Riverwalk Festival Celebrates 25 Years

While many are thinking about Fourth of July celebrations and activities, Lowell’s annual summer festival will take place the following weekend.  July 11-13 marks the 25th Riverwalk Festival. As always, the theme of the year has to do with ducks. This year’s theme is It’s a Ducky Thing. Look for floats in the parade and other aspects of Riverwalk Festival to center around this idea. 

During one of Riverwalk Festivals past former City Manager Dave Pasquale (l) and former Mayor Jim Hodges (r) were part of a flush tank.

Riverwalk Through the Years

Over 25 years ago, a task that came out of a Lowell Area Schools marketing study was the need to have someone in the Chamber offer who could assist the Chamber Board and be available to the community.  The Chamber Board decided to hire their first-ever paid employee and named Liz Baker the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.  

At the same time, the board was faced with finding funding for the new position as well as other expenses the Chamber incurred.  Riverwalk Festival was created as a means to help raise funds. “It was then and still is today our largest fundraiser that supports our budget to keep our staff and programs running strong.” says Baker.  She also uses this as her way of tracking how long she has been with the Chamber. While the annual Christmas parade has been in existence for over 100 years, the addition of a summer parade has been embraced by the community.  

Originally held over Labor Day weekend, the annual event was moved to the second weekend in July after quickly figuring out the late summer weekend wasn’t a good fit, according to Baker.  

Small changes have also been made throughout the years.  Plastic rubber ducks no longer take to the Grand River to race.  An antique tractor show and waterball fight were also part of the weekend in past years.  

Basic goals of the weekend have remained throughout – entertainment, arts and crafts, car cruise-in and food.  And these items will be front and center this year as well with some new events added to the mix.

First Time Event

New this year, a Ducky Derby will be run in conjunction with the Riverwalk Car Cruise-in.  Families, kids, adults, and even businesses are invited to enter the race.  Build a pinewood derby car (kits are available at Springrove Variety and Bernard’s Ace Hardware) and see where you place.  Basic derby rules will apply. The entrance fee is $10 for adults and businesses and $5 for kids 16 and under. Registration is 9am-10am on Saturday and racing will begin at 10:15am.  Registration and racing will take place at the Lowell Police garage.  

Vendors, Food, and Live Entertainment

The three-day festival begins on Thursday.  While not officially part of Riverwalk festivities, the Farmers’ Market will take place from 9am-2pm on the south side of Main Street across from the Riverwalk entrance.  The annual pig roast on Avery Street will take place Thursday 6pm-8pm or until the pig is gone. Grab a bite to eat and stay for the weekly concert on the Riverwalk from 7pm-9pm.  The evening’s entertainment will be The Insiders: Tom Petty Tribute Band.

Friday evening activities begin at 5pm and go until 9pm.  Flea on the Flat River will showcase commercial and non-profit booths.  The Friends of Englehardt Library used book sale will also begin Friday evening.  Food will be available along the Riverwalk and Avery Street. And the evening’s live entertainment will be Magic Bus.  Some may remember during the band’s performance in Lowell a handful of years ago, one member had a heart attack on stage.  He is doing well since then and will be back again to perform. Baker would also like to acknowledge the group for being the first to contribute to the stage fund.  

A full day of activities kicks off on Saturday at 8am.  The day will include Run the Riverwalk 5k, Car Cruise-In, Flea on the Flat River, Kayak Fun, historic pontoon boat rides, food, parade (12pm), live entertainment by locals Bruce Matthews Band and Adams Family (starting after the parade), used book sale, Kidz Zone, and Community Worship Service (7pm).  The weekend’s events will conclude with the annual fireworks show beginning at 10:15pm and can be seen at Stoney Lakeside Park and Recreation Park. The full schedule of events taking place Thursday through Saturday can be found online.

Photo courtesy of Kenda Haines.

Run the Riverwalk 5k

There’s still time to register for Saturday morning’s 5k.  The race will begin on the 13th at 8:30am.  This is the eighth year the race has taken place but the fourth it has been the same weekend as Riverwalk Festival.  Approximately 75 participants each year run or walk the 3.1 mile course. The race started as an annual event for Impact Church to raise money for mission work in Africa.  “The money raised goes to support a team of volunteers that serve a community of orphans and widows in Swaziland, Africa. A team is sent every year and the funds help provide fresh water, food, school fees and supplies and equipment for the school.” says race director Kenda Haines.  The race was previously names the Swazi Shuffle. The top male and female and adult and student finishers will each receive a $25 prize.  

It’s Time to Get Ducky

With three days of events taking place along the Riverwalk, there won’t be a shortage of fun July 11-13.  The Kidz Zone and used book sale will take place on the grassy area north of the library. Flea on the Flat River will line the Riverwalk from the entrance near Main Street to the very north end.  Be sure to walk the entire length of the Riverwalk as not to miss anything.  

Over 100 volunteers help make the Riverwalk Festival what it is each year.  If you’re interested in helping for a couple of hours or a whole day, a sign up is available indicating needs and open spots.  As with the Christmas Parade, prior to Saturday’s parade, which begins at noon, bags and popsicles will be handed out to kids beginning at 11:45am.  And it’s never too late to be part of the parade itself. Filling out the application and putting something fun together to promote a business, organization, or group is a great way to be seen in the community and have fun while doing it.  

For more information about the Riverwalk Festival and other Chamber events, visit the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce website or like them on Facebook.

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