MONIQUE BATSON — RiverFest changes could ultimately lessen cost to attend event

Published 12:06 am Friday, April 7, 2023

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In February, RiverFest officials announced that a majority of the event would take place behind a fence, requiring patrons to pay for access to areas that were previously free to the public.

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

Once news spread through Port Arthur New reporting and social media shares, negative feedback began to surface — and, for some, it has not stopped.

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“This is why as a resident of Port Neches, we enjoyed the heck out of the Heritage Festival this year (and) sadly will NOT be attending Riverfest which is something that has been our family tradition with my kids,” one commenter said this week. “It saddens me that many other local families will be in the same situation not able to afford to make these memories with their younger children due to the extra cost. Or even worse, more kids will be unattended.”

Realistically, the cost to attend RiverFest will be less this year than last year, organizers stress.

Those who attend this year will be asked to pay a $10 entry fee on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (Thursday and Sunday are free) to gain access to all aspects of the festival, including entertainment.

In comparison, last year those accessing the gated area paid $15 on Thursday, $30 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.

The cost to enjoy live music every day is less than half this year.

On May 3, the annual Faith and Family Night, which is $10, Crowder takes the stage at 7 p.m. For comparison, on May 19, Crowder is scheduled to play in Kentucky. Tickets to attend that show start at $35.

On May 4, which is free, the Rollin Bones will play at 7 p.m. This group assembled of musicians from Southeast Texas recently played at Taste of Gumbo on March 11, where attendees paid $10 for entry.

Following them at 9:45 p.m. will be Shiny Ribs from Austin. Today they’ll be playing in their hometown at an event that cost $25 to attend.

It would cost you $22 to see Wade Bowen at his Saturday show in Tulsa. But for $10, you can see him May 5 in Port Neches.

And that’s just a portion of the live music attendees will be enjoying for a total of $30 over the course of five days.

RiverFest is organized by volunteers that work year-round to bring a fun event to Port Neches and the surrounding areas. A portion of this year’s gate fee will go towards efforts to rebuild Tugboat Island.

And it’s easy to forget that, not long ago, there were no festivals. We couldn’t eat in restaurants. Grocery shopping was scary. And we were unsure if and when that would change.

I understand not every family can afford the three paid days. But I urge all who can to, at least, attend the two free ones. A lot of food vendors and small businesses rely on participation from the public. The musicians come from all over to entertain you. And it’s always nice to have a reason to be outdoors enjoying food, fun and community.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at