BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With Riverfest just six days away, organizer Charles Craft said things are going at break-neck speed at this year projections are exceeding already lofty expectations and could be one of the biggest Riverfests since it was reborn in 2016.
The event kicks off Thursday afternoon and runs through Sunday with national acts highlighted Pop Evil, Saving Abel and Colt Ford among others. This year’s event again will have something for every member of family from the carnival, to the annual Riverfest Games, information and craft booths, carnival food, motocross stunt shows, and the return for the first time in a decade of Dragon Boats on the Mississippi River.
Craft said there are still spaces available for dragon boat teams, but those are filling fast with five teams already geared up for the event. To register a team, go to the Riverfest website at www.riverfestfm.com.
Some of the most recent additions to the event include a couple of meet-and-greet contests with local radio stations.
Z93 FM out of Keokuk is hosting a tenderloin eating contest Friday night at 6 p.m. at Dr. Getwell’s in Keokuk. In that event, five contestants will snarf down a tenderloin in record time with the winner getting a meet-and-greet with whichever band member they choose. Tyler French, Keokuk Radio’s news director will be on hand putting down a sandwich as well and if anyone beats him they will get an extra surprise from the radio. Contestants include Kayla Francis, Eric Serreo, Adam Tucker, Marc Thannert, Kimberly Southerland.
KQ92 out of Burlington, will be doing a radio contest prior to kick off of the festival with a the winner gettting to have a steak dinner at The Palms
Restaurant and Bar in Fort Madison with rock band Hinder.
Craft said if the workload is any indication this is shaping up to the biggest Riverfest since he rebooted the festival three years ago.
“This is waaaay bigger. Just everything is compounded,” he said. “This is now a different level event. The feel of it is different.”
Tickets sales have been brisk and Craft said this year there will be thousands in Riverview Park watching 15 national and local bands over four days.
Those who haven’t picked up tickets can do so at Fort Madison Hy-Vee, New Dimensions at the corner of 18th Street and Avenue G, more than 30 area Casey’s General Stores and on Ticketfly at www.ticketfly.com. Tickets are $35 through Aug. 1, but increase to $45 at the gate beginning the first day of the festival.
Music entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with three bands with Memphis Dives and Saving Abel on the Pen City Current Main Stage and Jive Radio in the entertainment tent at 10 p.m. Starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday is the ever-popular local gang Chaz and the Channelcats followed by the Brandon Gibbs and then national rock heavyweights Firehouse on the Main Stage. Decade of Decadence will play in the Entertainment tent starting at 11 p.m. Saturday day kicks off at 4 p.m. on the Main Stage with Head First, followed by millenium rock band Hinder and the contemporary rock chart topper’s Pop Evil at 9 p.m. X-Crush will keep things going in the Entertainment tent at 11:30.
On Sunday, the music again starts at 4 p.m. with local favorites Stumptown, followed by the explosive The Natu Band, a regional favorite. Then stick
around for a fusion of country/rock/pop with Radio Romance and then country rap sensation Colt Ford closing out festival.
“I would say ticket sales and projections will be that we’ll have thousands of people. We’re shooting to have half the population of Fort Madison down in Riverview Park over the weekend,” Craft said. “We’ve got some serious national rock acts on stage and this will have a much more of a concert feel to it.”
And that’s just the nighttime entertainment. the Riverfest Games coordinated by Shanna and Doug Krogmeier are also a big part of the 4-day event. In addition to the riveting Dragon Boat races on the river, Beer Pong is back. This year’s winner will receive an automatic entry to the World Series of Beer Pong Tournament in Las Vegas. A 5K run/walk, six-on-six sand volleyball, a bags tournament, a KanJam tournament and a canoe/kayak float are also planned throughout the four days.
Conner Family Amusements will be in town again thrilling adults and kids alike with a the newest in carnival rides and attractions. The carnival opens at 4 p.m. to close each day with wristband specials from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday. A special kids wristband promotion will be held Saturday from noon to 3p.m. The carnival will be open from 11 to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to close on Saturday and noon to close on Sunday. Wristbands are for sale at the Riverfest website for $18 prior to the festival.
A motorcycle stuntman will be doing amazing things in the parking lot at Riverview mark in multiple shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
And you can already smell the carnival food. In addition to the Connor Family Food Stand, other food vendors include Fort Madison’s own Twisted River 61 Carry Out; Keeping up with the Jones, of Cedar Rapids; Mediapolis’ Pig Out Food Truck; The Lunch Wagon from central Illinois; Hotsy Totsy out of Des Moines; Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ of Iowa City (if you’ve been to Iowa City’s Jazz Festival, you’ll know this great food); Graham’s Lemonade Inc., of Quincy, Ill.; Ol’ MacDonalds Kettle Corn of South Dakota; and Odd Fellows Lodge Ice Cream.
Critical to each Riverfest for the past three years is the charitable arm of organizer Charles Craft and the Riverfest Committee. This year’s Charity Breakfast on Sunday, which is a feedbag of epic proportions, is being hosted by the American Legion Post #82 of Fort Madison. All funds raised will go the Veterans’ Honor Flight Program and last year eight veterans were able to be sent to Washington D.C. because of the event.