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Port Party Prepares Comeback

2nd Annual River Fest is Ready for its 2006 Return Voyage

M.D. Kittle

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

May 30, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

A week and a half before "go time," an organizer for the second installment of the America's River Festival says the celebration is ready to roll.

And the hope is a more action-packed port party - with a hefty price tag - will be a bigger draw than last year's inaugural event.

The three-day festival kicks off Friday, June 9, with gates at the Port of Dubuque opening at 5 p.m. Country music legend Charlie Daniels, scheduled to take the stage at 8:30 p.m., headlines the first night.

Classic Rock supergroup Styx serves as the headliner Saturday night, with a laundry list of musical acts filling the weekend entertainment card.

"We want to try to create a signature event for the community, like the Quad Cities' Bix (festival) and Milwaukee's Summerfest," said Steward Sandstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce.

Sandstrom, who also serves as president of the America's River Corp., the non-profit group behind the festival, said organizers have made a number of changes to ensure a bigger turnout.

Attendance at last year's event was hampered by cool weather and its placement on Memorial Day weekend. A gate charge didn't help matters much, either.

There is no admission fee this year, with advance ticket prices for the headline acts set at $12, thanks to sponsor support.

A half-dozen main corporate sponsors and a host of supporting contributors are chipping in about half of the festival's nearly $300,000 cost, Sandstrom said. America's River Corp. is on the hook for the rest.

"We need people to enjoy a lot of food and beverages and we need a lot of people to come to those concerts," Sandstrom said. "This is the key fund-raiser for the America's River Corp."

There should be no shortage of activities. Beyond the musical entertainment, the festival will feature everything from balloon rides and children's rides to artisans demonstrations.

The festival will host the Stihl Timbersports chain saw competition, with competitors coming in from as far away as Europe and Australia. ESPN2 will cover the competition.

"We haven't lost the fishing aspect of it," Sandstrom said. "On Sunday, ESPN will be here for the regional Bassmaster regional fishing tournament."

Last year, outdoor outfitter Cabela's hosted a walleye tournament during the festival.

A 16-mile duathlon featuring running and biking competition will originate and end at the Port of Dubuque Saturday morning. Proceeds from the "Big Muddy Race" will benefit the American Red Cross of the Tri-States.

And the Dubuque Humane Society will host a "Grand Pet Excursion," inviting area dog-lovers to take part in a pet walk around the park on Sunday morning.