By Vicki Ikeogu
Yawn, stretch and prepare for a long, busy day because Monticello Riverfest activities start bright and early Saturday.
First on the to-do list – especially for athletes of all ages – is the 5K run/walk at West Bridge Park starting at 8:30 a.m.
It’s been a family tradition for coordinator Dave Wik.
“I enjoy seeing familiar faces come back year after year,” Wik said. “I am the boys’ cross country and track coach at the high school so I also enjoy promoting a well-organized running event people can enjoy.”
The 5K run/walk has been a staple of Riverfest for over 25 years.
And Wik has helped put on the race for almost as long.
“I like the fact the race gives families the chance to participate together or ‘compete’ against each other,” he said.
Even some of the youngest members of the family can join in on the race. The kids’ fun runs start at 9:20 a.m. and are designed for toddlers (the 250-meter Toddler Trot) and young children (with a 700-meter run).
Kids runs are free. The 5K run/walk is $20 if online registration is completed by July 12. Register at monticelloraceseries.com. It is $25 on race day.
While runners are taking their mark in West Bridge Park, about 60 art and craft vendors from across the state have taken over Ellison Park for the 25th annual Riverside Art in the Park.
“We have a committee that works very hard to find new art vendors each year,” said Marcy Anderson, Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s director. “It’s a very fun event. I look forward to this every year.”
Volunteers for the Chamber event arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. to help set up the park for the show with vendors arriving shortly after. The event officially kicks off at 8 a.m.
There are about 15 new art vendors this year. Anderson said one is even making the journey from Texas.
“A lot of people go to get a new piece each year,” Anderson said. “There is something for everyone’s taste and budget.”
While browsing through the aisles of artwork, visitors can also partake in another popular event, Taste of Monticello.
Much like the Riverside Art in the Park, Anderson said there is a careful selection process to make sure all Taste of Monticello vendors are unique.
Local musicians – often from Friday’s talent show – also make an appearance to help entertain the large crowd.
And for the kids, the Harold Express departs regularly for train ride trips around the park.
And if food and art aren’t enough to draw your attention to Ellison Park (highly doubtful though), Riverfest goers have the option to head down to watch dozens of teams compete for bragging rights – and a $500 prize – at the Sixth Annual
Riverfest Bean Bag Tournament.
“It has grown every year,” said Jason Kisner, co-chair of the bean bag tournament. “I think it has become so popular because the beauty [of it] is that anybody can do it. If you’re 8-years-old or 80-years-old, you can toss these bags and have fun.”
Two person teams (with one alternate allowed) start the competition at 10 a.m. The double elimination tournament lasts until about 3:30 p.m.
“Typically, we have about 35 to 42 teams compete each year,” said co-chair John Thurber. “And what’s great is that most teams that get eliminated will stick around to see who the winner is.”
Registration for the tournament can be done in advance. But the tournament does allow same-day registration starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 15. Cost is $30 per team.
Free park and ride shuttles depart regularly starting at 7:30 a.m. and running until 4 p.m. so festival goers can enjoy the day and not worry about scouting out the perfect parking spot.
More information on the route can be found at monticelloriverfest.com.
After a brief break in the activity, Riverfest festivities continue in the parking lot of the Monticello Community Center.
Starting at 5 p.m., local musician Terry DuBois will take the stage. Jam to some classic pop, rock and country tunes while enjoying some food from concession stands sponsored by the Monticello Women of Today. And of course, there is a beer garden.
“Families are encouraged to come early and have a picnic dinner,” said Cathy Shuman, chair of the Saturday night dance concessions. “We will be serving up hot dogs, chips and pop starting at 5:30 p.m.”
At 8 p.m. the street dance kicks off with The Shane Martin Band taking the stage to wrap up the third day of action.
“Families love coming to the Saturday night dance,” Shuman said. “It’s fun to be outdoors, listening to great music and enjoying a beer and hot dog. It’s very family oriented.”
The street dance runs until 11:30 p.m.
Vicki Ikeogu is a freelance feature and business writer for the Monticello Times.