Situated along the Monongahela, Rices Landing has been heavily influenced by the river and its riverboat traffic since its first settler, John Rice, arrived in 1786 and purchased land on the east side of Enoch Run, now called Pumpkin Run.
Aware of the importance of the river to the town’s growth and vitality, a group of residents planned the first of its annual two-day celebration, known as Riverfest, back in 1976. The festival has been staged every year since, except for 1985 when a large flood inundated the village of 283 residents.
As the volunteers needed to pull off the event got older and couldn’t provide the necessary time and labor, the festival ended in 2005, especially after a major organizer, Remo Vertugli, passed away.
In 2013, the volunteer fire department discussed bringing back Riverfest, and a small committee of five got it started again, according to Pat Ginsberg, one of the original committee members.
After the committee managed to enlist the financial backing by nearly a score of sponsors to revive the celebration, a $11,700 grant from Alpha Natural Resources helped insure the event had enough financial resources to relaunch.
“Since 2013, we’ve developed quite a following, not only in attendees but also in vendors and sponsors,” Ginsburg said. “We’ve increased our sponsors from 16 to 36 and our vendors from 20 to 30. Because we list all our sponsors on the back of our Riverfest T-shirt, Bee Graphics owner, Davis Slagle, who makes the shirts, joked, if we get any more sponsors we’ll have to add a tail to the shirt or use smaller print.”
As to vendors who sell everything from crafts and food like Philly cheese steaks to funnel cakes, Ginsburg said they are now at the maximum and have a waiting list of vendors wanting to participate.
“Some vendors have said they make more money at our two-day festival than they do at other four-day festivals in the area,” Ginsburg said.
On Friday, June 7, the gates will open at 5 p.m. and remain open until midnight with fireworks, live entertainment, games and free admission to the W. A, Young and Son Foundry in between. Live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m.with the band Quick Exit, followed by the Shadow Cats Band at 9 p.m. and fireworks at 9:45 p.m.
On Saturday, June 8, the gates will open at 2 p.m. with live entertainment beginning at 4:30 p.m. with the Birmingham Band, followed by the Timothy Earl Band at 7 p.m. and Hillbilly Way at 9 p.m. For the youngsters, Riverfest will have games, bounce houses, balloons and free face painting both days with a special Children’s Magic Show scheduled for 2:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Dogs will be permitted on a leash and boats will be able to tie up on the lock wall. A Snapchat filter will also be available both days as will tent table and bleacher seating. All of the vendors will accept cash with only a few accepting credit cards. To facilitate purchases, an ATM will be set up on site with an additional ATM at the First National Bank in Rices Landing.
This year’s collectible T-shits will be gray with red lettering. The cost is $10 each and $12 for sizes XX and XXX. Souvenir 23-oz. beer mugs will be available for purchase for $6, with refills for $4. All proceeds from alcohol sales benefit the Rices Landing Volunteer Fire Department.
Four dollar 12-oz wine coolers will be sold in flavors that include Twisted Tea, Seagrams Stawberry Daiquiri, Seagrams Calypso Colada, Seagrams Fuzzy Navel and Seagrams Jamaican Me Happy.
Admission to Riverfest is $5 for adults 18 and over, $2 for children 5 to 17, with children under 5 admitted for free.
Parking is available off Main Street toward the bike trail, at the Rices Landing VFD and Rices Landing American Legion. A free shuttle will run between the lots to take attendees to and from their cars.
“Join us to rock the lock wall for fun and to support the many area non-profits,” Ginsburg said.
For more information, phone 412-680-0869.