Riverfest kicks off annual three-day run Friday

The annual event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday at the River Reach Terrace and continues through Sunday

Mike Easterling
Children enjoy last year's Riverfest on May 23 at Berg and Animas parks in Farmington. The annual event will return on Friday.

FARMINGTON — One of the problems inherent in running a 30-year-old, solidly entrenched community event is avoiding staleness.

That’s a challenge Riverfest organizers face, and they try to combat it by adding and subtracting attractions from the festival each year.

Last year, for instance, Riverfest co-chair Jeanene Valdes said the event went with three defined venues — locations where live music, food, vendors and other entertainment are offered — while a second beer and wine garden was added. Those changes paid off, Valdes said last week as she recounted the way the public responded to last year’s festival and shared details about continued preparations for this year’s event, which takes place this weekend in Animas and Berg parks along the Animas River.

“Oh, yeah, it was great,” she said. “We had a great turnout — people were all over the river. And we got a lot of good feedback. I think more people from this area went down to experience the trails. The main goal of Riverfest is to get people down to the river. There’s still an opportunity for people who haven’t been down there before to go down and see it.”

Ayden Theberge enjoys a tractor ride at last year's Riverfest on May 23 at Animas Park in Farmington.

The River Reach Foundation, the nonprofit organization that presents the festival each year, is dedicated to the protection, promotion and enhancement of the city’s riverine corridors. Much of its attention is focused on organizing Riverfest each year, but that is hardly the foundation’s only function.

“Our directive really hasn’t changed,” Valdes said of how the organization has evolved over the years. “It’s still about creating opportunities to enjoy the area and enjoy the trails. The nice thing about Riverfest is it highlights how important these areas really are.”

This will be the first Riverfest held on the park trails since the Gold King Mine spill in August — an incident that resulted in the leaking of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River and, eventually, the San Juan River.

Valdes said the River Reach Foundation is not a science-based foundation, but it supports organizations that are trying to measure the lingering effects of the spill, as well as those trying to determine to what degree the county’s rivers remain contaminated with bacteria associated with human waste, as a 2014 study showed.

“A lot of what we do is related to developing the trails around the river, and recreation is our overall focus, and trying to figure out where we fit in that to make the most impact,” she said.

Katie Richter and Kiera Richter search for feathers during last year's Riverfest on May 23 along the banks of the Animas River near Berg Park in Farmington.

One factor that can have a sizable impact on Riverfest attendance each year is beyond the control of festival organizers — the weather. After a relatively cool and wet April and early May, Valdes hopes this weekend is much sunnier.

“If it’s hot, it brings more people out,” she said. “People want to get out of the house and enjoy (spring). But this is a rain-or-shine event, and if we do have any rain delays or cancellations for any of the event, they’ll be posted on the Riverfest Facebook page.

Valdes said the weather for last year’s event was very good, with only a short rain shower on Sunday afternoon serving as a hiccup. But she said it actually was a welcome development, as it helped cool festival goers off on a warm afternoon.

She also noted that live music has been added to the Red Barn venue this year, so music lovers will have some place to go regardless of whether conditions are wet or dry this year.

The event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday at the River Reach Terrace with the opening reception for the Riverfest Fine Art Show, and music by the Delbert Anderson Trio and Def-I before the headlining act, the Cadillac Angels, performs at 7 p.m.

The festival continues through Sunday.

As it has in the past, Red Apple Transit will offer bus service to and from the festival. Buses will run from the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park to the festival every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Rides are $1 for adults and 50 cents for children ages 11 to 17, and seniors 65 and older. Children 10 years and younger ride for free.

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, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

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