Imagine the heat and sun of the 12th RivahFest Summer Solstice Festival on the Rivah. Throughout the long, snowy winter, this thought has fired the enthusiasm of this year’s team of volunteer leaders. Here’s a glimpse of how it has all come together.
Planning starts immediately. As one RivahFest closes, bands are booked 12 months ahead for the next. The philosophy of RivahFest is to bring in top East Coast bands that energize an audience and appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes. Chris Quann, guitarist with Southern Tide band, has been sampling live concerts to secure the best music for the Tappahannock RivahFest crowd. Cedar Creek Band will return for the afternoon session and the Mark Roberts Band from Myrtle Beach will close the festival.
During the fall and winter, the steering committee searches for new activities that will enhance RivahFest. This year we will host the Virginia Civil War Commission’s sesquicentennial HistoryMobile museum on Cross Street. RivahFest has partnered with the Essex County Museum to manage the exhibit and enhance it with Essex County’s own Civil War history exhibit as well as Civil War reenactors.
After New Year, the countdown begins with monthly meetings to run through a checklist with the chairs of the 20 different activity centers that make this festival so diverse and appealing. Most of the directors heading up RivahFest have been in leadership roles since the festival’s inception in 2003.
The challenge of raising sponsorship funds is headed up by Kevin Dolan, Rebecca Hubert and Elizabeth Franklin - $1,000 Platinum, $500 Gold and $250 Silver provide high profile visibility. Keeping track of all the funds flowing through RivahFest is John Clickener’s responsibility, veteran treasurer since 2003.
The area guaranteed to please your palette is Tastes of Tappahannock on Water Lane. The challenge to expert Co-Chairs Bruce Thomas and Kristen Morris is to offer the widest possible variety of foods, healthy choices and highest quality vendors. Look for funnel cakes, soft shell crab sandwiches, haunches of pork, fresh pressed fruit drinks, and much more!
Closely allied to the delights of the food area, the Beer and Wine Garden is only a few steps away. By tradition and in fairness to visitors and local golden beverage distributors, the choice alternates annually between Budweiser and, for 2014, Millers. Pat Martin has managed the beer garden volunteers for over a decade and passes the reins to Tim Saunders with one piece of advice – when the temperature rises, order more beer!
Mid-spring the musical wheels start to turn for RivahFest Idol contest. Rich Morgan and Terry Brooks set dates for try-outs and the search for new talent begins. A few weeks before RivahFest a panel of judges listens to as many as 40 contestants and selects ten finalists for the main stage final at 11am.
No festival is complete without fun for the kids – St. Margaret’s campus becomes a Kidz Zone of inflatables, rock climbs, pony rides, bungee trampoline, and other rides and activities. Annette Coleman has all age ranges in mind. Campus fun includes local personality dunking, the Rotary crab race and the KonKons art workshop, along with a teen activity area and a thriving maritime section with local boat dealers and their latest lines of jet-skis and power boats.
St. Margaret’s campus is host to the Gospel Stage, which features a popular daylong gospel concert, a welcome alternative entertainment brought together by Shane Gallagher and friends.
Any successful event seeks out synergy by bringing together multiple successful activities. Managed by Peyton Guest, the antique car show is typical of that kind of success that allows antique car clubs, some from out of state, a huge, appreciative audience while providing the 150+ car owners and their families an exciting recreational destination during the display and judging of their vehicles. Rarely do the stars align so well!
Visitors love to focus on the arts and crafts lining up on Prince Street, Courthouse Green and Fountain Green. Dawn Howeth, area chair, assisted by Katherine Newman, is planning for over a hundred quality vendors, with products selected that can genuinely be called artistic or crafted. Terry Gruner manages the community organization booths and commercial products in the adjacent Merchants’ Market on Cross and Duke Streets.
Introduced four years ago, cornhole grows in strength every year. This summer’s tourney is under the management of charismatic Billy Healy. Twice as many teams will be able to participate this year in the play area at Lowery’s where players can imbibe while tossing beanbags.
As the RivahFest afternoon activities draw to a close, 3,000 rubber ducks paddle their way to a $1,000 victory on the Rappahannock Rivah urged on by emcee John Lawler. John and wife Joni decked out in their yellow duck suits treat this like the Kentucky Derby.
Jeff James manages the staggering amount of organization that goes into the logistics behind RivahFest - school buses that shuffle folks from satellite car parks, signage, banners, toilet facilities, traffic routing, road closures and other behind the scenes elements vital to the success of the festival. Safety Chairman Corey Beazley manages festival staff radio communications and EMS to keep us all safe and connected! RivahFest appreciates the support of the local
community, services, schools, businesses, and organizations.
At the end of the day, entertainment, beverages and food bring visitors and volunteers together at the corner of Water Lane and Prince Street. You will undoubtedly find Co-Chairs Sharon James and David Broad enjoying a beverage and trying to relax, getting ready to synthesize the experiences of the day as the first step to planning for 2015.
Yes, it takes a year of planning by a dedicated, creative team and the participation of over 500 volunteers to bring RivahFest to fruition — check us out at www.rivahfest.com and join us for this daylong summer celebration on the Rivah!