Riverfest to Return Memorial Day Weekend

by Sarah Campbell-Miller  on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 1:45 pm   2 min read

Riverfest will return to downtown Little Rock on Memorial Day weekend, thanks to a for-profit company that acquired naming rights for the annual festival after the nonprofit that ran it for 40 years called it quits in July.

The for-profit Universal Fairs LLC, led by Founder and President Mark Lovell, also bought the administrative rights to the nonprofit Rivervest Inc.'s internet domains and social media accounts.

The parties agreed to not disclose the terms of the sale, according to a statement released by Riverfest Inc. 

Universal Fairs will spend at least $2 million on the three-day music festival featuring two main stages, Event Director Jack Daniels told reporters at an announcement Monday in the First Security Amphitheater. The amphitheater will be one of the two main stages.

Daniels said the company's goal is to break even on the festival this year, and that the company's experience and professional contacts better equips it to make Riverfest profitable. 

Universal Fairs is working on contracts with musical talent and said the complete lineup will be announced in April. 

"We're looking for names that people know,” Daniels said. “We're going to target our music talent, our music buys, to really highlight bigger names as opposed to simply just bringing in a long list of sort-of known names ... That is our approach, is to bring in big names first and to fill in behind" with local and regional talent. 

He said the company is better able to net big-name talent by offering musicians a package deal: the opportunity to perform at other events it manages, including the Delta Fair and the Mid-South Hunting & Fishing Extravaganza, both in Memphis; the Virginia State Fair; and the Georgia State Fair. 

But Riverfest — a three-day festival — will be one of its largest undertakings, Daniels said.

The company's target attendance is 10,000 to 20,000 people per day. He said the turnout required to break even is a fluctuating figure and beer sales would be a factor in that. 

Organizers also aim to provide cheaper tickets than in the past. 

Advance tickets go on sale March 1. Patrons will be charged a discounted price of $30 for weekend passes throughout that month, but they won't go up much from there, Daniels said. 

"We want to make sure our price is affordable; we want to make sure this is seen as a good deal," Daniels said. 

The company is abolishing the Riverbucks program; vendors will accept cash or cards instead. 

Universal Fairs is also tightening the Riverfest footprint to keep President Clinton Avenue open. 

"We're trying to distill this music festival down to its core elements,” Daniels said. “So we've got two main stages; we've got the Ford Family Fun Zone, which is going to have 25-30 rides, carnival activities, the games.

"We're also going to bring in some attractions as well, and, usually when we bring in attractions to our fair, that is included in the ticket price. So whether it's a juggling act or a comedian act, all of those things will be part of that Ford Family Fun Zone that allows people to come in and do some things before the music gets started." 

Arkansas Federal Credit Union and Mid-South Ford Dealers have already signed up as sponsors. 



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