Riverfest: Make it or break it this year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

[2/5/04]Riverfest organizers say attendance this spring could determine whether the 16-year-old downtown festival continues in 2005.

“This Riverfest is a make-it-or-break-it-year,” said Jenifer Sharp, chairman. “It will be a good year, or this will be the last year,” she said.

The three-day festival was built around the pre-existing spring Arts and Crafts Show and Sale, adding downtown street parties Friday and Saturday nights and mock competitions on Sunday afternoon at City Park.

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Numbers at the 2003 edition were reported down about 30 percent from previous years, despite excellent weather that weekend.

In 2002, about 17,000 people attended the events, and records show that number is about as high as participation has been in any one year.

Organizers said one reason for last year’s drop was the move to the Vicksburg Convention Center parking lot due to construction on Washington Street.

This year, Riverfest music and some other events will move back to Washington Street. The arts and crafts show, normally on Jackson, Monroe, Grove and Cherry streets around the Old Court House Museum, will be moved due to a reroofing and restoration project under way at the museum.

Organizers say they are also adding a small carnival to this year’s Riverfest in hopes of making up for last year’s.

“We’re hoping with the two crowds and all the Saturday activities that we’ll be getting a lot more people downtown,” Sharp said.

The idea of Riverfest began with the Chamber of Commerce and started with public seed money, but the board was spun off into a separate organization. Because funding for each year comes from the previous year’s ticket sales, organizers say money is especially tight this year.

This year’s dates are April 16 and 17. Activities will be on Washington Street between South and First East streets with stages set up at China and Crawford streets. The arts and crafts show will be between China and First East streets, and the carnival will be set up in the vacant lot between Grove and Jackson streets.

Entertainment this year will feature local bands on Friday night including the Chill and headliners on Saturday including Clarence Carter.