Every October for 18 years, U.S. and Mexican communities throughout the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo watershed celebrate Dia del Rio, a practice begun in Laredo by the Rio Grande International Study Center. In recent years, a professional 33-mile Riofest canoe and kayak race was added by Laredo Hotel and Lodging Association, a concert Rhythms on the Rio was added by Main Street Laredo, and an 8-mile Community Kayak Race was added by the Big River Foundation.
How better to celebrate a river than by paddling it? How better to get people to protect the environment than by enjoying it? How better to change the nation’s image of a border region than to see thousands of people from two nations doing all this simultaneously on a narrow stretch of water that historically divides them?
Laredoans are lining up to join the celebration:
- Dannenbaum Engineering is designing a floating dock for the river to accommodate musical performance, race announcements and an awards ceremony.
- Frank Architects are donating a conceptual landscaping plan for one of the festival sites.
- LULAC is organizing a “fry-athlon” featuring bicycling, fishing and cooking.
- The Laredo Center for the Arts is organizing a city-wide banner contest.
- IBC is helping out with event signage.
- Martin High School’s Welding Program is building a kayak trailer for one of the event sponsors.
- Bernie Chapa of Laredo Ciclo Mania is planning a riveside bike race.
- The Rio Grande Plaza is hosting a poolside BBQ on race day.
- Codefront is hosting Mexico’s paddlers.
- Volunteers are leading nature outings adjacent the Riofest finish line.
Where is your role in this? While many locals and visitors will paddle to the celebration from Father MacNaboe Park, after a Mariachi breakfast, festival organizers invite the community to propose innovative activities you want to incorporate into these celebrations, held the third weekend of October. Recent years’ celebrations have included river-themed art expos and poetry readings, so be creative!
Have an event that leverages environmental themes you’d like to see included? Something related to composting, recycling, environmental conservation, restoration or simple living? Something with your family, church group, civic organization, professional colleagues or friends? Join the celebration! Click here for highlights of last year’s festivals.
Planning for 2012’s Dias del Riofest has already begun. Call Eric Ellman at the Big River Foundation, 956-236-4985 or Tricia Cortez at RGISC, 956-718-1063 for details.