BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The 2nd annual RiverFest celebration kicks off Thursday night in Fort Madison’s Riverview Park and organizers are on the grounds all week getting ready for the four-day event.
Co-event chair, Charles Craft, said Monday night things are coming along better than expected with more than 1,000 tickets already in the hands of festival-goers.
“Tickets are still available online or at Hy-Vee and there’s a nice discount if you get them there. Tickets are $30 up to Wednesday night and then they go to $35 at the festival,” Craft said.
He said day passes are available for Thursday-Saturday with Thursday’s set at $10 for Captain Geech, $15 for Bluzillion, Ozone Ramblers, and The Natu Band for Friday; and $20 for Saturday passes for Trystan Grisham, Buddy Jewell, and Shawn Moss.
“Things came together so much better this year,” Craft said. “One of the most interesting things that’s different from last year is around town. When I talked to people last year, it was they hadn’t heard about it or didn’t know. This year I talk to people who say, ‘Yeah, I’m going down Thursday for Captain Geech’ or ‘We heard Buddy Jewell’s coming Saturday and we’re gonna go down and see that’. That’s the sentiment we’re hearing this year.”
“And the more I talked to people, they say it’s three or four years to get to the point that everyone knows this is RiverFest weekend. I think social media is helping a ton. Our site has about 1800 followers and people are sharing that out so things are going very well for us to this point.”
Craft said the event will feature something for just about everyone in the family including volleyball, bags, a 5K run, a kayak/canoe float, Kanjam and the very recently added Beer Pong on Thursday. Other spectator events are on tap including a motorcycle stunt show, a chainsaw carving demonstration, pickleball with Onix, the largest retailer of pickleball equipment in the country on site.
Craft said there are still some slots left in the registered events and registration is still available on the event website at www.riverfestfm.com.
“If you’re sports-minded or like competition we got a 5K on Saturday morning early followed by bags, sand volleyball, and Kanjam at the park. We’ll have 10th Street Station over by the games so people can get a bite to eat over there or they come into the food area. We brought Coca-Cola on so we’ll have their drinks including Monster and Powerade and Golden Eagle is handling our adult beverages. We also have Exile Brewing out of Des Moines coming in with some microbrews.”
He said the Beer Pong event should be a big draw because the winners of the Thursday tournament will win entry into the World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas.
“We added that about two weeks ago and the pre-event tournament at Kinnick South last weekend that was very well attended,” Craft said. “We’re going to be awarding entry into the World Series of Beer-pong 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada. So the winners are going to go to Las Vegas to compete for $60,000. We’ve got other fantastic prizes including a 60-quart Grizzly cooler and some cash.”
The winners will be the two-person team that wins the whole event on Saturday.
Craft said the weather is supposed to be fantastic so turnout should be very good for the four days.
“So many people are excited about it that I’m not worried about attendance,” he said. “It’s an outdoor event so presales are typically tough for those events. And even though the tickets go up $5 at the gate, they see that as rain insurance. A lot of people are asking about single-day tickets and we’re not offering those in presales. But we will have them at the gate.”
He said passes that are purchased online can either be printed out or downloaded and can be scanned on phones at the gate.
He said this year, they’ve added a queue line to the entertainment section to speed up entry.
“We put in 4 queue lines to help get people in faster this year. We had some problems in that area last year with speed. We’ve also widened our food court area to allow more room in there and added a 40’x 60′ tent for more shade so people can get out of the sun, but we’re gonna have some really nice weather.”
The festival kicks off Thursday at 4 p.m. and runs through Sunday night at 7 p.m. Connor Amusements will hold a wristband event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday with unlimited rides for one price of the band. There is also a three-hour wristband window on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
A charity breakfast will be served Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon with all proceeds benefiting the American Legion Honor Flight program.