Arriving at Kipona, I was delightfully surprised by the bright, bold colors everywhere. Large blue, red, and yellow banners line the crest of the riverbank. Green flags wave overhead in the soft breeze. Red and white petunias spill over flower boxes at an eating area on City Island by picnic tables spouting hunter green umbrellas for shade. Wide concrete walkways and stairs, built along the water’s edge for blocks, hold patrons in bright summer outfits. Meticulously painted drag boats in a rainbow of colors sit just a few feet from the shoreline awaiting their turn to race. Spectators compare engines and paint designs and pick their favorite boat to win.
As the light flashes from red to green, the drivers and their boats scream up the channel, two at a time, in hopes of winning and moving on to the next round. The races last three hours. Its a great excuse to get out and enjoy the fresh air of summer before it's gone for another year.
Kipona, one of the oldest waterfront festivals in the United States, is held every Labor Day weekend. The word Kipona means "Sprakling Water" in the Native American language. The drag boat races are usually scheduled for Sunday afternoon. It is held along the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania skyline--Riverfront Park, City Island, and the majestic Susquehanna River. There are food stands, children's rides, canoe races, live music, arts and crafts, Native American Pow-wow, fireworks and more during the three-day event.
Harrisburg is an easy drive from all over Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virgina. There is plenty of parking ($2) on City Island. The festival is free. For more information on the drag boat races or other Kipona activities, check Kipona Festival.