Riverfest returns with activities old and new

Mike Easterling
Festival goers ride a raft down the Animas River on May 23, 2015, during the Riverfest celebration in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – The trails system along the Animas River through Animas and Berg parks is widely regarded as one of the city’s top attractions, but Jeanene Valdes says she’s sometimes taken aback by how many local residents have never taken advantage of them.

“I think that’s especially true of younger people,” said the co-chair of this weekend’s annual Riverfest celebration, which takes place along those trails. “There are a lot of them who haven’t been there, haven’t been exposed to it. So we try to have a little bit more for a broader audience (to bring younger people to the festival).”

Riverfest has been around for three decades, and the event has evolved a great deal since it was birthed in the mid-1980s, with a number of activities being added and subtracted over that time. This year, the festival will reach into its past and resurrect a once-popular activity — a plastic duck race — that was discontinued several years ago.

“It’s heavy to facilitate,” Valdes said, explaining why the duck races were dropped. “It’s a lot of work.”

But festival organizers are expecting the race to be one of this year’s more popular attractions, and they’ve prepared 4,200 plastic ducks that can be purchased for $5 and entered in the race. Each duck will have a registration number printed on a sticker attached to its belly, and the owner of the winning duck will win a Jeep Wrangler — a $48,000 grand prize.

DeMarco Gutierrez falls as he plays in a giant bubble on May 23, 2015, during Riverfest at Animas Park in Farmington.

Other prizes include a five-night trip to Las Vegas, Nev.; a fishing retreat on the San Juan River with accommodations at the Soaring Eagle Lodge, golf packages and original artwork. The race takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 29 on Willets Ditch near the Rocky Reach Landing.

Another new activity this year is the Riverfest Recycled Fashion Show taking place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Red Barn in Animas Park. The event is presented by the Piedra Vista High School Honor Society, Farmington Clean and Beautiful and Waste Management. Valdes said the event is targeted for students in middle school and high school.

Other leading attractions at the festival include live music and Native dancers. The Cadillac Angels are the headliner and will perform showcases on Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28. Other musical acts scheduled to perform are the Delbert Anderson Trio and Def-I, Black Velvet, Crossroads, Fools Gold, This Time Around, Tennille’s Violin House, … And Beyond, Jokers Wild, the Old Trumpet Geezers, Tyra Preston, Country Company, After Midnight, Desert Muse and Andean Fusion. The dancing groups include the Ukestine Zuni Pueblo Dancers, the Kalama Polynesian Dancers and the Joe Tohonnie Jr. White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers.

The Riverfest Fine Arts Show takes place all three days in the big white tent at River Reach Terrace at Berg Park. More than 20 local and regional artists will be displaying and selling their work, which ranges from oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings to mixed-media, metal and ceramic work, along with jewelry, photography, stained glass and woodwork. The list of artists featured this year includes Randy Follis, Anthony Emerson, Elizabeth Shull, Karen Ellsbury, Patrick Hazen, Marco Arvio, Debbie Clay, John Bentz, Lori Miller, Chelsea Miller, Venaya Yazzie, Marilyn Taylor, Fran Mayfield, John Harris, Catherine Thomas-Kemp, Dan Ludwig, Ruth Ann Mordecki, Johnnie Smallwood, Doug Miller, Michael Bulloch and Tim Gordon.

Artwork by Marilyn Taylor will be featured in the Riverfest Fine Art Show taking place this weekend at the River Reach Terrace.

Additionally, the Plein Air Painters of the Four Corners will be presenting the Plein Air Paint Off competition, during which any artist may paint a piece from anywhere along the Animas River on Saturday. Those works then will be displayed in the Riverfest Fine Art Show tent, where members of the public will have the opportunity to view them and vote for the best painting.

Valdes said another new activity this year that organizers hope catches on is bubble soccer, which will take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at The Arena at the River Reach Terrace. Players will compete while wearing large inflatable bubbles on the top half of their body. They will be grouped in teams of three for pickup games that last five to seven minutes, and they must be at least 15 to participate.

Returning this year will be the popular Great Weiner Dog Races, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at The Arena at River Reach Terrace. The entry fee is $5, and the winner of each heat will be allowed to pick an envelope featuring gifts and prizes from local businesses.

For fitness buffs, the annual Riverfest 10k Run, 5k Run and 2-Mile Walk will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday in Animas Park. The entry fee is $20 for the runs and $12 for the walk, which includes a race T-shirt and age-group awards, both male and female. The deadline to register is 1 p.m. Friday, May 27. Call 505-599-1184.

The festival also includes rafting trips, a car show, a beer and wine garden, children’s activities, a disc golf tournament, a Xeriscape garden tour, a yoga flow class, a K-9 demonstration and the One Nation Gourd Dance at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Veterans Memorial in Berg Park.

Photography by Patrick Hazen will be included in the Riverfest Fine Art Show taking place this weekend at the River Reach Terrace in Berg Park.

Valdes said it would be hard to determine which Riverfest event is the most popular.

“That kind of depends on who you are,” she said. “The weiner dog races definitely get the most people, but a lot of people really like to come down for the music. And the American Indian (performers) really bring in a lot of people.”

But Valdes has no trouble naming her favorite part of Riverfest.

“The part I like the best is being exposed to so many great people and organizations that care enough to go and give us some of their time during such a great weekend,” she said. “Their flexibility and attitudes go a long way toward us trying to have a great event for people who come here from outside the area. This helps Farmington shine in a way we all know it does, but other people may not. It also instills that community pride and overall good feeling about who you are and what you’re doing.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Riverfest 2016

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 27; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 28; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 29

Admission: Free

For more information: Call 505-716-4405 or visit riverreachfoundation.com