The First Raritan River Festival was held on August 16th, 1980 as part of the 300th Anniversary Celebration of the City of New Brunswick.
Hundreds of people crowded the banks of the river to watch parades of decorated boats, raft races, canoe races and to witness the arrival of Folk Music Legend, Pete Seeger on the good ship Clearwater.
In his welcome letter, Festival Chairman,M.J. (Mac) Babcock wrote: "Historically the development of Central New Jersey was based largely on the utilization of the Raritan River to transport people and goods. Most of this commerce was centered around the head of navigation at New Brunswick."
As the years went by, the construction of Route 18 severed the city of New Brunswick from her river, and new generations of New Brunswick children grew up without an understanding of the historical role that river transportation played in the development of the City.
The festival's goal is to bring New Brunswick back together with the Raritan River and, in Dr. Babcock's words, "demonstrate the recreational and artistic potential of our riverfront."
The festival has been awarded "Living Legend" status by the United States Library of Congress and continues to strive to combine community entertainment and celebration with environmental awareness and action.