Riverfest opens 3-day run Friday in Berg, Animas parks

Live music, fine art and other activities will be offered

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Visitors to Riverfest head down the Animas River on May 28 near Berg Park. The event returns today and continues through Sunday.
  • The event is planned and organized by the nonprofit River Reach Foundation.
  • A highlight of the festival each year is the wiener dog races planned for Saturday afternoon.
  • Approximately 26,000 people attended last year's festival.


FARMINGTON — Even with dozens of activities taking place over the space of three days along the banks of the Animas River during the 31st Riverfest celebration this weekend, the star attraction of the event remains the waterway itself.

And the Animas River is in particularly fine form this spring, featuring healthy flows that are the byproduct of a wet winter in the San Juan Mountains.

"The flows were down a little bit last week, but they should be coming back up," Riverfest co-chair Jeanene Valdes said today as she attended to details surrounding the staging of the annual celebration, which opens Friday.

Valdes noted the recent redesign of the Penny Lane Dam at Farmington Lake and the higher-than-normal flows on the river will make it possible for rafters to have an especially good experience this year, though she noted that safety should remain everyone's primary goal.

"They should be aware of other rafters and plan accordingly," she said. "And if this is your first time, just really be aware and do (your) research. The peak time may not be the best time to do a trial run."

As always, Riverfest — a project of the nonprofit River Reach Foundation, which is dedicated to the protection, promotion and enhancement of Farmington's riverine corridors — will feature a mix of live music, dance, fine art, fitness events, food and drink vendors, and other activities in Berg and Animas parks.

The music headliner for this year's festival is Tulsa bluesman Scott Ellison and his band. Over the course of his long career, Ellison played with the likes of Clarence Gatemouth Brown, the Drifters, the Coasters and Gary "U.S." Bonds before beginning his solo career and opening for such groups and artists as Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, B.B. King, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Buddy Guy and Roy Orbison.

Bluesman Scott Ellison and his band serve as the headliners for this year's Riverfest in Animas and Berg parks along the Animas River. The group will perform Friday and Saturday.


Ellison's band will take the stage Friday evening at the River Reach Terrace and Saturday evening at the Rocky Reach Landing.

The festival includes several events that visitors can take part in. The Riverfest Fun Run features 10k and 5k runs, and 2-mile walk on Saturday morning. The wiener dog races, perhaps the festival's most popular and enduring feature, also will be contested Saturday morning, and the plastic duck races take place Sunday afternoon.

The latter event was revived last year after an absence of several years, and it was so well received that organizers decided to bring it back this year, Valdes said. Each duck has a sticker with a registration number attached to its belly, and Riverfest visitors can purchase registration tickets that provide them with a chance to win. Valdes said last year approximately 2,500 tickets were sold.

Organizers have changed the structure of the duck races this year so that there will be a guaranteed winner of all the prizes. The first-place prize is a $4,000 voucher from Rio Grande Travel.

An event being held in conjunction with Riverfest will be the river parade planned for Saturday afternoon. Experienced river hands are asked to meet at noon at the Penny Lane Landing with their raft, kayak or other watercraft and join in. Costumes are encouraged. Anyone interested in being a part of the floating parade should call 406-207-3581.

Another highlight of the festival each year is the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council's Riverfest Fine Arts show at the River Reach Terrace, an event that showcases the work of many of the area's top artists. Additionally, local plein air painters will be working on projects throughout the park and taking part in a competition.

James Scoggins, 3, of Farmington, enjoys a ride during Riverfest on May 28 at Animas Park.


Other attractions and activities include a petting zoo, tractor rides, a recycled fashion show, gourd dancers, belly dancers and a beer and wine garden.

Last year's Riverfest drew approximately 26,000 people, Valdes said, and with the forecast for this weekend calling for clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, conditions should be optimal for getting outside.

"We're expecting a lot of people," she said.

Valdes acknowledged that a larger crowd can present some challenges, and she encouraged visitors to take advantage of the shuttle services that will operate. Red Apple Transit will run shuttle buses throughout the day Saturday from the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, and the San Juan Regional Medical Center will offer the Riverfest Express on Sunday from the museum.

The River Reach Foundation will sell commemorative bricks at the festival. The engraved pavers can feature a memorial, or a business or family name, and they will be installed at the River Reach Terrace. All profits raised from their sale will go to trail maintenance and expansion projects.

The festival is a collaboration between the foundation, the city of Farmington, the Farmington Police Department, the Farmington Fire Department and Red Apple Transit.

"We really want to extend our appreciation to our entire community and the city because without them this event would not happen," Valdes said.

Mike Easterling is the night editor at The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: The 31st Riverfest celebration

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Animas and Berg parks in Farmington

Admission: Free

For more information: Visit http://riverreachfoundation.com/ or call 505-716-4405