This is Riverfest's 20th anniversary coming up.

Riverfest sprints for sponsors

Published 6:54pm Wednesday, July 18, 2012

There will be a 20th anniversary Niles Riverfest Aug. 2-5, showcasing the St. Joseph River with dragon boat races and the “Anything that Floats” movie-themed raft spectacle, but a firm schedule remains a few days away as organizers scramble to shore up fundraising.

“For us to put on the festival we put on in the past, we probably need $17,000 more,” said Tom Majerek, who has been on the committee since 1994, primarily in an entertainment and raft role.

He’s optimistic that, despite city council’s $2,500 cut July 9, 1st Source Bank “coming forward immediately” at the platinum donor level “shows how important this is to the community.”

If Majerek’s optimism, based on relationships he’s built over two decades, particularly with musicians, doesn’t pan out, then the summer festival finale will be scaled back, starting with its largest expenses, entertainment and advertising.

He expects to produce a tentative schedule Friday, pinning events down by Monday.

There are a number of costs for insurance, trash, toilets, T-shirts and supplies. The free festival was undergoing a leadership transition, compounded by its reserve depleted by several years of economic downturn. With elevated gas prices, organizers of festivals such as Riverfest have hoped it translates into people staying close to home and rediscovering what local communities have available.

“There is, of course, urgency,” Majerek said Wednesday evening, “but all the bills don’t get paid that day. We didn’t regroup quickly enough since last year and got a late start. Before the city made its decision, we were already behind. With no money in the bank in the winter, it’s hard to plan a festival under those conditions. It saddens me to ask bands that have supported us all these years to take a cut to keep this going, but there are a lot of good, local musicians who love Riverfest.”

Potential sponsors can contact Majerek at (269) 845-9815 or Lisa Croteau at Niles Main Street, 687-4332.

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