SOUTH HAVEN — Two popular summer festivals have combined some of their activities this year resulting in a unique pairing of the city’s maritime history with legendary sea creatures.
Harborfest will host the Mermaid MegaFest 2019 on Father’s Day weekend for an event filled with live music, kids activities, boats and, of course, hundreds of mermaids.
“We thought this was worth a shot,” explained Kelly VanHorn, Harborfest chairperson, about the partnership. “Harborfest is excited to offer more things to see and more things to do.”
In its 28th year, Harborfest will take place this Friday and Saturday. The family-friendly event celebrates maritime traditions with colorful dragon boat races on the Black River channel and live music on the riverfront. Other activities include a craft fair, food fest and a beer garden.
This is the second year for the Mermaid MegaFest. Set for this Thursday through Saturday, the three-day event celebrates merfolk, sailors and pirates, along with a mission to raise public awareness of the challenges of maintaining freshwater ecosystem.
Along with activities like the Mermaid Gathering on South Pier, the event will feature informational speakers, pirate duels and the Circus Siren Pod – a group of professional water artists performing in North America’s tallest mobile swim tank.
“After conversations with local people, including the Visitors Bureau, we realized that there were a lot of similarities between the two festivals,” explained Brad Carrier, Mermaid MegaFest chairperson. “And we decided it would benefit everyone if the two merged together.”
Most of the activities will be held downtown and are free, according to Carrier. Some of the changes include combining Harborfest’s Water Street Craft Fair with Mermaid MegaFest’s Pirate Street Fair to make it a bigger venue. Instead of a seminar on water preservation, which took place last year at the Mermaid festival, this year, speakers will talk between band sets.
Another change involves the Gathering of Mermaids. Held Saturday on the South Pier, this year there will be no costume requirements like last year, when the festival attempted to set the world record.
“We decided this year to make it more inclusive,” explained Carrier. “We want to make it more family oriented. We had 407 dressed as mermaids last year and 40 percent of those were kids under 13.
Carrier explained that parents who weren’t in costume last year couldn’t come on the pier with their kids for the count because of world record regulations. This year, they’ll be able to do so.
One of the new activities will be the Hoop Dance Extravaganza on Saturday from 1-2 p.m. where participants learn hoop dancing tricks taught by a sequin-glittered instructor. No need to bring your own hula hoop – free ones will be given out. Cardio drumming and Mermaid Story Time – both on Saturday, are also first-time events.
There will also be live action pirate re-enactments throughout Friday and Saturday at Riverfront Park and a parade of boats on the Black River featuring classic vessels.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had the Parade of Boats,” said VanHorn, “so we wanted to bring it back.”
While most Harborfest and Mermaid MegaFest events take place at Riverfront Park and downtown, three of them will be held at Lake Arvesta Farms, 107 72nd St. Island Moon Party, a late-night costume party for adults, will take place on Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight. Advance tickets are $25 and $40 at the door.
An Underwater Modeling Workshop hosted by Hannah Mermaid will take place at Lake Arvesta as well. Participants can learn how to pose underwater, swim with a tail, breathe without bubbles and more during the three-day workshop. Tickets are required. A mermaid certification class will also be offered.
Running from Friday through Sunday is the Old Harbor Carnival. People can watch mermaids perform in an enclosed tank, have a photo taken with stage props and sign up for mermaid painting classes – all at Old Harbor Village.
Turnout is expected to be quite high for both festivals and committee members hope the joint effort is well received.
“I know that everyone is pleased with the partnership – it is working out beautifully and both fests are complimenting and promoting each other’s events to best showcase what there is to offer,” said Rosalie Plechaty, Mermaid MegaFest 2019 manager. “It will be a fabulous weekend.”