River Reach Foundation president pleased with turnout for Riverfest after two-year hiatus

Windy conditions don't dampen enthusiasm for event

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Despite a handful of issues caused by high winds, the first Riverfest celebration in Farmington since 2019 unfolded in successful fashion last weekend, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to Berg and Animas parks and the Animas River.

D'Ann Waters, president of the River Reach Foundation, the nonprofit organization that promotes the city's riverfront areas and organizes the annual event, said an official attendance estimate won't be available from City of Farmington officials until next week. But she said that by just eyeballing the crowd, she guessed that attendance was more than 30,000 people, which is the kind of turnout foundation officials were hoping for.

"I think it was fantastic," Waters said. "I think we had more people than we had the last time (in 2019), for sure."

She said the vendors she spoke to were especially pleased with their sales during the two-day event, and many of them expressed their intention to return next year.

Joe Tohonnie Jr. and the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers perform at Berg Park's Little Pavilion at the River Reach Terrace the afternoon of Saturday, May 28, 2022, at the Riverfest celebration in Farmington.

While there was no scientific counting mechanism in place for determining attendance, Waters said it seemed to her that the density of the crowds made it very clear that the numbers were good.

"The paths were so crowded you could hardly walk down them," she said. "At Rocky Reach, there were a lot more people than in the past, and that may have been because we had more vendors there."

Waters pointed to several attractions that were especially popular, including a magician who performed between musical acts, a car show and the gourd dancers.

"And we need more face painters, because the lines were long," she said.

Crowds and vendors were back at Riverfest after a two-year hiatus. Customers are seen browsing at booths on Saturday, May 28, 2022, in Berg Park in Farmington.

The only problems that arose during the festival were the high winds that kicked up each afternoon, she said, which led to the inflatable children's attractions being shut down for safety reasons. But the folks from Fly High Adventure Park in Farmington provided some alternative children's offerings, she said, alleviating any disappointment.

"They did a wonderful job of stepping in at the last minute and providing a number of activities for children," she said. "And they're excited to do that again next year."

Another other issue Waters cited was her regret at a decision to move the time of the rubber duck race at Willetts Ditch to 2 p.m. Sunday. The event traditionally has been held an hour later, and Waters said the number of entries was negatively impacted by the earlier start time.

"We lost some sales because of that," she said.

Waters said she was grateful that Sunday's dust storm held off until the end of the festival, but she said it was a race for many of the vendors to get their goods packed away and get their tents down before conditions turned really challenging.

The area around the Little Pavilion on River Reach Terrace was standing room only May 28, 2022, but some of the younger crowd at the Riverfest celebration found some breathing, and dancing, room in an area just above.

Riverfest officials also experimented by reserving an area at Berg Park East for handicap parking to make it easier for people with disabilities to access the river. But Waters said the foundation did not limit access to the area by stationing a parking attendant there, and it wound up being filled with other vehicles.

The River Reach Foundation board will meet Thursday, June 9, to access the strengths and weaknesses of this year's festival and begin talking about plans for next year's event, Waters said. Next up for the foundation is the second annual Animas River Jam, a daylong music festival on the river set for Saturday, Oct. 8, in Animas and Berg parks.

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