COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - A look at how setup of the Three Rivers Water Festival midway is coming along Tuesday. The 63rd festival will begin Thursday, June 17 and run through Saturday, June 19.

The tradition continues: TR Water Festival returns after COVID hiatus

THREE RIVERS — The Three Rivers Water Festival was one of the many event casualties in the area during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, cancelling completely for the first time in its 60-plus year history, despite many postponement attempts.

It’s no wonder then that many people, including Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President Christy Trammell, are extremely excited to welcome the Three Rivers tradition back for its 63rd year this upcoming weekend, June 17-19.

“We have had so many people comment saying thanks for bringing some sort of normal back to the community,” Trammell, who helps head up the festival, said. “We’re just excited about the participation from the community as well, as we all kind of need this right now.”

The theme for this year’s festival is “There’s No Place Like Home,” the famous quote from “The Wizard of Oz,” with Trammell saying the theme resonated with the Chamber board, who decided on the theme.

“We thought that really resonated this year with what we’ve just been through with COVID,” Trammell said.

This year’s festival will begin the way it usually does, with a big parade through the city beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday night. Trammell called it one of the biggest returning favorites, and will feature floats from different businesses and organizations, as well as performances from the West Michigan Homeschool Band and the Three Rivers High School Wildcat Marching Band.

“It’s an opportunity for businesses to get some recognition, it’s an opportunity for the schools and organizations to get recognition,” Trammell said. “You’ll have the traditional aspects of the parade, as well as seeing the theme resonated as the float entries come through.”

Multiple other returning activities will come back, including the carnival midway in the Memory Isle Park parking lot, the arts and crafts marketplace at Scidmore Park, the classic car and motorcycle show downtown on Saturday morning, and the famous Lions Club Ox Roast on Friday and Saturday. The Ox Roast, unlike previous years, will be held as a drive-through style event at Lions Club’s club building on 420 Sixth Ave.

Other events that will occur include the Hope United 5K / 1 Mile Super Hero Fun Run on Saturday at 9 a.m. beginning at the Fire Department, open houses at the Silliman House Museum and St. Joseph County Historical Society all three days, the Relay For Life Duck Race on Saturday, the St. John’s Lutheran Church Strawberry Fest all three days at Scidmore Park, the free Kids Zone on Saturday at Scidmore Park, and the Three Rivers Woman’s Club Pie and Coffee booth on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 42 N. Main St.

The biggest new event this year, keeping with the theme of the event, will be the playing of the Wizard of Oz movie, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the main stage area near the Three Rivers Fire Department.

“We are excited to have that movie to go along with the theme,” Trammell said.

In addition, the main stage will hold a concert from the Kari Lynch Band, a self-described “alt-country” band based in Nashville and originally from Grand Rapids who last performed at the Water Festival in 2015. Trammell said the concert, sponsored by Super 8 Motel and Kadant Johnson, is a bit of a homecoming.

“They had started to make a big name for themselves when we had them a few years ago, they went down to Nashville and got some notoriety there, and now they’re coming back to their roots in Michigan,” Trammell said. “We’re happy to have them back this year.”

The festival will end with a fireworks display at approximately 10:25 p.m. Saturday night, with a rain date on Sunday, June 20.

Coming back from a year off, Trammell said organizers have been approaching this year’s event conservatively and with caution, mainly due to uncertainties around state mandates. She said they will be implementing several precautions for guests to keep them safe and healthy, including handwashing stations provided by Three Rivers Health and hand sanitizer stations at every ride.

“Things are not the same as before, you’ll notice differences from every aspect as you’re going around the festival, but we’re able to have one,” Trammell said. “We’ve tried to do as many things as we could to have a festival and do it safely.”

In addition, Trammell said inflatables will not be included in the Kids Zone this year due to being a “larger challenge to keep clean.”

Weather-wise, according to the National Weather Service as of Monday night, Thursday and Saturday are expected to be sunny, but Friday has a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms during the day, and a 30 percent change at night. Trammell said any cancellations or postponements that need to occur due to weather will be broadcast on the radio on 95.9 WLKM and 97.1 WRCI and posted on the Three Rivers Water Festival Facebook page.

Overall, Trammell said she has high expectations for this year’s event, and hopes those that attend have a good time.

“We are hoping the community comes out to support the festival, support the community members, and we have a great time and everyone stays safe,” Trammell said. “We’re very grateful for the support of the community, and we couldn’t hold this festival if we didn’t have a tremendous amount of support.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or

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