Welcome the new RiverFest
— now headed by Universal Fairs of Memphis
and the Riverfest Organization
. You can expect country music, kiddie rides at the "large Ford Family Fun Zone," and a return to Memorial Day Weekend.
Universal Fairs outlined its version of Riverfest today at a press conference at the
First Security Amphitheater downtown. The festival, which had previously been run by a nonprofit, closed due to financial concerns in 2017 after a 40-year run.
Now, Universal Fairs is "very confident" they can steer it into a sustainable direction. Not by abandoning all the traditions, said Jack Daniels, event director for Universal Fairs, but by shedding some of "traditions you have to keep up" when running an institution.
It's not a change so much as "doing Riverfest differently," said Daniels, stressing they have "good feelings between the previous operators," as a chance to "stop and reboot."
RiverFest will still pull in a mix of local, regional and national music. Likely country and rock music, genres in which Universal Fairs can leverage their relationships from
the state fairs they run (the Delta State Fair, the Virginia State Fair, the Georgia State Fair).
Add to that a more fair-like atmosphere: the aforementioned Ford Family Fun Zone with adult and kiddie rides, a Disney star for kids, and, of course, beer will continue.
You'll also see an end to River Bucks (meaning you'll be able to use cash or credit cards now to buy beer) and the closing of President Bill Clinton Boulevard (it'll stay open for business).
"[We're still] debating the fireworks," said Daniels.
Early tickets, starting in March and running for the rest of the month, can be bought for $30 for the whole weekend. Prices for tickets at the gate have not yet been determined. They'll "probably be a little bit more," said Daniels, but will not climb into the triple digits.
The music will be announced the first week of April, with four to six national "names you know," Daniels said. "Not a long list of sort-of known names."
They're inking some of those deals now but Daniels said they were saving them for a launch event in early April.
Even with late timing booking, Little Rock's location — with the various highways that run through this city — gives Daniels confidence. In some ways, it helps; many performers have a set schedule, already planning to be in Memphis or St. Louis on close dates, and can easily come to RiverFest.
Daniels said that if they got a crowd between 10,000 and 20,000 a day for the weekend they'd be happy. In fact, they'd "tickled pink with that," he told reporters. In years past, crowd totals have been put near 250,000 for the three days.