Riverfest 2009Economy could silence spring party

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2008

Riverfest organizers are concerned a lagging economy may equate to reduced corporate and public support of Vicksburg’s largest annual festival and warn the two-day event could be scaled back — or possibly canceled — if a significant amount of money is not raised in the coming months.

“We need money, and we need it now,” said Erin Hern, a member of the volunteer, 12-member Riverfest board. “I don’t think most people understand the effort and money it takes to put on Riverfest each year.”

Between booking the musicians, staging the shows, organizing the craft fair and promoting the entire festival, 2008 Riverfest cost about $250,000 to produce, said 2009 Riverfest President Alesia Shaw. The headlining performer of last year’s event, Rick Springfield, cost $40,000 alone. Organizers hope to generate the same amount of funds for next year’s festival, which is scheduled for April 17-18, as they begin to solicit sponsors in the coming weeks, but they have doubts.

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“We have some real concerns. The sponsors have been declining over the past few years, and there’s a possibility we may have to downsize next year if we don’t get enough support,” Shaw said.

Riverfest was scaled back slightly this year to include two stages of performers instead of three. However, the event expanded to include an alcohol- and tobacco-free “kids zone,” which Shaw intends to include next year to continue to promote Riverfest as a family-friendly event.

“If we have to consider downsizing, one of the things we’ll have to do is go to one stage,” said Shaw.  

No entertainers have been booked yet for 2009 Riverfest, primarily because performers require a minimum 50 percent deposit for their fees. The Riverfest board currently has about $15,000, said Shaw, which will be spent on producing materials to solicit potential sponsors.  

“It could get to that point,” said Shaw when asked if it’s possible Riverfest could be scrapped altogether due to a lack of funds. “We’re giving ourselves until November before we start to panic. That’s when we have to have the entertainment booked so we can begin to sort out all the details.”

Riverfest is a nonprofit organization, spun off after the spring festival was begun 21 years ago. Donations can be made online at www.riverfestms.com, or by calling Shaw at 601-630-4363.