Food vendors draw early Riverfest crowd

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- It wasn't even noon on Friday, but the foot traffic at Riverfront Park in Niles was increasing by the minute.
Riverfest didn't get officially under way until Friday night's opening ceremonies. Don't tell that to those who enjoyed lunch at Riverfront Park Friday.
A few late arriving Riverfest vendors were erecting their tents and organizing their stands.
The sun was poking through the cloud covered skies in short intervals, making it pleasantly hot.
Some vendors, however, were more ready than others.
They had already sold their first pancake breakfasts -- or was it brunch? -- to a few early festival goers.
Weimer, a veteran of Riverfest, commented on the amount of foot traffic at a relatively early stage of the festival.
He hopes Riverfest will continue to open people's eyes as to what downtown Niles has to offer.
Weimer believes this year's festival is going to be a great success, but he is unsure of what event will draw the most people.
Although many vendors at Riverfest are from the Niles area, a number of vendors of exotic foods add color to the festival.
One of them is Kenn Podleski, and his daughter, Shellie, from Traverse City.
The Podleskis travel around the country and visit festivals and fares making kettle corn from a 105-year-old recipe.
The Podleskis were also here at last year's Riverfest.
Kenn said he enjoys the location at which Riverfest is held, especially the river that runs through the city, and he thinks the festival is well organized.
Kenn expects to sell more kettle corn to the Riverfest crowd this year than he did last year.
However, it's relatively far from Traverse City to Pensacola, Fla., which is Brenda Carnley's home when she's not on the road introducing people to cajun cooking.
A five-year veteran with Riverfest, Carnley and her husband spend four months of the year in the Midwest going to fares, festivals and carnivals to sell their cajun food from their mobile stand.
Carnley said she enjoys coming to Riverfest, and the Midwest because people have a taste for cajun food.
However, those daring enough can also put their teeth into dishes made by alligator and crawfish.
The main event at Riverfest on Saturday is the Dragon Boat Race and the "Anything That Floats" raft race, which is actually no race at all, but more of a parade.
The winners of those two events will be announced at 7 p.m. from the Riverfront Park boat launch.

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