Alcohol consumption area getting expanded trial run during 2023 RiverFest

Published 12:32 am Friday, March 24, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

PORT NECHES — While previously kept in a designated area, alcohol consumption will be allowed at almost all areas of this year’s RiverFest following a split vote by the Port Neches City Council on Thursday night.

Last month councilmembers voted to approve a request from RiverFest to expand the fenced perimeter from only the entertainment area and beer garden to include the carnival midway and food vendors under the condition that it be reversed if unsuccessful.

“I’ve got a general problem with it being through the entire park,” said Councilman Robert Arnold. “If we do the beer gardens like we’ve done in the past, I know there have been very limited problems there, and I don’t have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with it being throughout the entire area … especially in the carnival area where the kids are, in the booth area, concessions and all that other stuff. In my opinion, that’s not presenting the community with a family friendly environment as people walk around with alcohol in that area.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Arnold said had he known expanding the fence would have also expanded the area where alcohol was allowed, he might not have voted in favor of the motion last month.

The new fenced area means visitors would pay for entry to the festival on most nights. However, the individual charge for entertainment would no longer be a requirement.

This year, a $10 gate fee will be applied on Friday and Saturday. Thursday and Sunday will be free. And Wednesday, which is Faith and Family Night, will cost a discounted $5.

Gate entry allows access to carnival rides, all vendors, the beer garden and the entertainment.

Last year for only entertainment, the cost was $15 on Thursday, $30 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.

“If they want to do it like we’ve been doing it in the past, I don’t have a problem with that because it’s been well maintained (with) limited problems. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to have it across the entire park,” Arnold said. “I’ve been told our police department says they can handle it, and I don’t doubt whatever we throw at them, they can handle. I’ll put our police department up against any one around here. I just don’t want to put them in a position where they have to do that much extra work.”

Councilman Terry Schwertner, who is part of the RiverFest committee, said they have met with the Port Neches Police Department on multiple occasions.

“We are going to add five more officers per day,” he said. “I think we’re taking precautions and we’re going to be ready to go for anything. We’re ready to do it. It’s just a one-year trial.”

Councilman John Davenport gave similar statements.

“I had apprehension as well, but I’m going to — in this case — give them the benefit of the doubt, probably because they’ve been doing this for 12 years,” he said. “They’ve produced this thing for something that may be too big for Port Neches, truly; maybe it’s not. A one-year test run, and if it doesn’t work, we can always back up.”

Police Chief Cheri Griffith confirmed authorities met with RiverFest committee members and are prepared to provide the appropriate amount of security. A majority, she said, will be secured by RiverFest.

Schwertner said the increase in security has also increased the charge from $10,000 last year to approximately $15,000 this year.

The motion passed with Arnold counting the only dissenting vote.

RiverFest 2023 is scheduled for May 3 through May 7.

ICYMI: RiverFest putting more attractions behind admissions gate; organizers explain reasons