Fun, food, foibles of Riverfest remembered with affection
Funny how even the water we grumble about is missed once the well conveying it has run dry.
And quite a few proverbial wells are running dry. We’re in an era where nothing can be taken for granted anymore. We realize too late that those things at which we’ve come to roll our eyes and turn up our noses represented privileges. Moments of our lives to be celebrated (to borrow that phrase from the old commercials for General Foods International coffees). The things about which we wax nostalgic, about which we regale our grandchildren with tales.
The latest newly dry well? Riverfest … which, it was recently announced, has been suspended indefinitely after 40 years because its hurdles, including skyrocketing performer fees, competing festivals and uncooperative weather, have gotten too high to jump.
Hubby and I grumbled about the festival. We sat out the last handful of its incarnations because of ticket prices and performers that didn’t interest us, not to mention the age-related waning of our tolerance for parking problems and crowds.
Now here I am a tad mistyeyed as I admit that Riverfest, in its salad days, provided one of the soundtracks of my life. Not to mention sighttrack. And smelltrack. And touchtrack. And definitely, definitely, tastetrack.
When it comes to out-ofstate festivals, I’ve been to only several — Africa in April in Memphis, Taste of Chicago in the early ’80s, Bumbershoot in Seattle in 2003, the Mudbug Madness Festival in Shreveport in 2004, the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans in 2011 and, if this qualifies, the famously ill-fated Louisiana World Exposition, also held in the Big Easy, in 1984. Of course, it was Riverfest, right here at home, that provided the most experiences and memories.
Just a few of those memories:
■ The initial admission price: Zero. My complaining when admission went up to a whopping $5 some years ago. (Shaking my doggone head now.)
■ Those event buttons that served as passes. Kudos to the folks who thought to collect them.
■ The Riverfest cups I did sort of collect with the ex-hubby — with whom I apparently left them.
■ The monumentally bad decision to venture out only two weeks after major surgery to see soul-and-bluesman Tyrone Davis perform during Riverfest 1999.
■ Seeing the likes of James Brown; the Gap Band; Lakeside; Roberta Flack; Peabo Bryson; Chaka Khan; Kool & the Gang; Earth, Wind and Fire; and B.B. King, some of whose performances I reviewed for this newspaper. ■ Getting nearly trampled after trying to pitch folding seats to see L.L. Cool J up close on the north-shore stage, and having to see him perform from a distance. (We were in the infancy of our “getting too old for this” stage at that point.)
■ Spending time backstage in 2008 with members of hiphop group Arrested Development.
■ Those doggone River Money tickets. You always had, like one left, so you had to go and buy more tickets to be able to redeem the dang thing.
■ Going to other, non-festival events at which attendees were forced to exchange money for tickets, then tickets for goods … and blaming Riverfest.
■ That time or two of being blessed with an extra River Money ticket by someone who was departing the festival.
■ Two words: funnel cake. ■ Ten words: Those chicken kebabs served at the Arkansas Philippine Association booth. ■ Shopping for various knickknacks and gewgaws in the artisan tents.
■ The two stints spent living only several blocks away from Riverfest … a double-edged sword. The upside: Being able to walk to the festival without worrying about or paying for parking, and being able to see the fireworks from the apartment building. The downside: Worrying about other festivalgoers parking in the lot designated for tenants at our building. The often-humorous side: The war whoops of festivalgoers as they departed the event at night, especially after the fireworks finale.
■ The people-watching, period. Always, always priceless.
So count me among those offering up thanks to all Riverfest movers and shakers for the entertainment feats they were able to pull off for as long as they were able to pull them off.
Y’all wouldn’t happen to have a turkey leg left, would you?