Riverfest returns to Mendon to close out summer

MENDON — The event many people consider to be the last hurrah of summer in St. Joseph County is coming back to Mendon for its 34th year.

The 34th Mendon Riverfest will make its way back to town Thursday, Aug. 18 through Saturday, Aug. 20, with a number of events old and new at Reed Riverside Park.

“Riverfest is what we consider the end-of-the-summer celebration before everybody goes back to school,” Roger Cupp, chair of the Mendon Riverfest Committee, said. “It’s an affordable, family-fun event that we really enjoy putting on for the community every year.”

One of the big highlights of this year’s festival is a couple of new events making their debut. Thursday night at 8 p.m. will be Riverfest’s first Pie Eating Contest, where contestants race to finish a pie as fast as they can. Those who wish to participate will be able to sign up that night prior to the event, first-come-first-serve, and Cupp said the committee is talking with local businesses to offer prizes for the contest.

Another new event making its way to Riverfest will happen Friday from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1-10 p.m. The Social AXEperience is a mobile trailer where people can experience axe throwing, which is similar to the game of darts, but with axes. The cost is $5 to participate.

Cupp said he thought adding the Social AXEperience would be a fun thing for festivalgoers.

“I saw where they were at other festivals, and I reached out. I thought it’d be a great addition for the festival,” Cupp said. “I know there’s people always wanting to throw axes.”

Other classic events will also return for this year’s festival, including the Lip Sync on Thursday night at 8 p.m., a cornhole tournament Friday at 5:30 p.m., and the canoe race at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Cupp said the course for the canoe race this year is a bit different than it has been in the past: canoers will start at Riverside Park rather than the M-66 bridge, and will paddle downstream to the old iron bridge and then paddle back to the park.

“We thought that’d make things a little more interesting than people not knowing what’s going on,” Cupp said.

The annual canoe swamp will also occur at 4 p.m. Saturday, which has a $20 entry fee per team.

Riverfest will have plenty of activities for the kids at this year’s event. Magician John Shango will take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Thursday for some magic and illusions, then on Friday there will be kid’s games and free face painting from 3-6 p.m., followed by the Magical Balloon Guy from 5:30-6:30 p.m. From 5-9 p.m. Friday and 2-9 p.m. on Saturday will be the return of kid’s inflatables for the first time in three years, which Cupp said was good to get back going again.

“With COVID, we just didn’t dare do it. So, we’re hoping we can get by with it this year without any incidents,” Cupp said.

On Saturday, kid’s games will return from 1-6 p.m., with free face painting from 1-3 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. A “Cookie and Canvas” event for kids will occur from 1-2 p.m. with a $13 cost per child, and a sidewalk chalk contest from 2-4 p.m. Kid’s pedal tractor pulls will occur at 4 p.m., with the Magical Balloon Guy back from 5:30-6:30 p.m. A toy boat race will also occur at 5 p.m., with a duck race at 6 p.m.

Other notable events will occur during the day on both days. On Friday, the fireman’s barbecue will begin at 11 a.m., and a classic car cruise at 6 p.m. Friday. Saturday starts bright and early with a fishing tournament beginning at 7 a.m., followed by yoga at the park with Sheryl Sage at 9 a.m. In the afternoon, a wine and canvas will occur from 2-3 p.m. with a $25 charge per person. A trivia competition at the pavilion will happen at 3 p.m., with a $20 cost per five-person team.

Both Friday and Saturday night will have some entertainment as well. On Friday night from 6-9 p.m., Kat and the Bluetones will take the stage at the main gazebo of the park, with Chambered Round taking the stage from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the pavilion. Meanwhile, over at the park from 9-11 p.m. will be a showing of the movie “Shrek.” Saturday sees the Wall Brothers with Luke Lenhart take the stage at the main gazebo from 4-7 p.m., followed by the Hippo Sonics from 5-9 p.m. at the pavilion with a $5 cover charge. The Vinyl Five will perform from 7:30-10 p.m. at the main gazebo, with the Brandon Ryan Band performing at the pavilion following the 10 p.m. fireworks display and going until 1 a.m. to round out the festival.

Overall, Cupp said he looks forward to this year’s event, and says what makes it fun every year is the people who attend.

“I like seeing all the smiling faces. We try to make everything affordable and free if we can, and it’s just a good end-of-the-summer celebration before kids go back to school,” Cupp said. “People can look forward to a fun and affordable time.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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