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Rockin on the river: Festival to raise money for cleanup of Shenandoah

Music promoter Joe Herbert strums his guitar
Music promoter Joe Herbert strums his guitar in the pavilion area of Troxell's Bathing Beach, the former Lions Club playground, off Stover Avenue in Strasburg. The band Joe Herbert and Friends will be one of the performers at the EarthKorps sponsored Shenandoah Riverside Festival, set for Friday through May 2. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

EarthKorps founder Beau Morgan
EarthKorps founder Beau Morgan, 22, of Edinburg, stands on a tree limb near the Shenandoah River in Strasburg. Morgan is organizing the Shenandoah Riverside Festival at Troxell's Bathing Beach. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Laetitia Clayton --

STRASBURG -- Like many big ideas, the concept for the Shenandoah Riverside Festival came about fairly easily.

"I had a dream about it, and I woke up and said 'That's what I want to do with my life,'" said Beau Morgan, who goes by the name of Captain.

On a recent clear and breezy day, the 22-year-old Morgan was at the festival site to talk about his reasons for having it. Wearing a captain's hat, shorts, boat shoes and a T-shirt with the slogan "Make Peace with Earth," he explained that the three-day music and camping event -- set for April 30-May 2 -- will benefit EarthKorps, an organization he created last year to help clean up the Shenandoah River.

"I love the water. I love the Earth," he said. "I want to change it. I want to fix it. I just want to be happy with what I'm doing and make a difference."

Morgan, who lives in Red Banks, just south of Edinburg, said he has spent most of his life on the river. His love for it comes naturally: His grandfather is Harry Murray, who owns Murray's Fly Shop in Edinburg, and has written books on fishing and is a fishing guide.
Morgan said he and his friends also have spent many days "floating on the river," and he started noticing the pollution and garbage. He would clean out what he could or make mental notes of areas that needed particular attention.

"Some days I do it for pleasure," he said of his time on the Shenandoah. "But some days I'm on a mission."

Morgan said once he decided to form EarthKorps, he started talking to various groups in the area that share his concern with cleaning up the river. He started with Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, which steered him to Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble. Morgan said he and Kelble became good friends almost as soon as they met.

Kelble patrols the river, using "community action and enforcement to protect and restore water quality" in the valley, according to the website www.potomacriverkeeper.org.

"It's a hard-core position," Morgan says of the riverkeeper job, adding that while Kelble monitors mostly chemical pollution, EarthKorps will focus more on physical pollution.
This includes everything from beer cans and tires to refrigerators and cars.

"I know right now where there's a Volkswagen bug in the river," Morgan said. "And there's a school bus about to go in the river."

Kelble led Morgan to the Potomac Riverkeepers board of directors, which is serving as the fiscal agent for EarthKorps until its nonprofit status is approved. EarthKorps will use the money earned from the festival to clean up the river, he said.

The festival will be held at the former Lions Club playground behind the Old Mill Restaurant in Strasburg. Known years ago as the Troxell Bathing Beach, the 6-acre plot along the river is owned by the Troxell family, which is letting EarthKorps use it free of charge for the weekend. The festival will feature about 17 bands, several vendors and on-site camping and parking areas.

Morgan knew he had to have good music to draw the crowds, so he sought out help from local musicians. He turned to Strasburg singer/songwriter Joe Herbert for help with lining up the acts.

"Beau called me up and said he liked my music and wanted me to take part," said Herbert, who will also perform during the festival. "I have music connections and started making calls -- and that's when the floodgates opened."

Herbert said he was able to get a diverse group of musical acts -- including bluegrass, jam bands, classic rock "and everything in between" -- to sign on for the event, and all are doing it free of charge "because it's a great cause." He said he has even had to turn some bands away because of time constraints.

"Musicians tend to care about the environment and social causes like that," he said.

Herbert also enlisted the help of John Duncan, of Dawghouse Audio in Front Royal, who will provide staging and sound system for the bands throughout the weekend. Herbert said the sound will be kept at a manageable level, and the event is focused on being family-friendly.

"We want everyone to have a pleasant experience, and we want everyone to come back next year," he said.

Morgan definitely plans on this festival being the first of many, and he hopes it grows bigger each year.

"I'm gonna do it every year until I die," he said. "I'm gonna take it on the road."
He also would like to make EarthKorps his full-time job so he can devote more of his time to the environment.

"I'm gonna start with the Shenandoah River and make it as far as I can make it," he said of his cleanup aspirations. "Then the land, maybe. I just want to tackle pollution as a whole. I just have the drive."

Even though the Shenandoah is "one of the most polluted rivers," Morgan said he believes he can help turn it around, not only for future generations, but also for the present.

"In my mind there's nothing better than floating on the river," he said. "It's sweet."

Weekend passes for the Shenandoah Riverside Festival are $35 per person, which includes camping and parking. One-day passes are $20. For more information, visit earthkorpsriverfest.com.


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