The 49th annual Riverboat Days is approaching, with a smaller, more community-based, format.
“That was my goal when I took the reins this year,” Don Tegeler, Riverboat Days commodore and board member, said. “Try to convert it back into more of a community-oriented event and try to get more of the community involved. That’s how it all started out and to me, that’s the whole point behind Riverboat Days.”
Tegeler said during the past five years, the event has seen lower ticket sales. Last year, problems arose when most of the carnival rides provided by River City Amusements were closed by Iowa inspectors. Tegeler said this year the RBD board and the Jaycees have worked to correct past problems and answer to residents’ complaints. A different carnival company was hired for this year.
The problems with the carnival, rainy weather, ticket prices and other reasons caused the event to have a lower turnout, Tegeler said. Last year’s attendance was about half of what was expected, Tegeler said.
“It was a tough decision to actually keep pushing forward to do this festival this year,” Tegeler said.
Last fall, the RBD board conducted a poll to get ideas of what people wanted and what changes needed to be made. Tegeler said the number one complaint was that the ticket prices had gotten too high. He said this was due to the artists performing on the main stage. Tegeler said most people might not realize that some of the artists cost more than $50,000 for one show.
“Certainly we would like to have an endless supply of funds to bring in the big artists and still keep the ticket price down, but there’s got to be a give and take when you’re dealing with the direct costs of doing a festival like this,” Tegeler said. “I think it got to where it was too expensive for a family of four or five people to come down to Riverboat Days to enjoy what was going on.” This year’s prices have been drastically cut. Fun cards will be $12 and will get a person into everything for all three days. Last year, fun cards were $25 in advance and $30 at the gate. Fun cards will only be sold until June 30. After that date, people must purchase day passes at the gate. Passes for July 2 and July 3 will be sold for $7 each. July 4th passes will be sold for $5. Tegeler said he feels this is better than requiring a person to pay the full fun card amount when they are only interested in one day’s events.
“The idea this year was to make it a lot more affordable to try to get people back down here, to get them used to coming down to Riverboat Days again,” Tegeler said.
In order to reduce ticket prices, the board made cuts regarding certain events. All of the dirt events were taken out of the calendar and moved to the first annual Miles Dirt Days, which was held in May. Tegeler said last year it cost $25,000 to bring dirt in and move it around to have dirt activities on the riverfront.
The RBD board also went after less nationally known music groups and focused more on local bands and tribute bands. The main stage performers for July 2 will be “The Original Kiss Army.” A local Jimmy Buffett tribute band, “Low Tides and Highways,” will be the main stage band on July 4. Other bands, such as “Down 24” and “The Country Eagles” will perform.
Tegeler said the board did not know if it would be able to afford a nationally known band until Maureen Roshar, Marketing manager of the Wild Rose, stepped forward. Roshar told the board the casino would like to cover the costs for an artist on one of the nights. This allowed “Confederate Railroad” to perform on the main stage July 3.
The board is working to make the July 4th portion of the festival a family event. During that day only, the age limit for children getting in for free will go from age 9 to 12. Tegeler said many community churches came together to get the family-oriented, Christian group, “Go Fish.” They will perform at 1 p.m. Face painting, a big wheel race, Sean the clown, Mr. Nick’s balloons, Kira’s Kiracatures and other family activities will be offered.
Many of the usual vendors will return. A variety of activities will be held, including, hypnotist Ray Thompson, a space exhibit, a stilt walker, a bag toss tournament, karaoke with Doug Heppner, Doc Anderson’s Medicine Wagon Show, and Dave the Magic Man. Runaway Saws — a chainsaw artist who was at the Miles Dirt Days — will also perform. His pieces will then be auctioned off. Tegeler said half of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Clinton Fire Department for the Smoke Detector Project. People will also have a chance to win money from the Iowa Lottery.
The full events calendar, details about the Iowa Lottery event and the band information can be found on the event’s website, www.riverboatdays.org. Fun cards can be purchased online or by calling (563) 593-3299. Tegeler also encourages people to leave feedback about the event on the website.
“Every e-mail, every forum post does get read by a board member,” Tegeler said. “That’s how we really approached this year, is by going through the feedback that we received last year at the end of the festival. And believe me, there was a lot of negative comments with the troubles that we had with the carnival and some of the others things that went on.”
Tegeler said he was happy to see the support the RBD board has received for this year’s event.
“When we started planning, it was pretty rough,” Tegeler said. “As this year has gone on, a lot of little surprises keep cropping up. There’s a lot of people that have stepped up and helped and it’s really looking like a positive year for us. I think when it’s all said and done, this is going to be a very positive year and I think it’s going to be a turning point to allow this thing to keep going and grow.”
However, Tegeler said more help is needed. He said the RBD board is a bit shorthanded with only seven people. He said they are looking for more volunteers and sponsors. Tegeler said he is asking businesses and organizations to help support the event.