People stand in front of the CRK booth.

Visitors check out Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s booth at last year’s event.

A week of sprucing up Gainesville parks culminates April 20 with an environmental expo focusing on the city’s most valuable natural resource: water. The second annual Waterfest, coordinated by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, will give attendees opportunities to find out about conservation organizations that protect that precious resource, plus hear regional bands, sip adult beverages and get a bite to eat at food trucks.

Mallory Pendleton, CRK Headwaters Outreach Manager, anticipates about 1,000 or more visitors at the 1-5 p.m. event on the Midland Greenway. “We’re at a different section from last year, shifting down in front of NoFo (Brew Co),” she said. The new spot near the fishing pond enables more room for picnic blankets and lawn chairs close to the music stage. The brewery will offer drink specials inside and out, with a mobile drink cart on the grounds. High Street will be blocked off to allow pedestrians to mingle. In case of inclement weather, the fest will move indoors at NoFo.

Waterfest visitors can get face-to-face with the people involved with non-profit conservation groups and city and county water resources departments. Attendees learn how they can make healthy environmental choices in their daily life and how to connect with others who advocate for water quality. Pendleton said she enjoys “seeing everybody interact with conservation organizations” that keep an eye on Lake Lanier and its tributaries. CRK, Georgia Forestwatch, Lake Lanier Association, America’s Boating Club, Hall County Master Gardeners and more than 20 others will meet the public and share their stories.

Presenting sponsor, Reduce, an organization that aims to cut down on the use of plastic water bottles that turn oceans and lakes into garbage collectors, will have a Quench Buggy on site to refill personal water bottles. “We try hard to make the event as trash-free as possible,” Pendleton said.

Waterfest encourages all attendees to carry their trash and recyclables out of the venue for proper disposal.

The Jesse Williams Band - a female guitarist dressed in yellow plays on stage at night.

The Jesse Williams Band

Scott Low, in blue t-shirt plays guitar with woods in the background.

Scott Low

The band members of Heart of Pine band stand in a group in the foreground with woods in the background.

Heart of Pine

The music line-up resounds with more of a regional flare than last year’s bands, Pendleton said. “They’re more bluegrass, indie and mountain.” Scott Low and the Southern Bouillon perform songs steeped in American folk tradition with a nod to Appalachian and country twang. North Georgia “mountain mama” Jesse Williams brings soulful blues influenced by Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin and the Allman Brothers. Athens-based Heart of Pine belts out classic rock, blues, country, jam, Americana, and funk.

Food vendors include Carniceria Tapatia, Pico’s Hot Dogs, Midland Ice Cream Social and  the City of Gainesville Concession Trailer.

A silent auction opens online bidding on April 15 and gives potential buyers a chance to win boat rentals, gift cards to eateries, overnight stays, North Georgia adventure packages and more. Additionally, participants can bid on and purchase rain barrels hand-painted by local artists.

A week prior to Waterfest, CRK is teaming up with Gainesville Parks & Recreation and Department of Water Resources for a spring clean up and beautification project at local parks. “Clean up activities across the parks will be available,” said Kristen Watson, Gainesville Water Conservation Specialist. “Invasive species removal will be an option at Midland Greenway,” she said. The parks and water resources department list other projects on its sign-up form at

A long sidewalk with tents on one side and people walking down the sidewalk.

A scene from Waterfest 2023

“Last year we had a total of 54 volunteers collect 1,800 pounds of trash across the City of Gainesville parks. Groups also successfully removed English ivy from trees around Midland, and planted along Rock Creek Greenway and Lanier Point Park. Our goal is to have 75 volunteers this year,” Watson said. Individuals, schools, civic and corporate groups, fraternities and sororities, and other organizations are invited to pitch in.

“We depend on organizations, businesses, and people from our community to make the annual Waterfest (and clean-up) a success,” Pendleton said. The event is free to the public, courtesy of sponsors who cover all the expenses – getting permits, paying bands, and contributing to The Clean Lanier Equation, a CRK arm dedicated to protecting Lake Lanier. The free event “helps us to spread the word and reach a broader audience than a ticketed event,” Pendleton said.

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Photos: provided by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper