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The 32nd Annual James River Batteau Festival

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Batteau Festival 2017

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, at 11:00 am, the batteau will push off from Percival’s Island with the booming of a cannon.

The James River Batteau Festival is an 8-day event featuring authentic replicas of the sleek, shallow-draft merchant boats that were used starting in 1747 for commercial navigation.  The original batteau were an adaptation of the Indian dugout canoes.  In 1775 Anthony and Benjamin Rucker, from Amherst County, invented a new type of batteau made of sawn lumber and designed specifically for the shallow, swift waters of the James River.  Thomas Jefferson was present for the launching of the first Rucker batteau.  Within a few years 500 batteau were traveling down the James River with canned tobacco, flour, iron, apple brandy to Richmond and towns along the way.  On the return trip they carried books, millstones, harpsicords and agricultural lime.  The stories of the boatmen are legendary.

The festival is a unique folklife festival uniting the communities along the 120 miles of the James River between Lynchburg and Richmond.  Considered a highway in the 1700’s, the James River was crucial to the settlement of Central Virginia.  Many of the boatmen and women keep the boats as authentic as possible.  They dress in period clothing, meals include organic vegetables and the meals are prepared on the boat.

Each night is spent in a different town along the river.  Most of the towns welcome the participants with a fair-like atmosphere, including music, games, food trucks, maybe fireworks and in general, a very warm welcome. The first night will be spent at Galt’s Mill in Stapleton.  Wednesday evening will find the crews in Scottsville.  Scottsville is one of the favorite stops along the James River as it is a “real city” (population 575) with the chance for a shower and a meal cooked in a restaurant.  Saturday finds everyone at Maiden’s Landing in Richmond.

For an interesting morning on the river head to Percival’s Island between 9:00-1:00 on the 17th.  You will be entertained, amused and learn about this unique form of river running.