Blacksburg’s Fourth of July parade welcomed a new entrant this year — a 10-foot-long bluehead chub dubbed “Chubby.” Conceived and constructed by the New River Valley Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists, the float, titled “In a Stream Near You,” was created to highlight this keystone fish species, which plays a role in the way an ecosystem functions. Also featured were a costumed freshwater mussel and hellbender salamander. A dozen or so volunteers accompanied the float, carrying paper representations of the minnow species that associate with the bluehead chub.

The groups’ many hours of work on the float proved worthwhile. Not only did they succeed in spreading an important environmental message to parade attendees, the float earned the “Best Theme Representation” prize for this year’s theme, “This Land Is Your Land.” Funding for the project came from the college, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Virginia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.