An internet search for organic cherries led two San Francisco residents to Riverdance Farms in Livingston on Saturday morning to experience the 12th annual Pick and Gather Festival.
“I thought it’d be fun because you get to pick your own berries and there’s a river,” Rachel Shorr said.
Three stages of local jazz and bluegrass music, along with dancers and singalongs attracted around 800 people to the organic ranch, said owner Cindy Lashbrook. She said she would have loved more people but, given the soaring 95- to 99-degree temperatures, she thought it was a good turnout.
“It’s a nice crowd for such a hot day,” Jim Christiansen, planner and organizer for the festival, said.
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Lashbrook said changes in the climate meant that cherries and strawberries weren’t available for picking this year, but there were plenty of blueberries ready and ripe. Strawberries and cherries that were grown organically up north were being sold at the festival in the market area.
Shorr said she was “a little bummed” the cherries weren’t available for picking, but she and her road trip partner, Donato Grimaldi, said the ride was well worth it and the blueberries were delicious.
“The ride was half the fun,” Grimaldi said.
Handcrafted art, ceramics, jewelry, dream catchers and henna were all being sold in different booths by local vendors. Locally made honey, jams, mustard and ice cream were available, along with misting stations and cold neck towels to keep cool.
To avoid walking back and forth under the sun on the 74-acre farm, there were hayrides and a few carts available to give people rides to the river, to their cars or the main entrance.
After passing the blueberry bushes and walnut trees, there were other fun learning activities for kids to partake in by the river.
“It gets people outside and educates the kids,” said Rebecca Alptekin, a volunteer and daughter of Lashbrook.
Cramer Fish Sciences had a booth up to teach kids more about restoration and their efforts to get salmon back into the river, said Kristen Krick, a member of the Cramer Fish Sciences team.
There were models set up of salmon nests and opportunities for kids to have an up-close look at what salmon eat. Minnow races were facilitated by Krick, each child trying to get their minnow to the other end of the line by blowing above the water with a straw.
“We’re trying to get kids involved by teaching them about the restoration and how to get salmon back into the river,” Krick said.
Christiansen said Riverdance Farms is as much an educational center as it is a ranch and working farm.
All activities were surrounded by live music starting at 10 a.m., chiming until well after sunset, Christiansen said.
“There’s almost 10 hours of music from first-class musicians, many of them local,” Christiansen said.
Lashbrook said she has been noticing the climate change over the past 10 to 15 years, and will probably change the event date next year to the weekend before Memorial Day so cherries and strawberries can be picked again like every other year.