Mother Nature was kinder this year to the Festival for the Eno, with temperatures in the mid-80s on Saturday compared with the triple-digit heat at last year’s event.
Plenty of water and other beverages were consumed by the thousands of people who attended the 34th annual music, art, cultural and environmental festival at West Point on the Eno City Park. But the fluids weren’t needed quite as much as last year when temperature hit 102 degrees.
“It’s a lot cooler,” said McKenzie Mikels of Durham. “It was scorching last year.”
The cooler temperature Saturday was welcome news for the Eno River Association, which puts on the festival to raise money for its efforts to preserve the Eno River Basin. The heat sharply reduced attendance last year, according to Robin Jacobs, executive director of the Eno River Association.
Historically, the festival has been a three-day celebration. But after what happened last year, Jacobs said, they had to limit the festival this year to two days: Thursday and Saturday.
Jasey Wrenn of Durham hopes the festival goes back to being a three-day event. She said it’s not like going to the Streets of Southpoint mall because of all the hand-crafted items you can buy at the festival.
“I hate seeing there’s something I missed and having to wait a year and hope it will be back,” Wrenn said.
Those who came Saturday said they wanted to do their best to help support the preservation efforts while also having a good time.
“We’re here to support the Eno and see our friends,” said John Utz of Durham.
Mike Fleming of Durham said he’s been coming to the festival for 25 years. He said he bought separate tickets for Thursday and Saturday rather than get a cheaper two-day pass so he could kick in a little more money to the association.
“I canoe and kayak in the Eno,” he said. “So anything I can do to help, I will. It’s for a good cause.”
But the festival also brings in newcomers, even people who’ve lived in the area for decades.
“We’ve lived in Durham for 30 years and we thought it was something we should come see,” said Laurel Rose at her first event.
Amid the celebration was an undercurrent of discontent from left-leaning environmental and political groups that had booths at the event. They’re not happy with the changes undertaken by the General Assembly.
“The big issue a lot of people are talking about here is what’s going on with the Republicans in the legislature,” said Karen Gray, who manned a booth for the Durham Democratic Party. “Abortion, the ‘no-Voting Rights Acts,’ the environmental dangers.”