Few things represent summer quite like Moorhead’s River Arts program. Now in its thirteenth year, River Arts events have become a favorite activity of residents all over the Red River Valley. Food, music, and fun… what’s not to like?

Sponsored by the Moorhead Parks and Recreation Department, River Arts has consistently grown in popularity. Recreation Specialist Kim Wangler estimates that last year’s events routinely drew between 700 and 1000 people. Just a few years ago, that number was closer to 500. If the program keeps growing, it may soon outgrow its current location at Memorial Park. Too many people in attendance – that’s a mighty nice problem to have.

River Arts will take place twice in both July and August. All events are geared towards families, especially children. “This is a great family event that showcases the many talents in our community,” Wangler explained. “There are lots of fun activities for kids along with music, games, and more.” All River Arts events are free, although there will be concessions available for a minimal cost.

One of the reasons the program has been so successful is Park and Rec’s willingness to think outside the box and keep the offerings fresh and inviting. “Every year a new band or two are featured. This year the FM Jazz Kicks Band will be performing,” Wangler said. “There are always new artists and fun activities to do as well.”

Although River Arts planners are always looking for new attractions and activities, they also understand that crowd favorites are a sure fire way to bring people back year after year. According to Wangler, “All the entertainment is well received but kid’s favorites are always Penny and Pals as well as the petting zoo, barrel car rides, and pony rides.”

River Arts events are held on select Tuesday evenings from 5:30 – 8:00 pm. Although each night brings its own unique twist, there are some commonalities. Each event will feature horse-drawn carriage rides, arts and crafts vendors, food, and hands-on activities. Despite these similarities, what makes River Arts so interesting are the differences found week to week.

The July 12 night will feature music by the FM KICKS Jazz Band. Formed in 1975, the band works to preserve the traditions of big band jazz, educate and promote America’s jazz heritage, and provide wonderful musical experiences for the jazz community.

River Keepers, an organization established in 1990 to protect and preserve the integrity and natural environment of the Red River of the North, will also be hosting a fishing clinic on the 12th. Included in the instruction is everything from casting and knot tying to identifying fish and understanding the sport’s rules and regulations. Those interested in participating are encouraged to bring fishing poles.

The ever-popular Penny & Pals will once again grace the stage on July 26. The creation of former teachers turned professional entertainers Penny Andrist and Gail Benson, Penny & Pals is a spunky mix of unique songs, stories, and characters that will have your child boppin’ to the beat and giggling with glee. The 26th will also include barrel car rides and inflatable games.

Those in attendance on August 9 will be able to enjoy pony rides, inflatable games, and music by fan favorite October Road. Organized in 2004, the band has become a staple of the musical scene in the Midwest. October Road’s sound has been described as “Funky Country,” as they try to bring a soulful, upbeat approach to the music they play.

The final River Arts event will be held on August 23. In addition to the appearance of a photo booth, guests will be able to enjoy music by The Front Fenders. Known for their high energy classic rock concerts, the band is equally comfortable adding a bit of country or pop to their set list. One might even hear a show-tune or two.

Despite the success of the River Arts program, Wangler is always looking for ways to make the events even better. “I would love to see more artists demonstrating their talents as well as selling their artwork or hand-crafted items,” she said.  Vendors may sell items that are handmade, home grown, hand painted, sculpted, etc. The vendor fee is only $15/day.

One of the best parts of summer is the ability to spend extended time with family and friends. There is no better way to do that than to grab some lawn chairs and head down to Moorhead’s Memorial Park. Whether you grab your dance partner and tear up some grass or watch your excited child on a pony ride, you are likely to find something to entertain your entire family. If you haven’t been to a River Arts event, you are truly missing out.

More information about the events or how you can participate can be obtained by contacting Kim Wangler at 218-299-5296 or via e-mail at www.kim.wangler@cityofmoorhead.com


By Jamee Larson