A dress knit from plastic water bottles.
Message: Stop using wasteful plastic for your daily water consumption.
An inner-tube skirt.
Message: Ride your bike more and don't litter.
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Trash – some of which was found along the American River – will be the unlikely star of a fashion show this weekend. Designer Kathan Griffis of Haute Trash hopes the show will trigger a better awareness of consumer choices and how they affect the river and the surrounding watershed.
The show is just one of many attractions at this year's American River Confluence Festival, on Sunday in Auburn.
The confluence of the American River near Auburn is where the north and middle forks of the river meet. The confluence is a metaphor that demonstrates how community life merges with the river as well.
"We're celebrating the American River and the good things it provides for our communities," says Eric Peach, executive director of Protect American River Canyon, one of the sponsors of the event.
Peach has a long list of why people ought to care: from the drinking water and electricity the river provides to the scenic watershed that spans thousand of acres and provides hiking and sightseeing. Peach has fond memories of a clean-up detail one year when he spotted a mother bear caring for three cubs near Auburn.
The river and canyons are simply breathtaking, he says.
"Rivers are the lifeblood of our humanity, really," he says. "It's a really remarkable area once you explore it."
The festival, in its 18th year, will be home to a "village" of fun with family-driven and educational activities.
Attendees will learn how to protect the area. They will get tips on recreational opportunities, including rock climbing and whitewater rafting near China Bar. Various music groups will perform. Children will have plenty of chances to showcase their artistic abilities.
In all, about 30 booths will be set up, including ones featuring health and wellness demonstrations and organic farm products.
A more poignant aspect of the festival is a presentation on injured animals, some injured due to careless human interaction, including littering.
Andrea Rosenthal, a PARC member, says the river, despite its usefulness, is special and warrants protection. She says the community organization, about 100 members strong, has been on a mission to protect the habitat for years, beginning with an effort in the 1970s to impede the building of an Auburn dam.
"It's a free-flowing river," she says. "We don't want to see it underwater with a dam. We want it to be there to enjoy for centuries to come. When two rivers come together it's always a very spiritual place."
At the meeting point of the two forks, grinding rocks from the Maidu people are found. Miners also took harbor, resting their hopes of gold there. The history is rich, Rosenthal says.
PARC continues to push for ways to get federal protection for the land, Peach says. There will be information available about the group's efforts.
"Quite frankly, the American River is a very hardworking watershed, the biggest being Folsom Dam," he says. "It's important to know all about how it works."
IF YOU GO:
What: American River Confluence Festival, with music, family-oriented activities and art presentations to celebrate the importance of river system in the Sacramento region.
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: American River Canyon Overlook Park, Pacific Avenue in Auburn.
More info: www.parc-auburn.org and a map or call (530) 887-9314.
Saturday movie: For those who wish to get an early start on the festival, there is a showing of "They Crossed the Mountains: A History of the Western States Trail," at 8:30 p.m. at the Confluence Festival Stage.