Why does life seem so much richer when a river runs through it, especially in the summertime?

Healdsburg City Councilman Shaun McCaffery, who has traveled the Russian River from the Alexander Valley Bridge to the Pacific Ocean by canoe, kayak and innertube, frames his answer in simple, basic terms: "Water is the ultimate in recreation. You can float and travel with little or no effort. And it cools you off when you're hot."

And when you get to the river, you'll find yourself in fun-loving company. As John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival sang in "Proud Mary" back in 1966, "If you come down to the river, bet ya gonna find some people who live."

Two of Sonoma County's most beloved summer festivals invite folks to gather by two different rivers this month — first on July 20 on the Petaluma River for the Rivertown Revival, and then on July 27 on the Russian River for the Healdsburg Water Carnival.

"I think bodies of water connect to us each other, to other people and places, and to our own history," said Kelin Backman, one of the founders of Petaluma's Rivertown Revival, now in its fourth year.

At the Petaluma River party, held at Steamer Landing Park in Petaluma, the festivities take on a circus atmosphere, with a trapeze artist suspended from a large boat on the water.

The festival also will feature sideshows, more than 30 bands, a race featuring artistically decorated boats, food and drink, and a popular feature from previous years — $5 weddings.

Elizabeth Howland of Friends of the Petaluma River, who helped start the Rivertown Revival with her late husband, David Yearsley, sees the festival as more than just a good time.

"We wanted do everything we could to turn everyone's gaze toward the riverand see what an opportunity it gives for connection within the community, recreation and appreciating our history," Howland said. "It's such an important part of our community."

In Healdsburg, Councilman McCaffery, an eager volunteer at the Water Carnival since it started in 2011, is hard at work on a pirate ship float for the event's boat parade.

"The highlight of the day will be the wine barrel races," said Liz Keeley, event coordinator for the Healdsburg Water Carnival. "Anybody can join in. Just show up that day and sign up."

The carnival also includes live music, local food trucks and kids' activities, all at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach.

Like its counterpart in Petaluma, the Healdsburg festival aims above all to bring people down to the river.

"The Veterans Memorial Beach park is absolutely a gem in Sonoma County," Keeley said. "It really has been overlooked as a fabulous place for families to go any time of the year."

<em>You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>


[FACTS_00]What: Rivertown Revival

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 20.

Where: David Yearsley Petalmua River Heritage Center, Copeland and East D streets, Petaluma.

Admission: $5.

Information: rivertownrevival.com, 763-7756.

What: Healdsburg Water Carnival

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 27.

Where: Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg.

Admission: Free. Parking costs $7.

Information: sonomacountyparks.org, 565-2041.