The ShadFest in Lambertville, New Jersey, is an annual celebration of the return of the shad, a fish in the herring family, to the Delaware River. For 2010, it occurs this weekend, April 24 & 25.
The Delaware River was so polluted for many years that the number of shad that came to spawn each spring had dwindled to an alarmingly low number.
That indicator of an unhealthy environment, started environmentalists to rally for a cleanup of the waterway.
Shad Festivals (there is also one on the Hudson River in NY) usually are held when the shad begin to spawn. Shad are primarily saltwater fish, but they swim up freshwater rivers to spawn in the springtime. Unlike trout, which have a very similar reproduction ritual, many shad survive to swim back to sea. Various types of shad are found in all areas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several seas across the world. The shad have returned to using the deeper waters of the Delaware River as a spawning ground - an indicator of the success of some environmental reforms that were enacted.
As the fish travel up the Delaware River, there are shad-hauling demonstrations, called seining, which catch the fish in nets in a method used by the Lenni Lenape Indians, the original inhabitants of the area during colonial times.
In addition to seining demonstrations and shad cooking demonstrations, the Shad Festival also offers a variety of vendors, music, art shows and more, including a poster auction to benefit a scholarship program for local high school seniors.
Food abounds, but the main attraction is the shad. Ultimately, the Shad Festival is a celebration of both the return of this unique fish and the return of tourism and economy to the riverside town.
The first Shad Festival was held in 1981 to mark a kind of ecological milestone in the river's comeback.
Thousands of tourists, anglers, shoppers and environmentalists now attend the two-day event.
For more information http://www.lambertville.org