Bisset Park’s first annual RiverFest

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After trudging through the first week of classes, students were offered a chance of relaxation and recreation in an all-day festival held at Bisset Park. On Saturday, Aug. 30, The Radford Chamber of Commerce held RiverFest, an event where Radford University students and all other members of the local community were invited to participate in an array of activities that promised to keep occupants busy for the entire day.  RiverFest kicked off at 10 a.m. and offered concessions, games, competitive events, music and a flotilla of rafts down the New River. The agenda of events was intended to attract a variety of people with different interests.

For those interested in a bit of competition, the festival offered both horseshoe and cornhole tournaments to put the projectile-flinging prowess of contestants to the test. For those who wished to prove their talent at navigating the turbulent New River at high speeds, there was a flat water racing tournament.

The event that took the day, however, was the river floating. For the first time in 15 years, a coordinated group of over 100 people floated down the river. Each raft was positioned in a way that created a massive, floating “RU” in an expression of school pride, local unity and the enjoyable experience of community.

The shouts and whoops of excited men, women and children could be heard clearly as dozens of floats lazily wafted down the New River en masse.

RU sophomore, Devin April, was one of these carefree floaters.

“It was my first time doing down a river in a tube, and I was surprised with the rapids there. They scared me half to death,” said April.

He went on to express that this part of the festival was a “great experience that everyone should do.” 

RiverFest closed with a performance in the pavilion by the rock band The Boatmen.

One volunteer, local business owner Mark Gordon, stated that he felt the event was a success.

“I believe it set out to accomplish everything it wanted to,” he said.

Gordon spent most of the day like many others on what he called “the slowest vehicle on the river.”  

Although the turnout was quite successful, some students were somewhat disappointed in the lack of advertisement and organization of some of the events. 

“I feel like there should be more publicity and budget because the actual festival part was quite small. It seemed like most people were there to go tubing,” said sophomore Courtney Ratcliff.

Despite some of the shortcomings, Ratcliff did not regret attending.

“Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable time,” said Ratcliff.

 One of the coordinators of the event was Lisa Davis, the Executive Director of the Radford Chamber of Commerce. She addressed the fact that there were things that could have been done differently in the planning of the event.

“It was our first annual RiverFest. We had to use a lot of insurance and precautionary measures. It was all kind of trial and error. I think it went well. We had a great turnout from the RU students,” Davis said.

Since RiverFest is set to be a yearly tradition and will occur every Labor Day weekend, she noted some changes that she and her staff will try to implement in the future to improve the festival and attract more students and local residents to join the fun.

“We would like to get more viewing areas so that people can see what is happening on the water,” Davis said.

They are also planning to keep the festival in a more central area, rather than spread out across the park.

Davis hopes to continue RiverFest and looks forward to seeing it grow as a staple event on the Radford community calendar.

“It will just get better and better every year,” Davis predicted.