Life in the Mad River Valley revolves around the watershed. In summer months, swimming holes brim with locals and visitors. Eager kayakers and leisurely tubers pass days heading downstream.


“The Mad River definitely has friends and followers statewide,” said Caitrin Noel, watershed coordinator for the Friends of the Mad River. “Folks like to come here from all over the state to enjoy the river.”

On Wednesday, August 17, the community is invited to celebrate the watershed at Rock the River, a fund-raising event for the Friends of the Mad River. From 5 p.m., river users and admirers of all ages can join together at the pavilion at American Flatbread for an evening of music, dance, homemade boating and other fluvial-focused festivities.

“I wanted to do something fun that we could reach a broader audience than typically come to our annual dinner,” said Noel. “I wanted something fun to celebrate the river.”

The evening features a lineup of local bands, including reggae by the Mad River Avengers, the acoustic trio 440 Hz, Phish tribute band the ConTRIBUTErs, and dancing to The Detonators.

Early in the evening, there will be a “junky boat race.” Entries must be homemade – commercial entries, no matter how shoddy, are not permitted. To qualify, each boat must stay afloat for 60 seconds, hold at least 60 pounds, and travel at least 60 feet. “It’s something to get people thinking about the river and interacting with the river,” said Noel.

Young river admirers will also have an evening of fun activities. Friends of the Mad River board member Katie Sullivan will lead kids in learning fly tying, followed by some fishing. There will be face painting, river rock painting, juggling and more games.

All tickets will be entered in a door prize raffle for Sugarbush Mount Ellen and Mad River Glen ski passes. Throughout the evening, there will be a silent auction. A live auction includes a kayak, PFD and paddle from Outdoor Gear Exchange. Freshly-made Flatbread will be on sale for dinner, followed by free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

“It’s to support the Friends of the Mad River and the great work it does,” said Sullivan. “It’s a local event.”

Funds raised during Rock the River will benefit Friends of the Mad River. Projects spearheaded by the organization aim to keep the river healthy and advocates on the river’s behalf. Hundreds of trees have been planted along the river. They are working with local towns on a program to assess levels of road and river erosion.

The organization runs the Mad River Watch, the oldest volunteer water quality monitoring data set in the country. Through the program, levels of E. coli bacteria, phosphorus and turbidity are monitored at 36 spots throughout the watershed. Results are published fortnightly online and in The Valley Reporter.

Rock the River is an evening of celebration of the river that is the spine of The Valley community. Said Noel, “It’s a fun way to show your support for the river, to celebrate the river and hang out on a summer night and as a community recognize the importance of the river.”