Essex to celebrate river with boat ride, bonfire  

ANDREA HOLBROOK/Staff file photo/Last year's Essex River Day bonfire burns merrily under the watchful eyes of Essex firefighters. This year's Essex River Day is Saturday, June 22, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

This weekend’s Essex River Day festivities will give locals and tourists a chance to see what the spirit of Essex is really like.

The celebration of the community will kick off with a free sunset cruise from Essex River Cruises — with a cash bar for beer and wine on board— down the Essex River on Friday, June 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 7. An evening of fun and entertainment for all will take place at Memorial Park off  Shepard Memorial Drive, behind Town Hall, on Saturday, June 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 9.

“The spirit of the event is to get people in town access to the river who may not have it otherwise,” said Essex River Day co-founder Mark Lynch. “It’s a day where everyone gets to see what makes Essex, Essex.”

Saturday’s entertainment will include activities for children and music provided by Essex Radio and Television Service. The Essex Lions Club will host a picnic of free hamburgers, hotdogs and soft drinks while supplies last during the evening, and an ice cream truck will be open at the park. Beer from the Essex County Brewing Company of Peabody will also be available.

The evening will end with a bonfire of wooden pallets provided by Corliss Bros. and Beverly Pallets at 8:30 p.m. The bonfire usually features a model greenhead on top for good luck or other structures like outhouses.

The event, which is sponsored by the Essex Lions Club, the Essex Board of Selectmen and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, was started about 12 years ago to bring the community together and celebrate the Essex River, one of the town’s greatest resources.

“It’s an event that’s very community oriented and meant to kick off the summer season,” said Lynch. “You get to see people in the community before the season gets too busy.”

Reservations for Friday’s sunset cruise are first come, first served with group reservations limited to six people. Call Essex River Cruises, 35 Dodge St., at 978-768-6981 to make reservations for the cruise and confirm departure time.