Riverfest returns this week with four fun-filled days

Here’s a start of the week welcome to the 37th annual edition of Monticello’s long-awaited summer celebration.
The four fun-filled days in early to mid July bring out the best that Monticello has to offer, thanks largely in part to the hard work of the Riverfest Committee.
The group is comprised of a variety of non-profit organizations, including the Monticello Lions, Rotary and Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as a a number of dedicated community members who come back year after year to meet monthly to arrange the entertaining Thursday through Sunday event line-up.
“We now have more than 20 civic organizations volunteering their time and efforts,” said Mick Maher, Monticello Lions Club member and advertising chairman.
Wes Olson, another longtime Riverfest Committee member, said Riverfest began on or around 1976 as a Lions parade and chicken dinner in the park.
After 20 years, the Lions invited other other community non-profit organizations to participate, and new events were annually added to make Riverfest what it is today.
“Around 1997 Julie Lindquist brought her ideas to the table for a non competitive talent show, and we’ve had that ever since,” Olson said.
“Shortly after we began the family night at Pioneer Park, insisting it be a non alcohol event for families and small children.”
Each year, the Monticello Lions play a key role in Riverfest operations, because the club’s first president also serves as Riverfest chairperson.
Tim Kordell has been Riverfest chairman since August 2012.
“The chairperson’s responsibilities start with conducting meetings with local organizations that comprise the Riverfest Committee,” Kordell said.
“It’s also the chairperson’s responsibility to follow up to ensure all decisions made during planning meetings have been taken care of by the committee members,” he said. “I think the most rewarding part about being involved with Riverfest is the opportunity to work with wonderful people, and see our hard work end with a successful event.”
Kordell didn’t hesitate when asked to name his favorite Riverfest event. I would have to say my favorite event is actually a favorite day,” he said. “I have to go with Sunday’s parade, ending with the duck race and Miss Monticello coronation and chicken dinner. From start to finish, this is truly a community event.”
Riverfest 2013 kicks off Thursday, July 11, with the opening celebration at Pioneer Park from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The party includes the annual car show, the Monticello Community Choir, community leaders pie eating contest and fun events for kids. Buy a Sloppy Joe meal and get a free Riverfest logo Frisbee.
According to Riverfest car show chairman and organizer Alex Duran, the number of cars expected for the opening night show is sometimes hard to gauge.
“Each year the weather has a huge play in how many show up,” he said. “I usually have about 150 for a goal, but our participants are increasing each year.”
Car associations or clubs that participate in the Monticello do their own event coordination, Duran said.
“There are always unique cars at our show,” he said. “You do not have to preregister, so its hard to say what associations or clubs will be there this year. We have had custom hot rods built from the ground up, new Corvettes and Camaros that just rolled off the sales floor, old John Deere tractors and decked street cars pushing almost 1,000 horsepower. The variety is great.”
This is Duran’s sixth year as a Riverfest volunteer. While serving as  chairman of the car show is his primary duty, he helps with other activities when needed.
New this year at the opening celebration is the Airmaxx Trampoline Launchpad.
The petting zoo featuring exotic animals and pony rides return and there will be a K-9 demonstration. Pioneer Park is located near Monticello High School, on the southwest corner of the School Boulevard and Fallon Avenue intersection.
The 13th Annual Community Talent Show returns Friday, July 13.  The show will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Monticello High School auditorium. Admission is $3.
Jacquelin Gordon, talent show organizer and event chairperson, has coordinated the show since 2009. This year’s show will feature vocal solos, vocal groups, a piano solo, an accordion medley, poetry reading, a dramatic monologue, a band and individual and groups of dancers.
This community showcase of talent includes a wide variety of performing arts. Monticello Community Theater conducts talent show auditions in June. “Acts are selected and the order of performance is determined.
Each act is scheduled for a rehearsal time Monday or Tuesday the week of the talent show,” Gordon said. At that time, performers have the opportunity to experience performing on the stage at Monticello High Performing Arts Center with lights and sound enhancements. Gordon has been with Monticello Community Theater for about 9 years.
Several MCT board members help with the talent show.  Master of Ceremonies Perry Sloneker interviews each performer and shares interesting information when he introduces each act.  Elizabeth Calpas oversees backstage. keeping the performers focused and calm while at the same time helping the stage hands set up each act, and Christine Castillo keeps track of the microphones for the performers.  Tracey Biegert, who previously served as talent show coordinator, assists with sound and lights.
“We all try to use our theater experiences to advise and coach the performers as needed,” Gordon said. “I manage the tickets and out front house concerns. The Monticello Magic Dance Team assists with selling tickets and handing out the programs.  I work with Community Education and the high school staff to be sure performers have all the equipment they need.”
The Riverfest 5K Run and Walk and the Kid Runs start the Riverfest schedule on Saturday, July 13.
According to organizer and event chairman Dave Wik, the 5K will start at 8:30 a.m. and Fun Runs (250 Meter Toddler Trot, and 700 Meter Kids Run) will start 9:15 a.m. The certified course starts and finishes at West Bridge Park at the intersection of River Street and Highway 25 near downtown.
Refreshments will be provided after the race. T-Shirts are guaranteed to the first 425 registered for the 5K. Fun Run registration is free and is available on race day. Wik said the 5K has been part of Riverfest for at least 22 years.
“There are no age restrictions for either Fun Run,” he said.  “All kids get a finish line treat.” Wik, a runner and high school coach, has retired from competitive running but promotes running and fitness within the community. “I also enjoy cooperating with organizations to make Riverfest events happen,” he said.
Riverside Art In The Park, Taste of Monticello, the second annual Riverfest Bean Bag Tournament and street dance round out Saturday’s main activities.
The Riverfest parade starts at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14. Frank Holmes, event chairman and organizer, reports there are more than 122 units registered, including three bands.“The difficult part of the parade is getting everyone to their designated numbered spot or location, Holmes said. “We put spotters around the parade route, with some on golf carts or scooters and some stationary at intersections.” Holmes said he’s been working on Monticello Riverfest parade planning since 2007.
“I believe one of the secrets of a good parade is taking the time to be sure the groups and or floats in the parade that have music are not next to each other so they won’t drown each other out,” he said. “We work hard to spread out clowns, go carts, bands and other units so there’s always something down the way.”
Holmes said the length of Sunday’s parade depends on the number of units and how well they keep moving. “When you have a lot of groups they stop and play music, do a dance routine, go cart maneuvers or whatever the case may be, it all adds time,” he said. “But keeping our spectators happy is always the goal.”

Watch for additional Riverfest stories and updates this week at www.monticellotimes.com.

Contact Managing Editor Tim Hennagir at [email protected]