Area festival expanding admissions gate to include rides

Published 12:22 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

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PORT NECHES — RiverFest officials received approval from City Council this week to expand the admissions gate from the entertainment area to also include carnival rides and vendors.

“This is something that we’ve talked about for a number of years, and we finally decided to try and pull the trigger this year and fence in the entire festival, which is what most festivals in our area do,” said festival President Lance Bradley.

“RiverFest is at a point now where we’re either going to stay the same or we’re going to grow. And if we’re going to grow, then we need to make some changes.”

In previous years, attendees could access the carnival, food booths, vendors and arts-and-crafts area for free and paid to attend the nightly concerts.

This year, Bradley explained, the entry fee covers all aspects of the festival.

“The plan initially was to charge $10 per day for everybody to come in,” he said. “Since then…we’ve found a sponsorship that’s new, and this entity is willing to make a contribution where Thursday night is free for everybody.”

Sunday will also be free, with Wednesday’s Faith and Family night is likely to have a discounted price of $5.

In 2022, the price to access the gated area was $15 on Thursday, $30 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.

“We think it’s a reasonable trade off,” Bradley said. “We understand it’s change and that some people might be upset. Having Thursday and Sunday as free days we think is reasonable and very practical.”

During Thursday’s meeting, councilmembers approved expanding the gated area to encompass the festival in its entirety.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea,” Councilman Robert Arnold said. “I know there’s a lot of people that I know of that would rather spend their money in the food booths or in the carnival than they would getting inside. So I don’t know if it’s going to create extra money. I hope it does. I hope the best for the Chamber.”

However, he added, he would support the idea as a test run in 2023.

Bradley said officials have met with the police department, and “they’ve been very receptive to the idea and feel it would make the area more secure.”

Discussions have also been had with the fire department.

RiverFest 2023 is scheduled for Wednesday/May 3 through Sunday/May 7.

The playground will not be included in the gated area, granting access to Riverfront Park for those not wishing to attend the festival.

The first event is the Miss Port Neches Pageant April 1. The deadline for applications, which can be obtained at the Chamber office, is Feb. 10.

The 7th annual Smoke on the Water barbecue cook-off was moved last year from Neches River Wheelhouse to the park. This year’s event will take place April 28 and April 29.

Councilmembers on Thursday approved the consumption of alcohol during the cook-off.

The request pertains to participants. Alcohol cannot be sold or given away.

— Written by Monique Batson