BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – RiverFest founder Charles Craft said this year’s event has been “very difficult”.
But he said the easiest thing would have been to give up.
“We didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to give up.”
So a scaled down version of RiverFest presented by Frank Millard and Company, Inc, which has gained national attention as a growing venue with large national acts, will kick off on Wednesday Aug. 5 on the Fort Madison riverfront. The event is in its fifth year of a resurgence, born of a festival of the same name that took place in the 80s and 90s on the riverfront.
This year’s event will go on without the traditional carnival. Craft said that was out of his hands as no traveling carnival provider was operating in Iowa or Illinois this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The outbreak has also had its impact locally. A statement made two weeks ago by the Lee County Board of Health, said large scale gatherings are “ill-advised” as the coronavirus is surging in Lee County.
Craft said he’s been working, and in contact, with the Lee County Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Director Mike Shelangoski, regularly to make sure everything that can being done to protect festival goers, is being done.
A link to the website and the festival health and safety measures can be found by clicking here: http://riverfestfm.com/health-and-safety
In addition to taking the temperatures of everyone entering the festival, Craft said you’ll see hand sanitizers and wash stations throughout festival grounds that were expanded this year.
“We increased our grounds by more than 200% to allow plenty of room for people to social distance, while reducing our capacity by 50%,” Craft said Wednesday.
“We are exceeding (World Health Organization) WHO, (Centers for Disease Control) CDC, and state health guidelines. There have been some keyboard cops out there blasting us for having this, but we’re doing everything we’re required to do, and then some, to make this a safe and fun event for everyone.”
Food vendors will still be on hand for concert goers to grab a bite, and Craft said most of the games will still be available for people to play, but there will be no tournaments this year.
Craft said the musical lineup is one of the best in the past five years, and because of the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus, it will be one of the best shows in the country this year.
“Starset is the biggest band we’ve had yet,” Craft said. “In only five years they’ve had more than two billions streams of their videos worldwide. “That’s insane!” It’s a well-choreographed show and people won’t want to miss that one.”
The band hails from Columbus, Ohio started in 2013 and that year’s single “My Demons” accumulated more than 280 million views alone. The single came off the “Transmissions” 2014 album which also featured hit singles, ‘Carnivore’ and ‘Halo’.
Front man Dustin Bates is an astrologist with a master’s degree in electrical engineering and has done research for the U.S. Air Force and taught at the International Space University. The Starset backstory is a fictional take on a message received from space.
Starset is the headliner Saturday night.
The other eclectic big draw for the event that runs Wednesday through Friday, could be Fozzy, which headlines Thursday night’s grandstand performances.
Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho, of World Wrestling Federation fame, brings name recognition and some heavy metal chops. The band is set to release it’s eighth album this year with single “Nowhere to Run” already out.
80’s metal enthusiasts will be taken back with Friday’s lineup of Enuff Z Enuff, Autograph, and headliner Quiet Riot.
Other performers include Adelita’s Way, Cole Hollow, Head First, Saul – an Iowa-based rock band formed by two brothers, Burden of the Sky, 9th Planet Out, Fidelio, Royal Bliss, and others -18 bands in all.
“Adelita’s Way put on a great show at Steamboat Days and Royal Bliss is a fan favorite. Chris Jericho and Fozzy – that’s all that needs to be said,” Craft said.
“And that’s a one-two-three punch on Friday for 80s night. We’ll have plenty of ice cold Busch Light on hand and we’re working overtime to factor in safety and let people enjoy life.”
Craft also said patrons will see plenty of Thin Blue Line and military flags at the event.
“We’re gonna be thanking first responders and our military. During the COVID they didn’t have the option to stay home and they’re getting a pretty bad rap,” he said. “So we’ll have a lot of flags flying proudly at RiverFest this year as a hats off to those guys going to work when others are staying at home.”
VIP ticket are still available for the four-day event, but all going into the VIP area will be required to have a mask with them. a 4-day VIP ticket is just $76, while a general admission ticket for all four days is just $46. Single day tickets run $30.
Ticket information can be obtained by clicking here: https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/16290/riverfest?fbclid=IwAR3anE4Mpm4uZSwCpMgSU4cz910UvaSLkpTx4qSISswxGUqrYaQmJlhbt8c
Additional information can be obtained at the event website at www.riverfestfm.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/608459693126207?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22search_results%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22search%22%7D]%7D