Riverfest Cancelled; No One Notices

Editorial written by Christopher Morrill on Sunday, April 2, 2000

from the just-say-no-to-designated-drinking-areas dept.

Riverfest was cancelled this year for lack of funds and a general sense of public apathy. I say, "good riddance."

To put it plain and simple: Riverfest sucked. It deserved to die. Canceling Riverfest wasn't really enough; in fact, the city fathers of Cape Girardeau should not only have given it the ax, but issued a blanket apology for forcing it upon us. The farce that it had become was almost criminal in it's hilarity.

How do thee suck? Let me count the ways:

1. No parking.

2. No view of the river itself, thanks to the flood wall.

3. Playing second fiddle to the SEMO District Fair.

And most importantly:

4. Confining drinking to certain roped off areas.

Restricting the beer drinkers to small, confined little concentration camps was really the last straw. That particular faux pas was committed by the organizers of Riverfest to placate the concerns of area churches and conservative "moral crusaders". I'm so happy that they want to save our souls. That move was so... Cape.

Confining smokers to smoking areas doesn't seem to raise anyone's dander. In fact, picking on smokers is not only tolerated but trendy. But throwing up Designated Drinking Areas at a large public festival is just more abuse than the typical southeast Missouri native is willing to take. Despite what the conservative and religious powers that be in Cape may believe, the average citizen wants to drink and carouse.

Herding beer drinkers into confined areas may seem like a logical idea if you're in, say, Utah. But this isn't Utah, not quite, and the move was a stunning P.R. failure. Hence, Riverfest deserved it's fate.

The parking problems downtown are self-explanatory. Even doing lunch at Broussard's can be quite a task, much less trying to hold a large event down there. The flood wall is an eyesore, as well, and the murals don't help.

But don't underestimate the impact that the SEMO District Fair had on Riverfest, as well. Lots of planning, money and time went into the Fair each year as the "Big Event". Riverfest was really kind of a second thought, an annoyance, a red-headed step-child, even. Everyone shot their wad, so to speak, on the Fair and had little attention span left over for anything else.

Sikeston has similar problems getting people pumped up about the Cotton Carnival, due to the gargantuan nature of the Bootheel Rodeo.

Scott City can barely get any warm bodies to show up to it's Railroad Days, thanks to the relative success of it's Mid-Summer Festival. (Being from Scott City, however, I would like to think that the railroad's abandonment of that town has left little real love for the idea of "Railroad" anything.)

The best types of summer festivals are the ones that I grew up with in Scott County. Simple, redneck affairs. Beer, brats, funnel cakes, a few gaming booths, a beauty pageant, a "Little Mr. And Miss" pageant, a ride or two, and everyone's happy. This formula has proven successful over the years, whether it be at Kelso, Scott City, Chaffee, Benton, Oran, or New Hamburg.

None of the above towns really holds more than one event per year, and none of them try to hard to "sanitize" the events. In other words, massive beer consumption is not only okay, it's expected. Yes, there are usually fights. The Scott City boys ganging up on the Kelso boys ganging up on the Chaffee boys ganging up on the Oran boys ganging up on the New Hamburg boys ganging up on the Benton boys with everyone joining forces against the Notre Dame boys etc., etc., is a time-honored tradition. A few teeth are lost and some blood is spilled, but the police break things up before anyone gets a toe tag and a ride in the county coroner's van. Usually, anyway.

Riverfest had all the treachery, intrigue and debauchery of a Jean Bell Mosley (from the Southeast Missourian) column. Meaning, none.

I've read some of the usual geniuses calling into Speak Out with some suggestions on how to revive our fallen Riverfest. One caller went so far as to suggest re-working the event into a historical tribute to "Life In The Old River Days", complete with period costumes, reenactments, and other similarly silly things.

That might fly in Hannibal, which can fall back on it's Mark Twain cottage industries. But not in Cape. I personally have no desire to see any girl churning butter, milking a cow, or spinning a loom anyway. Unless maybe she's naked.

The best advice Cape can take is: let it die.