Riverfest organizers aiming to draw faraway visitors as event returns from 2-year absence

Event includes kickoff party, two-day festival this weekend

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Riverfest runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Admission is free, but some of the activities do include a charge.
  • Call 505-716-4405 for more information or visit riverfestnewmexico.com to download a schedule.

FARMINGTON —With organizers anticipating a crowd perhaps as large as 30,000 people, the three-day Riverfest celebration returns after a two-year absence this weekend to the banks of the Animas River.

Cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-running celebration of Farmington's riverine corridors gets underway with a kickoff party on Friday, May 27, before the festival proper opens its two-day run on the morning of Saturday, May 28.

As always, the event features live music, children's activities, art, vendors, whitewater rafting, beer and wine gardens, food trucks, tractor rides, car shows, wiener dog races, a recycled fashion show and a charity rubber duck race.

The disappointment over the festival's cancellation the last two years was palpable in the community, but event organizers are planning on making up for it this year. With the help of a national events planning firm, LEO Events, Riverfest has been promoted well beyond the Four Corners and is expected to draw visitors from a considerable distance this year.

D'Ann Waters, president of the River Reach Foundation, the nonprofit organization that stages the festival, said she anticipates drawing some visitors from as far away as Texas, where many of those out-of-state marketing efforts were concentrated.

A floating parade in which participants make their way down the Animas River while clad in costumes will serve as one of the highlights of this year's Riverfest celebration on Sunday.

Those visitors will be greeted by a record number of vendors this year, Waters said. The list includes 50 arts and crafts vendors and another 45 who will be hawking the wares of local businesses.

That doesn't include the dozens of food and beverage trucks that will be set up near the River Reach stage in Berg Park and the Rocky Reach Stage in Animas Park, which are the two main live music venues for the festival. The list of performers includes the Zia Chicks, Funkified, Black Velvet and D'DAT.

Funkified will perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the River Reach Stage in Berg Park at Riverfest.

"There's something for everyone," Water said, noting that the purpose of the event is to bring people down to the river to have a good time and celebrate the beginning of summer.

Waters said one of the festival's more popular attractions, a whitewater raft race down the Animas River, has been modified this year into a more leisurely affair. Participants will not be competing against each other, with the event converted to a floating parade with everyone encouraged to wear costumes.

Waters said rafts for the event will be rented by Desert River Guides and San Juan College, but participants also may bring their own raft, kayak or even innertube and join in the fun. The parade takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors from as far away as Texas are expected to attend this year's Riverfest celebration in Berg and Animas parks, which returns this weekend after a two-year absence.

Another event that Waters looks forward to is the rubber duck race at 2 p.m. Sunday at Willetts Ditch. Entries are $5 apiece, and cash prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers, including $2,000 for the winner. Waters said the proceeds generated from the race will be split between the River Reach Foundation and Rio del Sol Kiwanis for its Clothes for Kids programs, which provides children from disadvantaged families with shoes, coats and school clothes.

Revelers who don't want to wait until Saturday to get into the Riverfest spirit can enjoy the kickoff party that begins at 5 p.m. Friday at the River Reach Terrace in Berg Park off San Juan Boulevard in Farmington. The event features live music by Majik Ham and Tim Sullivan, art, and a beer and wine garden and food trucks. VIP tickets are $25.

Majik Ham will perform at the Riverfest kickoff party at 5 p.m. Friday at the River Reach Terrace in Berg Park.

Waters said she was especially pleased to have Majik Ham — a trio of teenagers from Durango, Colorado, who wowed the crowd at the inaugural Animas River Jam last year — performing at that event.

As of May 25, a total of 178 volunteers had been recruited to help run the festival, but Waters said several dozen more were needed to help staff all the venues.

"If any company wanted to come in, we have places for them to volunteer," she said. "It's a huge event that takes a lot of people."

Riverfest runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, but some of the activities do include a charge. Call 505-716-4405 for more information or visit riverfestnewmexico.com to download a schedule.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: htt://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.