BY PCC STAFF
FORT MADISON – It all starts today.
RiverFest 2018 kicks off today in Riverview Park on the Mississippi Riverfront in beautiful, historic downtown Fort Madison at 4 p.m. with a carnival, regional specialty foods, craft and commercial vendors, and national musical entertainment.
Pre-sale tickets ended earlier this week, and VIP tickets were sold out during the pre-sale. But single-day and four-day packages for general admission will be for sale at the ticket booth for $30 for a single day and $45 for the four-day package.
Organizer Charles Craft said tonight, on a first-come, first-serve basis, 100 single-day VIP upgrades will be available at the ticket window for just $10. VIP tickets give ticket-holders access to VIP amenities and viewing areas.
Music Thursday night starts with Memphis Dives at 6:30 p.m., who won the first ever Battle of the Bands at Vinnie’s Longbranch in Fort Madison. For the win, the band opens for Saving Abel, who’s set to start at 8:30 p.m. Jive Radio will pack the Entertainment Tent, this year nestled along the river front, at 10 p.m.
Friday’s entertainment features iconic Fort Madison band Chaz and the Channel Catz and then Fort Madison native Brandon Gibbs, brings the Brandon Gibbs Band to the Pen City Current Main Stage, followed by 80’s rock band FireHouse. Decade of Decadence takes over the Entertainment following the Main Stage Acts. Saturday starts with Head First on the Main Stage at Hinder takes then stage at followed by Pop Evil and then X-Crush in the Entertainment Tent. Sunday starts with StumpTown followed by The Natu Band. Radio Romance then comes on to rev up the crowd before Country artist Colt Ford wraps up the entertainment for 2018.
“Everything starts at 4 p.m.” said Shawna Ross, marketing director for the event. “Get here as early you can….you might miss something.”
Ross said Meet and Greets start at 7 p.m. and those with Meet and Greet passes need to be at stage left, or on the right side as you face the stage prior to 7 p.m. No photography will be allowed. RiverFest staff will take pictures and post them online during the week following in a gallery on the www.riverfestfm.com website and pictures will be uploaded within the week.
Food vendors were out smoking meat and setting up some of their local and regional fares along the riverfront Thursday morning.
“Keeping up the Joneses” out of Cedar Rapids is in town featuring BBQ Sundaes, Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches, and chicken and waffles.
Other food vendors with full menu selections include Pig Out BBQ of Mediapolis, The Lunch Wagon of Central Illinois; Hotsy Totsy of Granger, Iowa, Wever Odd Fellows Lodge Ice Cream, local favorite Twisted River 61 of Fort Madison, Ol’MacDonald’s Kettle Corn of South Dakota, Graham’s Lemonade of Quincy and Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ of Iowa City.
Richard Rodney of Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ was already smoking meat at 10 a.m. Thursday for his full menu of Jamaican fare.
“I have jerk chicken and brisket,” he said. “It’s going to be smokin’ till about 2 or 3 o’clock. My food is a little different, because I have some Jamaican blend. Even the brisket has Jamaican seasoning and American seasoning. So everyone should come out and enjoy the food and the festivities.”
Gina Simmons, who’s the RiverFest committee chair for the vendor booths, said she has close to 30 craft and commercial vendors along the Riverview Park Walkway and inside the carnival area including hobby and crafts, clothing, jewelry, plants, community information booths and more.
Ross said carnival wristband hours are from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and can be obtained at the ticket booth on the carnival grounds, if not purchased during the pre-sale. The wristband session on Friday is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The carnival opens Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. with $20 wristband for each day’s three hour-session. Wristbands are good for the single-day 3-hour session. Festival goers can also get tickets for $1 each or 22 for $20
Randy Ustic, with Conner Family Amusements of Beardstown, Ill., said three new rides are making their debut at the carnival.
“We’ve added a (ferris) wheel and the Rock O’Plane and the Crazy Bus for new rides this year,” he said.
Ross said Saturday there will be a Superhero special hour from 11 a.m. to noon, which will be low lights and low music and sounds to create a minimal sensory experience for special needs children and their families. Ross said not every ride will be open, but most rides will be available and will be staffed for the entire hour.
Thursday will also feature the return of the Official RiverFest World Series of Beer Pong XIV Las Vegas Qualifier Tournament. Open play starts at 4 p.m. in the Entertainment Tent with tournament play running from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information on the event, visit the RiverFest website at www.riverfestfm.com