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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Shad hauling demo using old method of seining
Shad hauling demo, using the old method of seining, off Lewis Island in Lambertville, April 2000. Photo courtesy the Shad Fest

Shad Festival

The Shad Festival in Lambertville has been held annually since 1981 to herald the return of spawning shad up the Delaware River. The shad's return was unthinkable during the 1970s because of the river's pollution. Following environmental laws, and other state and local initiatives, the shad returned, indicating that both the local ecology and economy could thrive again.

For one April weekend, Lambertville is a city gone mad about shad. Residents and visitors sing about it, draw it, look at it, and eat lots of it during the celebration. The festival's Shad Queen in 2000 was decked out in her finest rubber fish boots, fishnet stockings, and a crown adorned with miniature rubber fish that dangled from hooks.

During the festival, local chefs show off their skills. Visitors can sample fine "firehouse" cuisine, provided by Lambertville's volunteer fire company. An al fresco shad dinner is served next to the river, prepared by the Delaware Valley Boat Association, and the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce that sponsors the festival. All styles of music are performed from jazz, country, rock to Caribbean. About 100 invited artists and craft persons line the streets offering paintings, photography, jewelry, woodworking, sculpture, and other work.

The festival provides an opportunity to watch New Jersey's only commercial shad fishery in action as Fred Lewis and his crew continue the generations-old family tradition of shad hauling. The Riverkeepers, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to a clean Delaware River, provides information on how people can keep rivers clean.

Documentation includes newspaper clippings, a video documentary, and a T-shirt.

Originally submitted by: Rush D. Holt, Representative (12th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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