Riverfest returns

Published 9:31 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Tonight the band High Life will open Niles Riverfest 2009 at Riverfront Park in downtown Niles, along the St. Joseph River at 7 p.m.

One of Southwestern Michigan’s most popular family festivals for 19 years, the fun will run through Sunday, Aug. 9.

This free events includes entertainment, food, craft booths, a car show, kids’ games and more.

The 2009 Mr. and Ms. Riverfest Pageant will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m., at the Riverfront Park amphitheater, with High Life returning for an evening concert at 8:45.
Contestants will be judged on stage presence, personality and an interview with the panel of judges.

This is not your typical “beauty contest.” Judges are looking for individuals who are able to represent Riverfest in the community well-and support what Riverfest is all about.
Mr. and Ms. Riverfest 2009 will receive a crown, sash and be awarded hundreds of dollars in gifts and prizes, and the first runners up will receive special gifts as well. The reigning Mr. and Ms. Riverfest 2008 will pass on their crowns to the new winners.
Pancake breakfasts will be offered each morning at Riverfront Park beginning at 8 a.m.
During the day Friday, businesses and teams will be busy down by the boat ramp, behind the police station, decorating their rafts, beginning at noon.

Also at noon Friday is sign-up for the Battle of the Bands which will support the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. The bands will play from 1 p.m. at the Amphitheater.

At 5 p.m. is karaoke, before the opening ceremonies when  Riverfest board members and local dignitaries officially kick-off the festival.

On stage at 7 is Forever Gypsy followed by Chris Young, Elvis impersonator at 7:30, the Battle of the Bands winners and Forever Gypsy.

Friday’s activities end at 9:30 p.m. at the boat dock, with the Awakening of the Dragon ceremony – the prelude to the dragon boat races.

This original Chinese ritual includes dotting the eyes of the dragon’s head on each boat. The ceremony is conducted to cleanse and bless the area of the competition, the competitors and their boats. It also gives the boats and its crew the strength of the Dragon and the blessing of the Goddess of the Sea.

For the 12th year in a row, Niles Riverfest will feature a Dragon Boat Challenge, which will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. with both competitive or non-competitive races.
Another event not to miss on Saturday is the 15th Annual All Car & Truck Show, also being at 9 a.m. at the North Stage.

The arts and crafts show booths also open at 9 a.m. Saturday. Entertainment on stage begins at 10 and runs through the day with Jetta & the Jelly Beans at 3 and the Whistle Pigs at 8 p.m.

A highlight of the weekend is the “Anything Floats” raft race at 2 p.m. Spectators line the bridges and St. Joseph shoreline to watch the unique rafts work their way from the boat dock to Riverfront Park.

Sunday the Church of Niles service is at 10 a.m., craft booths open at 11 a.m. Stage entertainment continues with Niles native and world known Elvis impersonator, Irv Cass, performing at 3 p.m.

John Cowan band is at 6 p.m