Excitement building for annual RiverFest; organizers share what to watch for

Published 12:36 am Friday, April 28, 2023

PORT NECHES — There’s a lot for organizers with Port Neches RiverFest to be excited about this year.

The annual festival, set for May 3-7 at Port Neches Riverfront Park, features everything from musical entertainment, carnival rides, vendors, food and boat races.

RiverFest Executive Director Debbie Plaia listed many things she’s looking forward to, including Wednesday’s Faith and Family Night headliner Crowder.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The contemporary Christian singer’s music has hit the Billboard Christian Songs chart and nabbed a Grammy nomination.

Plaia said Crowder is well known and has a large following.

She’s also excited to see how festivalgoers feel about the now-fenced festival.

She believes parents will feel safe with their children at the festival knowing there is a fence.

This marks the first year the festival will be fenced and charge an admission fee with the exception of Thursday and Sunday.

“There’s a benefit for all,” Plaia said. “”Yes it will be a hard change for everyone, but Thursday and Sunday are free. If you don’t want to pay the $10, you can come on those days and walk around for free.”

Children 12 and under get in the gates for free.

Plaia is also excited about the quality of vendors on hand with everything from food to arts and crafts.

Saturday will be a fun filled day with many activities under the pavilion, including the Cutest baby Contest. The Indian Spirit will be on hand, and Spiderman and Belle will have a meet and greet.

David LeJuene, who heads up Thunder on the Neches powerboat racing, is looking forward to all aspects of the annual festival.

“As always our festival has all kinds of things that meet anyone’s idea of family excitement,” LeJuene said.

The conversation turned to the boat races, which are on the circuit for the Formula 1 Powerboat Championship Series. The Port Neches setting was named the No. 1 favorite event by racers in 2022, he said.

Racers and fans come from all over the country and beyond. LeJuene has been in recent contact with a couple from South America who will be at the races. The couple will be here as spectators but have some relationship to the boat races, he said.

Race fans will see one of the ESPN channels on site taping the races on Sunday, and there will be multiple drones and cameras.

The race is important to the powerboat racing community. LeJuene said last year Mercury built five new motors, three of which were tested during the races.

Those motors did not perform well, from what LeJuene was told. Mercury representatives were on site and decided to go back to the drawing board on the motors.

LeJuene said overall the festival has lots to offer.

“You can come on Saturday, watch the boat races most of the evening, eat a bite and catch a really good concert for a minimal price,” he said.

And then there’s the other events such as the Pet Show and announcement of Mother of the Year. Events such as these fit with Port Neches’s down home community feel, he said.