Naugatuck to host first river festival

The borough cleared this area on the east side of the Naugatuck River in Linden Park and will host the Naugatuck River Festival at the site on Saturday. -ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — Local officials have made a concerted effort over recent years to clean up the Naugatuck River. This weekend, the borough will show off how far the river’s come.

The borough is hosting its first Naugatuck River Festival on Saturday from 3 to 10 p.m. The festival will be on the bank of the east side of the river where it runs through Linden Park.

The borough has been working to clear an area on the river bank of overgrown vegetation and debris. The area for the festival is along the walkway in Linden Park, which is on Riverside Drive, and there is a path in the parking lot. People are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets.

The festival will have a Caribbean theme and feature Caribbean music by Next Level Band as well as Caribbean food. There will also be local food vendors at the festival. The rain date is Sunday from 3 to 9 p.m.

There will be limited parking in Linden Park. Parking will be available in the parking lot of the Naugatuck Event Center, 6 Rubber Ave., and shuttle buses will bring people to and from the festival, officials said. People can also park at the event center and walk to Linden Park on the Route 8 south pedestrian bridge.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the festival is part of the borough’s effort to nurture the river and once again make it a central part of life in the borough.

“The (Naugatuck) River Brigade and other groups have cleaned most of the river in Naugatuck,” Hess said. “The view from the east side of the river was covered with overgrown vegetation, invasive species, dead trees and debris. The view has been hidden for at least half a century.”

Waterbury formed the river brigade last year in response to a 5 million gallon raw sewage spill in the Naugatuck River that happened in October 2017. The Waterbury Police Activity League (PAL) oversees the program.

The brigade consists of local teenagers who clean up the river and learn about the environment under the guidance of Naugatuck River Revival Group co-founder Kevin Zak, a Naugatuck resident.

Zak also leads other river cleanup efforts. In September, he led a group of local attorneys in cleaning part of the river.

“Anything that goes in the river, that doesn’t belong there, we will get out,” Zak said. “The festival is really the only one of its kind. Just the awareness alone, we wouldn’t be here if this river wasn’t here.”