Right Here In River City

13 rafting the rapidsLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – “The idle brain is the devil’s playground,” goes Meredith Wilson’s song Ya Got Trouble, pointing out the dire things that might happen “right here in River City” if young folks don’t have enough to do. That warning was a highlight of 1957’s Broadway hit, The Music Man, and here in this River City by the James, it has been heeded, because nobody, young or old, has reason to be idle here. Outside magazine last year named Richmond the “Best River City in America,” probably because of the Class IV whitewater the James provides and the 500 acres of parkland that offer outstanding mountain biking and running trails. But when I looked into the “sports and recreation” aspects of this capital city on the river, I found that Richmond residents have a variety of gung-ho goings on to choose from. Biking ranks high, to be sure, and has some 13 muddy buddyinteresting twists, like the Anthem Moonlight Ride under a full moon, in costume; and the Grand Fondo, an all-age, all-fitness ride that covers 100 miles of the Region’s roads. The Muddy Buddy sounds like the most fun; held at Pocahontas State Park in the rainy spring, it’s a 6-mile race for two-person teams on bikes, and on feet; challenging terrain and mud pits make up the obstacle course. There’ll be some serious biking in 2015 as Richmond hosts the World Road Cycling Championship; it hasn’t been held in the USA since 1986, when it took place in Colorado Springs. Planners are busy now with the infrastructure development for this amazing race. As to everything else going on in River City, you’re going to need a long piece of paper to write it all down.

13 marathonTake your pick of trail runs on dirt or downtown races on paved ground. Over 40,000 come out every year to party and to play as part of Ukrop’s 10K along Monument Avenue; Discover Richmond is a 10K walk past the city’s historic sites. Dominion Riverrock has the James River Scramble 10K trail run and the Urban Assault mountain-bike race, plus dogs competing in long-distance jumps, and a concert! The Maymont X-Country Festival has trail runs for elementary through high-school teams; the big finale of the year is the Anthem Richmond Marathon, and the American Family Fitness Half Marathon, racing through scenic Richmond neighborhoods.

13 Colonial downsFolks are crazy for basketball here, and field hockey; the Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship just wound up at Richmond Coliseum, and the USA Field Hockey National Indoor Tournament at the Richmond Convention Center. Steeplechase racing starts in April at Colonial Downs, the Virginia Derby is in July. NASCAR racing runs April-September at the Richmond International Raceway; the 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series and the 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will fill the stands.

If you’re just not into competing, or watching others compete, there are the festivals, featuring varied cultures, held at varied venues, all throughout the year. No idle brains, no idle hands and feet!

  • 13 kite festivalFebruary – Chinafest has speakers and films and family doings at the Museum of Fine Arts; LEGO Kidsfest has LEGO building and family activities at the Convention Center; the Virginia Wine Expo, Virginia’s premier wine event, goes on at the Convention Center.
  • March – The Church Hill Irish Festival at St Patrick’s Catholic Church; Henrico Kite Festival at Dorey Park; Twilight Carniball Gala at the Children’s Museum; VCU and U of Richmond French Film Festival at Byrd Theater.
  • April – Earth Day at Three Lakes Park.
  • May – Asian American Celebration, music, art, activities, food at the Convention Center; Arts in the Park, 450 artists at Byrd Park; Butterflies Live through October at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; Cinco De Mayo Festival of Virginia along Canal Walk; Patrick Henry Give Me Liberty Re-enactments on Sundays through September at St John’s Church; Lebanese Food Festival at St Anthony’s Maronite Catholic church; Richmond Greek Festival at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
  • 13 appetitJune – Broad Appetit with 50 local restaurants set up on downtown Broad Street; Dogwood Dell Festival of the Arts, outdoor performances at Byrd Park through August; Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration, includes a torch-lit night walk on the Trail of the Enslaved.
  • July – Hanover Tomato Festival at Pole Green Park in Hanover celebrating the best tomatoes anywhere, with a Tiny Miss Tomato contest.
  • August – Carytown Watermelon Festival with watermelon, of course, in Carytown; Chesterfield County Fair, at the Fairgrounds, of course; Down Home Family Reunion celebrates African American life at Abner Clay Park; Filipino Festival with pancit and lumpia at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church; Hanover Firefighters Crab Fest at Cold Harbor Ruritan Park, a fundraising event.
  • September – Armenian Food Festival, going on for 50 years, at St James Armenian Church; Festival of India, two days of food and shopping, Convention Center; Publick Days, reliving the 1611 founding of the Citie of Henricus, military and Virginia Indian activities; State Fair of Virginia, 10 days at Meadow Event Park; Virginia Pridefest, the LGBT community celebrates with musical performances and entertainment.
  • 13 carraige eppingtonOctober – Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games at Richmond International Raceway; Eppington Heritage Day has costumed interpreters and carriage rides at Eppington Plantation; Harvest Festival with American Indian activities, Meadow Farm at Crump Park; Second Street Festival offers food and music in the African marketplace, Jackson Ward.
  • November – Brunswick Stew Festival has stew-masters competing at 17th Street Farmers Market; Ice skating on a downtown outdoor rink begins and lasts through January.

Holiday Celebrations make up a separate list. I’d like to be here for them all, especially the Easter Parade; I’ve got my sturdy traveling hat (remember last year, and Old Sacramento?).

  • 13 easter basketEaster – Parade up and down Monument Avenue in your Easter bonnet, dress up your pet too; over 10,000 people turn out every year.
  • 4th of July – Fireworks at the Diamond, concluding the Richmond Flying Squirrels game; and at Dogwood Dell, after a concert. A parade and apple-pie-baking in Ashland and an Old Fashioned Fourth at Meadow Farm in Crump Park.
  • December is almost overwhelming – the Grand Illumination kicks off the season, when a 13 kwanzaamillion tiny lights turn on and outline the downtown skyline; Santa Claus and the Snow Queen are there too. Add the Christmas parade on Broad Street, and the boat parade on the James River; stir in carriage rides at Maymont and downtown, musical performances everywhere from the History Center to the Capitol, a Kwanzaa Festival, and a New Year’s Eve Bash.

But back to that River City river, and competition. In addition to all the white-water activity and all the rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, there is the Dragon Boat Festival in August; teams of paddlers race in 40-foot canoes rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads.

That should be enough to satisfy even Meredith Wilson.

Downtown Richmond during the Dominion Riverrock festival.

The Dominion Riverrock is held on Brown’s Island in May.