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Wrightsville resident Kim Rhine speaks about walking over the Wrightsville-Columbia before the mayflies hatch. Teresa Boeckel

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If you live near Wrightsville, you probably think of mayflies as those pesky little insects that swarm the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Wrightsville this time of year.

The ones that have caused car accidents, forced the closure of the bridge due to poor visibility and left behind piles of their own carcasses near the bridge lights.

And the ones that, most recently, have forced the borough to turn off the bridge lights as a precaution.

But they’re also a good indicator of unpolluted water and an important food source for the fish in the river, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Michael Helfrich said.

And that’s what the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association wants to celebrate with its first-ever Susquehanna Mayfly Festival on Saturday.

Helfrich came up with the idea after bad publicity started circulating about the insects during last year’s four-week mayfly hatch.

“The hatch was an important event demonstrating the improving health of the Susquehanna River and its creeks,” Helfrich said, adding that he hopes this festival will educate people about the benefits of mayflies.

“It’s a good sign for the Susquehanna that we’re getting an abundance of mayflies,” he said. “Those who like to get recreation from fishing in the Susquehanna shouldn’t have anything negative to say about the mayfly hatch.”

The Mayfly Festival will kick off at 10 a.m. with the sixth annual Susquehanna Biathlon, a four-mile run up the Susquehanna from John Wright Restaurant to the Accomac Inn and a five-mile paddle in a canoe or kayak back down. Prizes will be awarded for the top female, top male and top team. Click here to sign up or register at 8:30 a.m. the day of the event.

The free festival will follow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the riverfront at the John Wright Restaurant boat ramp in Wrightsville.

One of the main attractions will be environmental- or nature-themed artwork—some of which are made from recycled materials—from more than 30 local artists, Helfrich said. Artists wishing to participate should email lowsusriver@hotmail.com by June 23.

Festival-goers can also enjoy local, sustainable food from John Wright Restaurant, live music from The Vinegar Creek Constituency Trio from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a native plant sale, a create-your-own-mayfly craft and other children’s activities.

After the biathlon, Shank’s Mare Outfitters will also provide free paddling sessions for a few minutes at a time and paid kayak rentals for longer sessions.

Helfrich wasn’t the only one to come up with the idea for a Mayfly Festival.

The late Mickie Singer—a York County writer, singer, artist and advocate for those with mental illnesses—had a similar idea for a festival before she passed away in October. Only her vision was much larger, encompassing both Columbia and Wrightsville.

“We’re dedicating the festival to Mickey Singer,” Helfrich said. “We’re hoping this is a spark that turns into a bigger event that unites Columbia and Wrightsville and all of us along the river.”

If you go

What: Susquehanna Mayfly Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25 (Biathlon race registration starts at 8:30 a.m.)

Where: John Wright Restaurant Boat Ramp, 234 N. Front St., Wrightsville

Cost: Free for the festival; $30 for individual biathlon entries; $50 for team entries

Proceeds benefit: The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, which works to keep the water fishable, swimmable and drinkable

Details: Visit www.SusquehannaMayflyFestival.com or the Susquehanna Mayfly Festival event page on Facebook.

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