A week ago the annual Riverfest leaders dinner was held and the financial results for the past year were announced as were the musical acts for this coming year.

But, given that we had just finished up our 30th anniversary year John Ertl, our festival contract man and on-site producer, thought it would be interesting to compile statistics to give an indication of just how big of an impact the festival has had on the city and those attending the event.

He provided some interesting insights. He prefaced his comments by saying, “Most of the time we focus on and talk about the main stage talent, but Riverfest represents so much more to the community and its family focus in particular with the numerous kids/family activities on site.”

It’s so true. The main stage musical entertainment is a huge draw, but Riverfest is indeed a family festival with fun for everyone.

So, here are a few of the estimates John compiled on the 30 years of Riverfest.

— Over 400 hours of “ride specials” pricing at the carnival/midway.

— More than 1,600 raft race teams (3,200 plus participants).

— Over 2,000 rods and reels passed out to children at the Carp Classic and Kids Kasting events.

— About 4,000 smiling faces have been painted on the grounds.

— At least 4,500 carp have been caught in the carp classic that no longer swim and muck up the Rock River.

— Over 5,000 classic cars have visited Watertown Riverfest.

— A minimum of 28,000 volunteer hours have been used on site during the festival and that doesn’t include the innumerable hours put in by the steering committee throughout the year.

— With average annual attendance of 35,000 to 40,000 the festival has now surpassed the 1 million mark in attendance.

— Average revenues of $310,000 over a 30-year period adds up to more than $9 million in direct revenues. Taking the economic multiplier of 5 (and some economists believe it should be 7), the festival has created at a minimum an economic impact of $45 million.

— Over 450,000 fireworks shells have been put into the air at the festival over those years and it’s been done without a single injury or accident.

Those are some pretty awesome statistics. Other communities have come to Watertown Riverfest and visited with members of the committee to see if they can emulate that success, but they haven’t been able to do it on a consistent basis.

Riverfest has been a huge asset to the community over these many years, but as the cost of producing this festival has increased, the margin of error for weather, etc., has become paper thin, and unless “all the stars are in alignment,” it’s difficult to show a profit. Still, we have had good weather most years. Early August is typically a time when weather is most favorable.

Most of the Riverfest musical entertainment has been booked and John is now focusing on the roving entertainment and other activities for families. There’s a lot of those kinds of acts out there, but we’re always looking for some that will be unique and also of the highest quality so it takes some time.

Also, when it comes to the musical acts, it’s simply amazing how many of them have not only heard about Riverfest but also the quality of the acts and how well they are treated backstage.

We have had countless acts contact us about getting on the list of bands who get to play the festival. Sometimes it’s the band itself that makes the call but just as often it’s someone from the area who has seen a show and really loved it.

They send along to us an email about a band and we respond with information we need before giving them consideration. We like to have the band’s website, a list of gigs they have played or will be playing, an idea of how much they are followed on social media and of course the kind of music they play.

All these bands recognize that if they are selected, they will be performing before a large and enthusiastic audience, and that can only enhance their opportunities for other first-class opportunities down the road. So, the band suggestions are important and some of them are selected.

Now, it’s time to move on to the 2017 event!


The warmer weather of recent days has just about cleared a path of open water on the Rock River between the two dams, the criteria for declaring the ice is officially “out.”

This morning we took a look on our way to work and there still wasn’t a clear channel of open water between the dams but it was getting very close.

Our guess is the ice will officially go out today or during the night. If that becomes a reality in a matter of hours, it will be one of the earliest on record.

We’ll have more details on that next week.


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