Rain clears out, makes way for downtown fun|[04/19/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday afternoon’s rain clouds over the River City moved on just in time for thousands to make their way to the opening night of the 21st Annual Riverfest.

“We really lucked out with the weather,” said Ginny Tzotzolas, board president of the annual event. “We had to delay our sound checks a little, and that pushed back the starting times for the bands. But, other than that, everything’s good to go.”

Tzotzolas also noted that the weather didn’t scare off festival goers, saying attendance was “normal for an opening night.”

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Not all of Friday night’s attendees were locals.

Pam Miller made the 2 1/2 hour drive from Sturgis to watch her son, Jason Miller, sing with his country band, Crossin’ Dixon. It was her first trip to Vicksburg.

“I have loved it here,” she said. “The hills, the brick streets, the river — the town is great and the atmosphere of the festival is wonderful.”

Crossin’ Dixon was one of six bands taking the two stages Friday night. The South Stage, located at South and Washington streets, featured performances by High Frequency, Dr. Dee and Lakeside. The lineup on the North Stage, at China and Washington, included local favorites The Chill and Crossin’ Dixon, with country star Jason Aldean finishing out the night.

The festivities, however, left one Washington Street business owner threatening to close up shop.

Robert Ware, owner of The Ware House, which includes two bars and a luxury hotel, threatened to shut down after a fence was put up around his business Friday night.

Tzotzolas said Ware had said he didn’t want the Riverfest crowd entering his properties and agreed to the fence.

“It’s a lie,” Ware said. “This is the biggest weekend of the year for downtown. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of it?

“We’re probably losing about $30,000 this weekend,” he added. “How can you successfully do business in a town that fences you off from the public?”

Riverfest activities continue today. The day kicks off at 8 a.m. with the Arts and Crafts Show. Beginning at 10:30, street performers, gospel choirs, food vendors and a Kiddy Land will line Washington Street.

Tonight, Rick Springfield, best known for his 1981 No. 1 hit “Jessie’s Girl,” will headline then entertainment lineup. Gates open at 6.

The Bluz Cruz, an annual 22-mile canoe race down the Mississippi River for charity, has traditionally taken place during Riverfest. The event, however, has been postponed due to high river stages. It has been rescheduled for May 17. For more information, visit www.bluzcruz.com, or call 601-415-4615.

Riverfest ScheduleTONIGHT’S ENTERTAINMENTGates open at 6Tickets: $20 at the gateSOUTH STAGESouth and Washington streets6:15 p.m. — Swartz Brothers8 p.m. — Robert “the Duke” Tillman9:15 p.m. — Vickie BakerNORTH STAGEChina and Washington streets6:30 p.m. — Riverwind8 p.m. — Michael Anthony & The Groove9:30 p.m. — Rick SpringfieldTODAYS DAYTIME ACTIVITIES VICKSBURG-WARREN COUNTY ARTS & CRAFTS SHOW8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. near City Hall on Walnut, between Crawford and South streets. Admission and parking are free.STREET PERFORMERSSOUTH STAGE10:30 a.m.-noon — GymsouthNoon-12:45 p.m. — Vicksburg Twirlers1-1:45 p.m. — Life After 40 Fitness2-2:45 p.m. — Pretty Young Thangz dance teamNORTH STAGE10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. — Gospel Fest at Riverfest, featuring area church choirs.