Monday, April 23, 2012

Shad Festival Marks the Return of the Shad

It's that time of the year again. The shad are returning and so the festive among us are ...festiving?

Blogger's Note: Growing up as I did in New York's Hudson River Valley, I have attended my share of shad festivals.

A traditional way to cook shad.
I think one of the most remarkable memories was of eating shad cooked by being nailed to a board and placed in front of a hot fire at the shad festival in Cold Spring, N.Y. where I lived for several years.

As I recall, the meat was salty and, not surprisingly, smoky.

So I'm pleased to discover a similar tradition here in the Schuylkill River Valley.

Please find below information about a shad festival in Phoenixville and Mont Clare on April 28, sent in by the Schuylkill Canal Association:

MONT CLARE and PHOENIXVILLE – The various organizations involved with promoting the industrial history and heritage of the Schuylkill River in the greater Phoenixville area will be once again working together to present the 2nd annual Schuylkill River Shad Festival, scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at two locations in Mont Clare and Phoenixville.

The Schuylkill Canal Association, the Phoenix Iron Canal & Trails Association, the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area, the Phoenixville Green Team and Chester County Parks invite the general public to participate in the festival that will include history, education, recreation and overall fun on both sides of the Schuylkill River in the Phoenixville area.

The festival will highlight the historic significance of the role the American Shad fishery played in the growth of the river communities up and down the Schuylkill River during our nation’s infancy.

(Below is a schedule of events)

The event will also celebrate the return of the American Shad, thanks to improvements within our river over the past 50-plus years.

The fish ladder at Black Rock Dam
The removal of hazardous breached dams and the repair and construction of fish ladders on the remaining dams, including the passage built onto the Black Rock Dam completed by Exelon Generation in cooperation with Chester County Parks, has re-established the migratory route for the historic return of the American Shad as far north as Reading.

The Schuylkill River Shad Festival, partly sponsored by Exelon Generation, will be happening simultaneously at two specific sites throughout the day:
Lock 60 on the Schuylkill Canal in Mont Clare PA (Montgomery County);and
Black Rock Sanctuary and the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder in Phoenixville (Chester County.)

Also included will be a hike starting at the Foundry Building, Main St, Phoenixville to the Cromby Station Trail Head of the Schuylkill River Trail and an organized bike ride taking advantage of the Bike Schuylkill, a free bicycle sharing program operated out of the Phoenix Cycle Shop, Bridge St, Phoenixville. Details of these activities are listed below.

At Lock 60
Lock 60 in Mont Clare
At Lock 60, the Association will host the LoopFest, a guided 5-mile water trail loop paddle down-and-back on the Schuylkill River and Canal; two guided paddles will be scheduled. It is free to participate in the loop paddle however a suggested donation of $5 per boat will gladly be accepted. The Association will coordinate several water sports activities, including the LoopFest, fishing derby, boat rentals and demonstrations. Raven Hill, a local bluegrass band, will play their knee-slapping and fun music during the afternoon on the stage in the Lock 60 Picnic Grove.

The Locktender’s House will be open, and lock openings will be scheduled along with history displays that highlight the navigation system and its impact on the American Shad river population.

The Native American Heritage Programs will present displays and stories related to the history of the Lenni Lenape Indians and their life along the Schuylkill River. In addition, the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area will complement the Heritage Programs with an educational display on the Native American history specific to Phoenixville’s river community.

At Black Rock Dam and Black Rock Sanctuary

Black Rock Sanctuary
As the American Shad returns to throvide volunteers to host visitors at the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder and hand out a very informative sheet related to the history of the dam created by Chester County Parks.

Chester County Parks will present an interesting educational program at the Black Rock Sanctuary; Chari Towne, Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s Schuylkill Watershed Specialist, will present The Weirs & Whys of Black Rock.

As the program is presented, Jay Erb, a Chester County park ranger, will guide the hike along the Sanctuary’s 1.5-mile Basin Trail. Participants will journey to the silt basin’s waste weir where they will learn about the 1940’s Schuylkill River Project which was one of the first environmental clean-ups in our nation’s history.

There is a $4 per person fee, children 12 and under are free and pre-registration is requested; contact Karen Marshall at 610-344-6923 or to register.

Black Rock Dam circa 1900
Throughout the afternoon visitors can enjoy a self-guided hike along Black Rock Sanctuary’s Interpretive Trail to enjoy the rich, natural wonders that the sanctuary has to offer on this award winning 0.75 mile, ADA-accessible trail.

Along the trail you will see wetlands that provide habitat for mammals, reptiles, amphibians and migratory birds. Discover the history, geology, wildlife, plant life and habitats of the basin by visiting one of the many education stations along the way. A free trail map of the Sanctuary will be given to all visitors.

The Phoenixville Green Team and the Phoenix Iron Canal & Trail Association will coordinate a guided hike and a bike ride from downtown Phoenixville.

The guided hike will be from the Foundry Building’s parking area located on N. Main St to the Cromby Station Trail Head of the Schuylkill River Trail, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The bike ride will promote Bike Schuylkill, a free bike share program managed through the Phoenix Cycle Shop, Bridge St, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The bike ride will follow the trails on both sides of the Schuylkill River highlighting natural features and points of interest along the way.

At Lock 60 and Black Rock Sanctuary, parking and public amenities will be available. Food will be available at Lock 60 at a minimal cost and downtown Phoenixville restaurants will be open to all guests throughout the day. A handicapped-accessible shuttle bus will transport visitors from Lock 60 to the Black Rock Dam and Sanctuary throughout the entire event.

Unless otherwise stated, the festival is presented to the general public free-of-charge; however donations will gladly be accepted to help offset the overall costs of the event. For greater detail on all the activities planned for the day visit SCA’s website, or call 610-917-0021.

For more information, contact:

Betsy Daley, Schuylkill Canal Association, 610-917-0021,,

Mark Connolly, Phoenixville Green Team, Phoenix Iron Canal and Trails Association, 610-952-1285,,,

Karen Marshall, Chester County Parks, 610-344-6923,,

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