BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the second year of Fort Madison RiverFest in the books, the co-chairman of the event said there will be a year three.
“I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone I saw down there had a smile on their face. That means it was a success in my book,” said Charles Craft, who along with his wife Jenny and a volunteer committee put on the event every year.
He said if the rain had held off on Sunday, the event probably would have been in a better positive equity position. But he said the festival did well enough to ensure a third year.
“We got some rain Sunday and I think that kind of hurt our attendance for the carnival and we did a promo – one ticket for one ride. The rain also brought in a sparse crowd for the Ozone Ramblers open jam that afternoon. Had our Sunday this year been what is was last year we would have ended up in pretty nice position.”
Attendance was very similar to the 2016 event, but he said Thursday’s turnout was really good and revenues were sufficient to show growth, which was the committee’s goal for the year.
“We didn’t make a lot of money, but the more we make the more we can roll into bigger acts next year,” Craft said. “We did prove that we can put on that level of show. Now all we have to do is figure out how to get more people down there. We’ve got the management of the event down. We didn’t have any customer service issues. We had some long lines last year, but we overcame that this year with a new gate. Not really any issues at all.”
He said the carnival receipts were up this year compared to 2017.
“We’re weren’t up by a whole lot, but enough that we saw growth and I think that’s a positive.”
One of the bigger success stories was the American Legion Honor Flight fundraiser, where enough money was raised to help send eight local veterans on the trip to Washington D.C.
“I’m glad we were able to be a part of that and help them with that event,” he said. “I think we’ve already decided to let them do that again next year. I think it was a good cause and we do want to rotate that down the road because we don’t want anyone to take ownership of it, but that breakfast will grow next year for sure. It’s just an issue of seeing RiverFest grow as well.”
Craft said he was very impressed with the entertainment and was happy with the performance and reception of Buddy Jewell.
“His show was fantastic. He’s a star no doubt. He came out and signed some autographs and then stayed around for a long time taking pictures. He kept a smile on his face and we talked for a while. He’s just a great guy.”
Craft said he wanted to thank all the sponsors for their contributions.
“I definitely want to thank Rusty Andrews and Dave Clark for their contributions. Dave and Bob Britton both were part of the old RiverFest committee and they were a very big help as usual. Also, a big thanks to Pinnacle who had an employee picnic down at the festival and brought a lot of attention to the event.”
For next year, Craft said he has a lot of really great ideas and leads for entertainment and how to build even more energy around the event.
Now the committee will take a month off before starting plans for the next year. One of the new events will be dragon boat racing which they want to start taking registrations in the fall for the summer event.