Jessilyn Schultz and her son, Soren Mullen, 7, play in the water as a batteau brings in a group to the shore during the 34th Annual James River Batteau Festival launch on Friday, June 14, 2019 at Riverfront Park. The James River Association and Virginia Canal and Navigation Society sponsored free boat rides in honor of the first evening. (Emily Elconin/The News & Advance)

Thumbs up to all the folks who made the 34th annual James River Batteau Festival, which kicked off last weekend in downtown Lynchburg, a success for participants and spectators alike.

The festival’s roots date back to the discovery of an 18th century batteau near Richmond in the mid-1980s. A batteau is a flat-bottomed boat that essentially served as a tractor-trailer truck on the James River, the Interstate 81 of the 1700s.

Led by Joe Ayers of Fluvanna County and John Rothert of Powhatan County, history buffs and river dogs decided to work at reconstructing a batteau, and the idea of creating a festival around the craft emerged from their efforts.

The first festival kicked off in Lynchburg and concluded just outside of Richmond. What made the first couple of festivals different from today’s event was that they were flat-out races down the James to see which craft would make it to Richmond first.

But soon after, Ayers and other batteau captains decided to shift the focus of the event from a batteau race to a batteau festival that celebrated the heritage of the crafts, the cities that sprang up along the James because of the batteau and the heritage of those now long-distant years.

The result was a weeklong celebration of the batteau and the James. In Lynchburg, there were period music performances, craft exhibits and a myriad of activities for young and old, all centered on the batteau. (A note to Lynchburg leaders: It would be awfully nice to revive the city’s festival next year, the 35th anniversary of the event.)

At each stop along the way — communities such as Galts Mill, Scottsville, Bent Creek — there were mini-festivals for participants and fans alike. The festival’s traditional terminus is at Maidens Landing, on the border of Powhatan and Goochland counties.

If you want to learn more, check out the James River Batteau Festival website at

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Thumbs up to Meals on Wheels of Greater Lynchburg, both on its 45th year of service to Central Virginia and on its expansion with the addition of another route.

Currently, the nonprofit delivers a hot meal to almost 350 sick, elderly and shut-ins Monday through Friday. Ages of those served range from 24 years to 101; many recipients receive meals at no charge while others pay based on a sliding scale of income. Meals on Wheels is critical to the continued health of hundreds of folks, some of whom have just gotten out of the hospital or others who live alone and can’t cook for themselves.

According to Executive Director Kris Shabestar, there’s a need for about 10 additional volunteers. Some volunteers work once a week, others one or two times a month and others more frequently. A typical route includes between seven and 15 stops.

To learn more or to volunteer, check out or call (434) 847-0796.

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