Batteau Festival Kicks Off

Lynchburg, VA - An 8-day, 120-mile tradition has carried on.

Saturday was the 26th annual James River Batteau Festival. Crowds have dwindled over the past few years because the city doesn't put on the festival, but organizers seemed pleased with the number of spectators who showed up.

About 20 Batteaux launched off Percival's landing, on a trip to pay homage to the James River - a central trading route that helped put Lynchburg on the map.

Will Smith began the 8 day journey to Richmond in a boat he built himself and in clothes that belong in another era.

"It's the best week of the year, every year. It's something that I've done since I was a little kid," he said.

"I've been running around for four days straight trying to get all the supplies ready.... It's sort of a lot of coordinating but it's fun. It's definitely worth it."

For 26 years spectators have come to cheer them on. Lynch's Landing, a non-profit organization that used to sponsor much of the event was visibly absent. Smith says ever since it pulled out of the festival a few years ago, attendance has been hurting.

"There's not as many people showing up on the riverside to watch us...which is sort of a bummer," he said.

Tandy Amburgey brought his grandchildren to see history in action.

"The kids today are missing so much history," he said.

For many of the spectators, reliving history is what the Batteau festival is all about.

"It is part of Lynchburg, it is part of our heritage and part of Amherst County, the way things used to be," said Anita Moore.

The batteaux are scheduled to arrive at Maidens Landing in Richmond next Saturday.