Auburn wades into festival

Confluence event offers information, shows off opened river segment
By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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A crowded Overlook Park peppered with people Sunday was a sign of how many people realize what a good thing Auburn has with the American River canyon. Dozens of informational booths, live music, kid-friendly crafts, wild animals and shuttle rides down to the water all made for a successful 17th annual American River Confluence Festival. “It’s exciting, way beyond our wildest expectations,” said Eric Peach, Protect American River Canyons’ conservation coordinator. “It looks like the whole community came out.” Four-legged friends drew quite a crowd as Wild Things’ Gabe and Barbi Kerschner introduced Kome Pano, a black bear cub, and Waldo, a North American beaver. “She’s a true omnivore,” Gabe Kerschner said about Kome Pano. “She walks through the forest and eats anything and everything. She’s kind of like my 16-year-old son.” Waldo also captivated the audience. “Without a beaver, nature doesn’t work right,” Kerschner said. “Without a beaver, there’s no dam, without a dam there’s no pond. Without a pond, there is no water for the bears.” Tammy Fisher and her son Jordan, 9, got a kick out of Kome Pano and Waldo, and said they were enjoying the festival. “I love it,” said the Auburn mom. “I think it’s a great idea. It brings nature to a lot of people’s attention.” Auburnite Ellen Geil watched the Wild Things demonstration with her daughter Lisa Bazinet and grandson Dominic Bazinet, who were visiting from San Francisco. “We’re supporting the river and nature and everything we have here,” Geil said, when asked why the family came to Sunday’s festival. “The art projects are great,” Lisa Bazinet added. “They’ve done a great job providing activities for the kids that are educational.” One of the projects available to artists young and old came in the form of a big blue canoe, which served as a canvas for anyone wishing to paint upon it. Cierra Bleakly, 12, of Fair Oaks, painted fish on the canoe’s underbelly. Although Sunday was her first trip to the Confluence Festival, she’s no stranger to the river. “I like it because I go to the American River a lot,” she said. Groups including the Sierra Club and the Placer Nature Center set up exhibits and provided conservation, ecological and recreational information for visitors. Linda Desai, Placer Nature Center education director, was happy to hand out water-conserving garden hose spray guns to interested adults. The Placer Nature Center is always happy to be a part of the Confluence Festival, she said. “It’s to help be a part of the wonder and the great natural resources we have around us, and to build awareness of what we have around us,” she said. Mary Youngblood, Grammy Award winning Native American flutist, said she attended the first Confluence Festival and that she was happy to come back this year for a sort of last-minute visit Sunday. “I’m a kayaker and a hiker — this is my backyard,” she said. “This is where I play. It’s very special to me. It’s sacred. It’s a special, special part of my life. Words cannot describe ... the peace and joy and beauty.” Why is the Confluence Festival so important? “Awareness, education and celebration, in that order,” she said. “I think it’s important to show support for people who care for the Mother. I think it’s about community too. We’re celebrating this beautiful, beautiful place that we call home. As human beings, our connection with the Earth is becoming more and more important.” Sugar Plump Fairy Dixie Marino could be found near the stage Sunday afternoon just minutes before Youngblood started her performance. Marino and fellow Fairies dressed in green and blue glittering, glamorous getups, their heads topped with salmon hats. “We are the spirits of the river,” she said, wiggling her head to make her salmon “swim.” “We’re speaking for the fish.” Chris Lerable and Marge Carpenter of Citrus Heights took advantage of the free shuttle down to the newly opened stretch of American River and the Placer County Water Agency pump station. “I’ve never seen the plant down there,” Carpenter said. “I thought, Oh, that’s interesting.” Once down at the river, Lerable and Carpenter headed straight to the water’s edge. “Very cool!” Lerable said, before hopping into the river. Why jump into the brisk water? “Oh, I had to,” Lerable said once back on dry land. “It was wonderful.” Bill Farish, of Coloma, also rode the shuttle down to the river Sunday afternoon. “I’m a kayaker and I heard this was opening up so I thought this was a good opportunity to come check it out,” he said. “It’s a pretty awesome canyon. It’s always nice when it’s close by, to be able to access something like this.” Farish said he had a good time at the Confluence Festival. “I was standing out there, looking at the canyon, with the flute music playing in the background, and it was pretty cool,” he said. “It’s kind of like being in another time — it was pretty cool.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at