River Ruckus latest big event canceled due to COVID-19    

Teenagers Adriana Byrne, left, and Bella Houde dance to the music of The Life of The Party as the band performs on stage at last year’s River Ruckus in Haverhill.CARL RUSSO/Staff file photo


First it was KidsFEST, then it was the Memorial Day Parade, and then the Fourth of July festival and fireworks.

Now the latest large community event in Haverhill to be canceled due to COVID-19 is September's River Ruckus.

The Team Haverhill civic group recently made the decision to call off the annual end-of-summer celebration before summer even officially started in an effort to keep residents safe amid coronavirus concerns, organizers said.

“Our subcommittee of incredibly hard-working volunteers were determined to make this year’s festival the best ever," River Ruckus Chairman Joe LeBlanc said in a prepared statement about what would have been the 10th anniversary of the downtown festival along the Merrimack River.

"Unfortunately the pandemic presented us with too many public health challenges,'' he said. "Regretfully, it’s just not possible to do it this year, but we’re looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021."

Team Haverhill President Kevin Burke said the planning committee that works on the event from May to September delayed making the decision to cancel the ruckus as long as possible, closely monitoring local health developments.

"It's a lot to get together, between the sponsors and the food vendors," Burke said. "We do a lot of advertising for the car shows at other car shows, and they aren't happening, so we don't even know what kind of turnout we'd get for cars."

Last year, more than 50 vehicles — including classic cars, muscle cars, hot rods and sports cars — lined downtown Washington Street as part of the ruckus.

The ruckus, which also includes live music, food vendors and children's activities that take over the downtown waterfront district, always concludes with a fireworks show over the river.

It's the second time in Team Haverhill history that the festival has been canceled, Burke said. The first time was when Team Haverhill members were painting a mural downtown on Essex Street and volunteer resources were diverted.

Team Haverhill remains active despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has started a Cleaner and Greener Downtown project in which volunteers paint and plant in the downtown district and clean up the area. They are seeking volunteers to sign up at teamhaverhill.org.

"It's all outside,'' Burke said of the volunteer projects, "so it's better for small teams so we can stay socially distant."

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