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Fireworks explode over the Mississippi River during the Rivertown Days fireworks display on Saturday night. Star GazEtte photo by Chad Richardson

Weathering the storm: Rivertown Days was a hit thanks in large part to a storm that left just in time

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On Sunday morning, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce was just minutes away from pulling the plug on one of the signature events at Rivertown Days — the parade. Storms were rumbling through Hastings, and according to one weather service, they were likely to continue.

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Michelle Jacobs, the president of the chamber, checked another site, made a few phone calls and then decided to keep the parade on as scheduled based on what she heard from those sources. It’s a good thing she did. By 10:30 a.m., the sun was out and by noon, the conditions couldn’t have been much better.

“It all went great, Jacobs said. “When the weather cooperates, it makes it so much easier.”

Jacobs said she heard several positive comments about the parade.

“People really enjoyed the parade,” she said. “It wasn’t so hot this year. There was a lot of variety in the parade.”

Almost all weekend long, festival-goers were treated to good weather. It wasn’t exactly cool, but temperatures didn’t get higher than 82 on either Saturday or Sunday.

“The weather affects the entire feel,” Jacobs said. “When it’s really hot, nobody wants to eat, the vendors are hot and they’re sitting there and not having sales.

“That wasn’t the case this year. It was a nice steady crowd. The weather just makes a big difference.”

There were some setbacks with Sunday morning’s storms. The outdoor worship service was cancelled, and the duck race was postponed as the current became too strong after the rains.

While most of the event drew words of praise from residents, there were some people upset that they had to pay $3 to enter the riverfront. Jacobs said that the $3 from the button sales goes to fund the fireworks show, which is an expensive show to put on. The chamber spent $13,000 on the fireworks display this year, Jacobs said. Without the button sales, there’s no way to fund that show, she said.

Sponsors stepped up and helped to pay for things like the Dock Dogs (which cost $5,500 to bring to the show), the bike shows and the bands. The budget for the music this year was $17,000. The parade costs another $7,500.

“It’s not an inexpensive thing to put on,” Jacobs said. “It’s pretty affordable when you look at $3 a button, and that’s only for 12 and over. For a family to come down with the kids, it’s still pretty affordable.”

On the fireworks: a new company was hired to handle the show this year. They were forced to shoot off the fireworks farther south of the river than in year’s past because of the ongoing bridge construction. Up until last year, fireworks were shot off right near the river. But the field used to shoot off the fireworks is a staging area for the bridge construction, so the show had to be shot farther inland. Jacobs is hoping to have the fireworks right back on the waterfront next year.

Jacobs and the chamber are also wrestling with where to hold the craft fair. Several years ago, it was held at Pioneer Park. Recently, it has been held along the riverfront near downtown. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, she said.

“Some people love it at Levee Park, and some don’t,” Jacobs said.

The fair may need to be moved next year if construction happens for a pavilion planned for the Levee Park area. The good news about the Levee Park area, though, is that the walkway under the bridge will be open, so people can walk from the festival area near the boat launch all the way to downtown and the craft fair.

Regardless, Jacobs is planning to poll crafters to see which area they would prefer, and then take it from there.

Notes

Here are some notes from the weekend:

• Parade judges this were were Bert and Margaret Goderstad.

The Eagles Club won for the best use of theme (A Tale of Two Bridges).

The best youth entry went to the Hastings Marching Band and the crowd pleaser award went to New Bridge Theater.

• One person lost a wallet while at the carnival. The wallet was found and turned in by a carnival worker from Stipe Shows.

• One of the challenges from Sunday morning’s rainstorm was that the water washed away all the lineup markings for the parade units.

• The shuttle bus that took parade participants from Westview Center to the parade route wasn’t used to capacity, but the people who used it seemed to really appreciate the service, Jacobs said. The Hastings Bus Company donated that service.

• Even the mayflies behaved. They began their hatch in the middle of last week. By Saturday night quite a few were visible on the bridge, but they didn’t cause any kind of significant disruption.

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Chad Richardson
Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
(651) 319-4500
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