Al Kittredge, secretary of Smith River Trout Unlimited, was teaching children to fly-cast as he stood in a field surrounded by a bustle of other activities at the Smith River Fest on Saturday afternoon.
“This is the future of the sport,” he said. Not as many children are interested in hunting and fishing today compared with years ago, he said.
He had just given pointers to 9-year-old Cheyenne Price of Martinsville.
Cheyenne’s mom, Valarie Price, said Cheyenne “loves the outdoors,” but the only fishing she has done is sea fishing when she visits relatives. Valarie Price added Cheyenne also climbed to the top of the (24-to-26-foot-tall) rock-climbing wall at the festival. “I was proud of her,” mom said. And Cheyenne still wanted to go on a canoe ride that day.
Kittredge said he can remember years ago the Smith River running red or blue, depending on what color dyes manufacturers were using.
“Nobody cared about the river 20 years ago, but they do now,” Kittredge said, mentioning the recent Smith River cleanup as an example.
Michael Custer, 27, of Collinsville, and buddy Jeremy Gillespie, 28, of Spencer, took part in that cleanup, they said. They also took part in the 4.8-mile river race at the Smith River Fest on Saturday, using a 13-foot River Hawk hunting and fishing boat.
They both said they enjoyed the race. Gillespie also said he was glad so many people turned out to spend a day enjoying the Smith River.
Both said they grew up enjoying trout fishing on the Smith River.
Nearby, 2-year-old Gracelynn Via was enjoying her pony ride, as her mother, Shannon Via, walked alongside and Laura Steere of Infinity Acres Ranch in Ridgeway led the pony.
“I want to do it again,” Gracelynn said when the ride was over.
She already had been to the petting zoo offered by Infinity Acres Ranch.
Her favorite critter? The snake, her mom said.
Steere said it is a corn snake named Sphinx. Other animals in the petting zoo included Sherlock, a giant Flemish rabbit; Reggae, an alpaca with dreadlocks; fainting goats Nina and Sonata; two chinchillas; and Mojo, a 160-pound Pyrenees dog. Eight volunteers with the Alpaca 4-H Club of Infinity Acres was helping with the zoo, Steere said.
She estimated as of early afternoon that about 200 people had been to the zoo and more than 100 children had ridden the pony.
The fifth annual Smith River Fest was held at the Smith River Sports Complex. Officials estimated that more than 1,500 people attended.
Roger Adams, director of Henry County Parks and Recreation, said this year’s festival was larger than ever, in terms of activities, vendors and attendance.
Outdoor activities represented included canoeing, kayaking, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), fly fishing, running, bicycling, hiking, camping and more, according to a news release.
Officials said 53 boaters participated in the river race and 120 runners in the Helgramite Hustle 5K (3.1 miles) Mud Run.
Adams said there were more than 60 foods and arts and crafts vendors. There also were free rides and games for kids, nature displays and activities, and live music by the Boys & Girls Club Steel Drum Band and Will Zimmer and Friends.
Adams called it “a great day.”
Organizers of the festival are Henry County Parks and Recreation, Martinsville-Henry County EDC’s Tourism & Film Division, Dan River Basin Association, Smith River Sports Complex, Activate Martinsville-Henry County and the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge.