Fallen tree, parking complaints only issues associated with event

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FARMINGTON — Despite some parking issues and an unfortunate incident with a tree, the 33rd edition of Riverfest over the holiday weekend was a booming success, a festival official says.

Farmington parks officials were still tabulating attendance figures on May 28, but they estimated turnout was at a record high for the three-day celebration of the Animas River.

"Overall, the weather cooperated, and it was just wonderful," Riverfest sponsorship chairwoman Gloria Lehmer said.

She said the festival was especially well attended on Sunday, May 26. Historically, attendance has lagged on the final day of the festival, so organizers brought back the popular rubber duck race four years ago and started having it on Sunday, and that has helped remedy that attendance shortfall, she said.

"They were out in droves for that," she said.

The only development that marred the final day of the festival was a Russian olive tree that fell victim to the high winds that developed during the afternoon, Lehmer said. When the tree located just east of Willett Ditch in Animas Park toppled just after the duck race, it apparently struck a man who was visiting the festival with his wife, Lehmer said.

She said the man suffered a concussion and some sprains but was otherwise unharmed.

"Everybody responded very quickly to that," she said. "I talked to his wife on (May 27), and he's doing well."

Lehmer said the festival experienced its usual complaints about a shortage of parking, something organizers will meet to discuss next week. She said there is some vacant land near Berg Park East that festival officials hope to obtain the use of next year that would help alleviate the problem, and she said organizers are especially intent on remedying a lack of handicapped parking next year.

Well into its fourth decade, the festival remains as popular as ever, and community buy-in shows no signs of flagging. Lehmer said 150 volunteers signed up in advance to help, and others from various organizations showed up over the weekend to help direct motorists looking for a place to park.

Despite unseasonably cold and wet temperatures last week, the weather rallied nicely for the festival, especially on May 25, when sunny skies and a temperature near 80 degrees prevailed.

Food vendor Carrie West of The Spare Rib was still doing a brisk business a day later in turkey legs and other barbecue selections.

West said business was far better than last year, "Thanks to a little help from Mother Nature," she said, referring to the rain and snow that boosted the level of the Animas River this year. "Our sales were up this year."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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