Corrections or additions?
This story by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on April 22, 1998. All rights reserved.
Where Shad & Visitors Meet
The only problem with Lambertville’s annual shad festival
is that it runs for just two days — this year, Saturday and Sunday,
April 25 and 26. There’s so much to do during the 17th anniversary
event that visitors may be compelled to budget their time: now the
demonstration of shad hauling, or of cooking it the 18th-century way,
now the juried arts and crafts show, now the micro-brewery tour, the
poster display, the historical walk, and finally the shad dinner.
Call it "a shad fest," "shad festival," or call it
"an eco-tourism event," as does a spokesperson for the Lambertville
Area Chamber of Commerce — the font of all festival information
and center for the volunteers that make it all happen — the prize-winning
weekend is the place to be in late April. "It takes a village"
or, more accurately, a city, to produce it, but the festival area
is an easily-traversed few blocks in each direction.
About 20 years ago, to the delight of those in Lambertville, along
the Delaware, the shad, the silvery fish related to herrings and indigenous
to Northeastern American rivers, began to return; swimming upstream
to spawn. For years, shad had eschewed the Delaware, and for good
reason: the river was so polluted it wasn’t fit to support shad; it
neither deserved nor hosted the fish.
In the years since then, shad returned with a vengeance — thanks
in large part to the steadily improving condition of the Delaware
and the continuing efforts of those who monitor and tend the river.
Now, in a manner of speaking (and eating), there are shad to burn.
And grill they do, at the Boat Club, on the river behind Lambertville
Station, where visitors can dine on shad al fresco for $10 apiece.
Those preferring to snack, can sample varied offerings of Lambertville
chefs at the food court, in the parking lot of First Union Bank.
The weekend, which quickly grew from a local art show to the 1995
winner of the Governor’s Conference on Tourism Award for Best Event,
aims to please everyone: children and adults, fisherpersons, cooks
(and eaters, of course); the environmentally-concerned, historically-interested,
and arts-appreciating. Not to mention those who like music, micro-brewery
tours and samples, or simply being in an interesting riverside spot
with lots to do on a spring day.
A reasonable starting place is the Chamber of Commerce
information table at the corner of Bridge and Union streets. Here
questions are welcome, official T-shirts (this year the creation of
graphic artist Bob Deverell) are for sale, and maps of festival sites
and lists of entries in the window decorating contest are available.
Then, to help get in the mood, check out the display of more than
100 Shad Festival art posters contributed by area artists. These are
auctioned on Sunday afternoon, with proceeds going to area high school
seniors’ collegiate art studies. Last year’s auction netted over $16,000.
Fred Lewis, the state’s only commercial shad fisherman, will demonstrate
shad hauling on both days at 2 p.m. He’ll use the seine technique
— a vertical net with weights at the bottom and floats on top
— that early settlers learned from the Indians. At the same Lewis
Island site, off Lambert Lane, Susan McLellan Plaisted, author of
"The Besmirched American Shad," will wear clothes of the period
for her demonstration of "shad planking," the 18th-century
style of cooking the river bounty.
River Horse Brewery, at the end of Lambert Lane, will be open for
free tours and samples during Shad Fest. Activities for children abound,
from pony rides to caricatures by Sesame Place artists, and from fish
tales by a storytelling guild member to the kids’ poster display (mounted
with the adults’ festival posters). On both days, in front of North
Union Street’s Five and Dime store, yo-yo champ Tom Parks will show
his technical expertise on the yo-yo, and Sunday features a tournament
At the booth sponsored by the Delaware Riverkeeeper Network, visitors
can meet the American shad (on ice), and buy $1 shares in the Delaware
("which pay dividends in clean water and happy fish"); children
can also opt for fish-face painting. Two daily historical walking
tours begin at the home of John Marshall, the man who started American’s
Gold Rush. And a farmstead museum that focuses on three centuries
in the lives of the county’s rural farmers is accessible via a train
Non-stop entertainment — including folk, rock, blues, and country
music — is promised throughout the weekend, and Saturday night’s
"Shad Fest Boogie" at the Rago Auction Center features Bill
Linderman and the BRB Band, along with Chef Rick Buscavage’s BYOB
buffet — 8 p.m. to midnight for $27.
Lambertville’s Shad Fest necessitates closing some streets to accommodate
pedestrians. Visitors driving in for the event can simply follow signs
to nearby parking areas, and shuttle buses will convey them back and
forth. Parking proceeds benefit non-profit local organizations. The
Black River and Western Railroad from Flemington and Ringoes
offers an alternative route to and from Lambertville; advance reservations
are necessary. The shad are already taking their places.
— Pat Summers
Union Street, 609-397-0055. Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26,
noon to 5 p.m.
12:30 p.m.; Live Bait, 1:30 p.m.; Monkey Works, 2:30 p.m.;
House of Swank, 3:30 p.m.; and Frescura Antigua, 4:30 p.m.
Wind , 1 p.m.; Udell Ramirez, 1:50 p.m.; Aftershock,
2:15 p.m.; Herd of Blues, 3:15 p.m.; and Matt Baldwin,
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