Archived Story

Editorial: Riverfest needs gut check

Published 10:03pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Niles Riverfest has established a good foundation after 20 years in existence — name recognition in the community, a prime location and two unique, signature events, the Anything That Floats raft race and the Dragonboat Challenge.

So why is it barely staying afloat?

Organizers of the festival have bailed, no fundraising efforts have taken place in two years and its scheduling is a total mess.

The question is, are the wrong people at the helm, or do citizens just not care?

Riverfest has all the ingredients for a good festival; however, sometimes you need to take a second look at the recipe.

The four-day affair could easily be cut to two days —Friday and Saturday. Attendance is down to a trickle Thursday and Sunday, with no major attractions to draw visitors.

Instead of scheduling a slew of small musical acts, consider a few bigger-name bands with a strong local following.

Regionally, promote the heck out of the raft and dragonboat races — these are entertaining, quirky events with lots of participation. Contact media outlets and interact on social networking sites to drum up interest. That is free.

Other long-standing area festivals have had to re-evaluate. Organizers of St. Joseph’s Venetian Festival hung it up after 33 years, and Dowagiac’s 27-year-old Summer in the City is on at least its fourth name.

Niles has two other great festivals — the Apple Festival and Hunter Ice Festival — which garner interest from not just this community, but the region. Sometimes funding is tight, but volunteers and sponsors pitch in to make them happen.

Riverfest can be Niles’ trademark summer celebration — it just needs a makeover.

This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.

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