It’s already been a busy summer for festival fun in Yorkville, but organizers of River Fest, which begins Friday night in the city, said the event offers unique features designed to draw families to the celebration.
The Yorkville Parks and Recreation Department will be offering Yorkville River Fest from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Riverfront Park at 131 E Hydraulic Ave. in the city.
The event follows the Midsummer Festival late last month at the park, which focused on indie music and included craft beer, two road races, food tents and more. The city also hosted a number of activities on July 4, including a parade, music in the town square, and fireworks.
River Fest organizers aren’t worried about festival fatigue among residents, saying this weekend’s celebration will feature plenty of different entertainment and activity options.
Yorkville Recreation Superintendent Shay Remus said this weekend will be the second time the city has fully resumed River Fest following a joint effort with the Yorkville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the cool things about River Fest is that it kind of (changed) over the years – originally it was more of a kind of rib festival where we were in competition with ribs and things like that, and then we partnered with the Chamber, Remus said. “Now we are doing it ourselves as a municipal entity this year.”
Remus reckons the festival has been going on in one form or another for around seven years, with the town originally running it before partnering with the Chamber and now taking it over after 2020 when it was canceled due to the pandemic.
Organizers said River Fest put more emphasis on “family activities”.
“Our famous Cardboard Boat Race this weekend is very unique and unlike any other, but I think what makes it different is that we focus on what families can do,” said- she declared. “Most festivals have beer, music and food – it’s kind of the norm when you’re having an event, but we really try to make it a complete package and what people can do with the family when they go out.”
Highlights of this year, Remus said, include the boat race “as well as meet-and-greets where people can meet (Disney character) Moana as well as we do obstacle courses and a pick-and-choose adventure to find your gift. – a play from the film “Encanto”.
“We have lots of free activities for kids,” she said. “As a parent, you don’t just drag your kids out for a beer and listen to a band. They (kids) are also excited to come and watch the event and do their own fun activities.
Shay estimates the two-day event will likely draw around 7,500 people. All of the musical acts this year will be country groups, she said.
The boat race, which was taking place earlier in the weekend, was pushed back to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Remus said, “due to volunteer scheduling and the overall flow of the event itself.”
“Previously the race was on Friday evening, then it was moved to Saturday,” she said. “Around 5pm is usually when our festival starts to get really busy and so it’s just a good time because we kind of get away from some of the kids’ activities and get more into that stage of life. nightlife – it hits both the families and the nightlife and it’s kind of a nice fusion between the two during this time.”
The boat entrances are usually around a dozen each year and although they are cardboard and constantly taking on water, Remus said not all of them sink.
“I think the challenge is to see how far you can go and we’ve had boats that finish the course and keep floating for a while,” she said. “Depending on how you design your boat, you can actually make it quite successful and there’s just a bit of adventure and excitement in not quite knowing if it’s going to sink.”
For festival information, boat entry requirements and more, visit www.enjoyaurora.com/yorkvilleriverfest
David Sharos is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.