flow of foot traffic there throughout the entire event. (There is a vehicle bridge further down and there are parking areas on the island.)

Today, we took it easy at an annual, very laid back, family and friends cookout. (Thank goodness, my legs need time to recover from all that hiking yesterday!!)

Here's hoping y'all are having a great weekend. Take care and have fun !!!

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