Riverfest success: Festival organizer impressed by ‘crazy’ turnout

Published 7:00 pm Monday, June 6, 2022

NILES — Sunday evening marked the end of a fan favorite festival.

Until next year, that is.

The 2022 edition of Riverfest closed its doors Sunday evening. The annual festival featured live music, carnival rides, games and food and craft vendors. 

Josh Sitarz, president of the Riverfront Optimist Club of Niles, was pleased with the strong turnout in spite of the mixed weather at the festival.

“The turnout we had was crazy,” he said. “The rain over the weekend did not stop people from coming down. Even when it was raining, kids were riding the rides. The band kept playing. It was a great event.”

Riverfest – which was revived last year following a seven-year hiatus – serves as a fundraiser for the growth and development of the festival.

Having heard of traditions of Riverfest past growing up, Sitarz wanted to bring back longtime festival staples while bringing in new traditions. Re/Max Niles hosted a non-static hot air balloon Saturday and Lumberjax Urban Axe Throwing was on hand Saturday and Sunday for guests to test their skills. Doe-Wah-Jack’s Canoe Rental, 52963 M-51, Dowagiac, was there for guests looking to explore the St. Joseph River.

Sitarz enjoyed putting Riverfest together and is already looking forward to next year’s edition.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I never got to grow up when Riverfest was in its prime. I took some notes from what they did and wanted to add to it. Niles residents love Riverfest. We did have to change the dates but I think it will work in the future. 

“Riverfest isn’t going anywhere soon as long as I’m alive.”

With Riverfest 2022 in the books, the Riverfront Optimist Club is gearing up for the Niles Bluegrass Festival, which will take place from Thursday, July 7 to Sunday, July 10 at the amphitheater and will feature several popular bluegrass and Americana acts as well as food and beverage vendors.