This just might be the greatest thing ever. Along with the Willamette Riverkeeper organization, the Portland Mercury is pleased as punch to sponsor the first annual The Big Float.

Grab a tube, air mattress, kayak, raft — or create your own custom, handmade watercraft and join us for the inaugural launching of THE BIG FLOAT!

Around noon on Sunday, July 31, 2011 a human parade of floaters will carry their river vessels across the Hawthorne Bridge, walk south to the Marquam Bridge beach, then sail gallantly down the Willamette River in a festive flotilla of human-powered inspiration, landing safely back on the east side. Then they will gather at a celebration (naturally) and share tales of their great crossing.

Yes, you can actually go for a float in the Willamette River. No, you will not die, get aqua herpes, be attacked by the swamp thing, or crushed by the boat from Thunder in Paradise. It turns out, the mighty river that separates Portland is actually safe for you to swim in. And that's not just the opinion of me—professional blogger and Hollywood Upstairs Medical College degree holder in Swimmingology—that's from the DEQ, which states “the Willamette River is safe for swimming and other recreational uses."

Once you've cruised down the river, the Big Float will reward you with a post-float party at the east bank of the Hawthorne Bridge. All that floating will leave you parched and hungry, so enjoy the beer garden and a slew of local food carts. And bands! Sweet, sweet, glorious music. In addition to an early set from Bull Ramos, here's the musical lineup for the Big Float:

Orca Team (2 pm)
Keep Your Fork, There's Pie (3 pm)
AgesandAges (4 pm)
Ramona Falls (5 pm)

This entire event is free, although a $5 donation to the nonprofit Willamette Riverkeepers, sure would be nice. (If you want to skip the actual float entirely, for some reason, you can just pay $7 to see the bands.)

See you there. I'll be the guy in the inner tube wearing the Princess Ariel water wings. What? I'm not a great swimmer.