The race’s organizer, ACA, was founded in 1880 and is the oldest and largest paddle sports organization in the United States. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, the organization promotes canoeing, kayaking, and rafting in the whole country. The ACA conducts instructor certification, public information campaigns, waterway conservation, and safety education all related to rafting, canoeing, and rafting. ACA also sponsors more than seven hundred events each year.
Apart from the Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race, ACA organizes Rock the River FXBG that also offers foot race and other outdoor activities. As a music festival, Rock the River FXBG offers live music, great craft beer, arts and crafts, and tasty food. The community embraced the event whole-heartedly as this is the first time that Fredericksburg had something like it. The Rock the River FXBG committee wanted to bring together the many communities who benefit from the Rappahannock river either through tourism, business development, recreation, or cultural influence. The event organizers provide opportunities for local vendors to offer their products and services to a larger audience. To attract many patrons, the event has free admission and open to the public except the beer garden.
According to the organizer’s website, the Rock the River FXBG is organized by a committee of non-profit entities and for-profit business owners. The event organizers consist of five business leaders from the FredEvents, ACA, the Virginia Outdoor Center, Gravatt Entertainment, and Spencer Devon Brewing.
The first-ever Rock the River FXBG was held in June 2015 and had an estimated 2,500 people in attendance. Participants grew each year with 5,000 in 2016, 7,000 in 2017, and another 7,000 people in 2019. Due to rainstorms, the GRWCR race was canceled in 2018 but still, it managed to draw a crowd of 3,000. The number of establishments and shops joining also increased, from 35 vendors when the event first opened its doors, to 50 in 2016, 80 in 2017 and 2018, to a record-breaking 90 vendors in 2019. The committee offers Fredericksburg’s musicians, local vendors, and craft brewers to participate in the event before seeking outside support. The organizers also charge a very low participation fee to set up a booth. It is only $30 for artisans and artists who do not have brick and mortar operations, and free of cost for non-profit groups. The amount already includes goods and services business fees.
One of the participating artisans was Riverstone Designs by Beth Seale. Seale runs a guided kayak tour business in Orange County from the spring season to fall and started a jewelry company so she would have something to do in the winter months. Collecting river glass and river stones throughout the years, Seale’s jewelry pieces are handmade using her collections. For 2021, various vendors and food trucks have already signed up for the event such as Hogshead Cigar Lounge, City Perks, Famous Dave’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Credit Glory, Foundation Church, Friends of the Rappahannock, Kona Ice, Martina’s Cantina, ODD BOX Studios, Old Dominion Humane Society, UFO Truck, Veranda 804, KPN Images, and many more.
Rock the River FXBG and its supporting events such as 4 Run/Walk for the River and Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race were able to race and donate a total of $10,000 to 7 different local charities directly helping the community. Rock the River FXBG is also a certified Virginia Green Event. Virginia Green is a state program that promotes green practices in the tourism industry. From its inception in 2007, 1800+ tourism operations have self-certified their environmental practices and been recognized as Virginia Green Travel Partners. The Virginia Green recently offered its certification program to festivals and events in the state providing them with do’s and don’ts, lessons learned, and practical ideas for planning and implementing events that will minimize environmental impacts.
With being certified a Virginia Green Event, Rock the River FXBG is selecting vendors that can help the organization to raise environment awareness that will set a great example to event visitors. It will also ensure that participating vendors and sponsors are shed on a positive light. Also, the committee hosts a park and river clean-up event the morning after the event to ensure that the park returned to the city in better shape before it was used. The Rock the River FXBG committee is proud in being designated a good steward of city resources and Virginia Green certified event.