Rock In River Festival

The Official Website of the Pennsylvania Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament, held in Franklin, PA

This year's festival date - Saturday, August 25, 2012

Steiner Shakes It Up!

See the 2011 pro standings here

Click here to see the 2011 Rock In River Photo Gallery

See the CBS Sunday Morning story on the 2009 event!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yet another picture-perfect day greeted stone skipping fans on Saturday, August 27th, and with competitors showing up from eight states and Canada, the fans were not disappointed. 2011 saw the return of Mike "Airtight Alibi" Williamson, who has successfully skipped all Great Lakes. Team Elwell from Erie also returned with a bigger entourage than ever. A group of skippers which included new pro Drew Hall drove all the way from Rock Hill, South Carolina to make the event. They drove through the night and arrived on-site in the wee hours of the morning to make sure they were there in time for registration. The huge field of 29 pros made for a long but entertaining round robin-style competition which never failed to keep the fans riveted to the action, with near-perfect water conditions on the mighty Allegheny.

The pro competition at Franklin has become as unpredictable as the weather! With Russ Byars in what appears to be a slump, the fierce competition to get into the top three has drawn a very interesting combination of personalities. In 2011, a pre-teen local, Brandyn Gardinier, has proven his meddle by finishing at a very respectable 9th place in the field. Drew Hall's overnight drive all the way from South Carolina must have been partly to blame for his weak showing with a high score of only 15, putting him almost dead last in the standings. (We hope Drew returns in 2012 to show us what he can really do!) Followers of the event have enjoyed watching young local Aaron McCracken's rise over the years from leading the youth division to staying in the top 12 of the pros. Nate Beggs, having been coached over the past few years by Byars himself, has finally moved up the ranks to move into third place with a 36. And Eric Henne of Ithaca, New York proved that his drive to Franklin was worth the effort with his fantastic high skip of 37. But Kurt Steiner's slow return to consistency finally earned him the top honor in 2011, with a high skip of 39.

Final Scores:

Youth - Brandyn Gardinier, 24; Eric Elwell, 20; Keighan Kadylak, 18

Amateur - Eric Henne, 33; Adam Swartzfager, 28/25; Chris McDaniel, 28/24

Professional - Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner, 39; Eric Henne, 37; Nate Beggs, 36

The Rock In River Festival is the newest Franklin festival, overlooking the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny River. This festival includes kids games, rock decorating contest, chicken barbecue, and the fun of watching amateurs and professionals (including reigning World Champion and Guinness World Record holder Russ Byars, and  former Guinness World Record Holder Kurt Steiner) compete for the state championship of skipping stones across the water. Kayak demonstration for 2011 provided by OARS. Click here for directions to Riverfront Park.

Our competition is sanctioned by the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club, who operate the nationals in Michigan each July 4. The Pennsylvania winner is entitled to compete in the prestigious "Pro Category" at Mackinac the following Independence Day.  A very elite group of professionals from around the world gather on Windermere Beach, a stone-covered beach on Lake Michigan beside ferry boat docks which connect Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City on the mainland.

Officiating the PA Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament is High Commissioner Brian Barnett of Franklin and his team of judges.  Contestants are asked to submit a small donation ($5 a person amateur, 12 and under $1, pros $10), and although the event is a "bring your own stones" tournament, exotic skipping stones from various parts of western Pennsylvania are usually available for contestants for an additional small donation.

Registration for the competition begins at 11:00; amateur competition starts at 1:00, and the Allegheny Chukker Challenge (pro & celebrity category) takes place at 3:00 p.m.  In keeping with tradition, the winner will receive locally-produced fudge. Click here to go to the Franklin site for the Registration Form for all competitors and the official rules.

Mark your calendars for the next Rock In River Festival, Saturday, August 25, 2012.

Also: Run, bike, and paddle for prizes in the Allegheny Outdoor Adventure! This non-competitive event is open to all ages and starts at 9:00 at the Franklin trailhead of the Justus trail. You'll finish up just in time to catch the stone skipping activities in the park.

Attention all press: high-resolution photos and info available here.

2011 Sponsors:

Franklin Fine Arts Council

Mr. & Mrs. Edward V. & Jessie Peters Charitable Trust

Oil Region Alliance

Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of NW PA

Lamberton House Bed & Breakfast

Liberty Electronics

Central Electric Coop

Froggy Radio 98.5 & 100.3


News in the World of Stone Skipping




Byars Claims 6th World Championship Win

True to form, Byars outskips "Mussels" Callewaert with a clean 30. A perennial island favorite, Callewaert made yet another noble attempt to bring the title back to Mackinac with a 26. Underdog and crowd favorite Glenn "Hard Luck" Loy made an impressive showing this year, pulling in third place with a toss of 22. 


Byars Claims 5th World Championship Win

Russ Byars edged out with a 28 over Todd "Mussels" Callewaert and Nate "Dogg" Rango, both tossing a best of 26, at the 40th Mackinac Invitational.


Byars Holds Pennsylvania Title

Russ Byars rolls over Eric Drusko with a 35 over Drusko's 30 at the 2008 Pennsylvania Qualifying Tournament. See the final results here.


Byars Becomes 4-time World Champ

With a top toss of 25, Russ Byars takes out Glenn "Hard Luck" Loy to take the lead and win the '08 Mackinac Invitational for the second straight year, continuing his reign as the top skipper in the sport.



Byars Sets New World Record

Byars' July 19, 2007 skip goes into the Guinness World Record book at an amazing 51 skips, beating Emporium's Kurt Steiner. Get all the details, including video footage at ProStoneskipping.Com.



National Public Radio Covers 2007 Event

WPSU covered the 2007 Franklin event and put together this little news piece.



Byars Shatters Mackinac Record

Franklin's own Russ Byars steamrolled his way onto Mackinac Island to regain his title as the top skipper in the world. "Rock Bottom" Byars not only regained his title at Mackinac, but set a new all-time record for the venue. Guinness world-record holder Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner followed closely behind with his own Mackinac first of 30 skips, putting Pennsylvania in the top two positions. 

Full story with photo gallery



Byars Returns to Top Spot

There was some question as to whether or not "Mountain Man" Steiner would return to compete this year after injuring his arm in a mountain bike crash. But he did return, and proved himself a capable contender, with a best throw of 36 skips. But Byars edged him out with a best of 38, to take the trophy.



Franklinite Russ Byars Takes the Win for PA

On Saturday, August 23, 2003, Franklin's own Russell Byars successfully secured the current PA title by narrowly outskipping Kurt Steiner with a high smut of 28. He is now qualified to represent Pennsylvania at the Mackinac Nationals on July 4, 2004.



Byars Goes On to Claim National Championship

On July 4th, 2004, Russ went to Mackinac and picked up the national title. Conditions were brutal, with bone-chilling cold and rain throughout the competition. Lake Huron was whipped into a frenzy while the top skippers in the U.S. duked it out for the title. See pictures from the event here.



Byars Repeats Performance to Maintain PA Title

Russ continues his streak by claiming the 2004 title at the Riverfront Park event, by casting an outstanding 35 skips. Could Russ be the Tiger Woods of stone skipping?



2005 - Byars Is Unstoppable!

In an event jam-packed with some of the highest scores in Mackinac history, Russ pulls ahead of the pack in the final round with a record-breaking 30 skips at the Wilmer T. Rabe Memorial Mackinac Invitational on July 4th, 2005, to win his second consecutive world championship. Could Russ be the Lance Armstrong of stone skipping?



Byars To Be Cast In Independent Film

Russ Byars has been booked to provide stone skipping expertise and act as a stunt double for Guns & Butter Entertainment, LLC, in their feature-length film The Book of Caleb, to be filmed around the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Filming is expected to begin this October.



Steiner Wins it Back!

In a dramatic battle for the top spot, Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner, current Guinness World Record holder, came through in the clutch and ended the reign of Franklin's own Russ "Rock Bottom" Byars.  He is now qualified to represent Pennsylvania at the Mackinac Nationals on July 4, 2006.

"Let he who is without frisbee cast the first stone!"


Left to right: Jon Paden, Marie Veon, Brian Barnett, Michael Forrtnger, Russ "Rock Bottom" Byars, Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner

Left to right: Brian Barnett, Charles Hatfield, Aaron McCracken, Mike Taylor

Left to right: Braden MacBeth, Hannah Shaffer, Ian "Bo" Jones In back: Brian Barnett


Left: State Representative Scott Hutchinson is given an eye test by staff optometrist Dr. Resler "for the safety and well-being of all his constituents."


See the Stone Skipping Glossary!

Many thanks to the following volunteers from last year's event, without whom this event would not be possible:

Ronnie Beith

Brian Barnett

Margo Mong

Mike Henderson

Tambra Warner-Sabatini

John McConnell

Chris Latchaw

Melanie Latchaw

Franklin Fire Department

John Dietrich

Cliff & Penny Minnick

Jon Paden

Patrick Pelletier

Marilyn Black

Marie Veon

Randy Seitz

Lee Mehlberger

Jeff Corbett


This photo from the 2003 event shows Staff Optometrist Dr. Edward Resler testing his eyechart with the Mermaid of the Allegheny. Dr. Resler was on-hand to assure perfect vision throughout the event.


For more information, contact Mike or Ronnie


Rock In River Festival is administered by the Franklin Fine Arts Council,

430 13th Street

Franklin, PA 16323

814-432-7138, or

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