Memphis promoters bringing Riverfest back, returning event to Memorial Day Weekend

Promoters from Universal Fairs LLC say they have bought the naming rights to Riverfest and plan to bring the concert festival back in 2018. (Photo: KATV)

It was a mainstay in Little Rock for 40 years, but year 40 was expected to be its last. But now event promoters from Memphis have bought the naming rights to Riverfest and plan to bring the concert festival back - and they're bringing it back to Memorial Day Weekend.

"We're really excited to be coming in and presenting something in this scale," said Jack Daniels, event organizer with Universal Fairs LLC and no relation to the whiskey. "We do large scale events as well, but this one will be one of the bigger music festivals for us."

Daniels said his company has put on events like the Delta Fair in Memphis, the Virginia State Fair and are in the process of "revitalizing" the Georgia State Fair.

No headliners were announced at a Riverfest press conference on Monday, Daniels telling reporters that they're still in the process of signing a majority of the talent. But promoters promise music focused on country and classic rock, with some "well-known" adult contemporary artists thrown into the mix.

"Once we feel like we bring in well-known names, that'll allow us to bring in some supporting talent behind us," said Daniels. "That is our approach, to bring in big names first and then fill that behind."

One thing you can say goodbye to at Riverfest this year are River Bucks. Daniels said he believed that was a challenge in past years for the event, and believe it will be much easier on the event and patrons alike to simply allow vendors to purchase food and drink with cash or card.

While Riverfest typically culminates with a firework show, Daniels said he isn't sure they'll be a part of the 2018 Riverfest lineup.

"We're debating the fireworks to be honest," said Daniels, adding that the focus is on the music but mentioning that there is a sponsor interested in bringing fireworks. If they do a firework show, Daniels said it would likely be executed differently.

Sponsorship has already been sold for a Family Fun Zone, equipped with 25-30 rides for kids of all ages. Organizers say they plan to bring new food and drink options to the event.

Event pricing became an issue in the last few years of Riverfest, with pre-sale tickets going for $40 and gate tickets going for $55 for a weekend pass. Daniels told reporters that the starting price for a weekend pass will be $30 when tickets go on sale in March, but mentioned that introductory price will only last through the month of March.

"Going forward as we announce music, I don't expect our prices to go up much more, but we do know if you wait till the last minute, you'll pay our gate price," said Daniels.

Daniels didn't give an exact figure for the gate ticket price, but told reporters that he believes pricing will be "very fair".

Organizers also mentioned a smaller footprint for the event. While the event remains split between two stages in the River Market District, President Clinton Avenue will remain open to car traffic this year. Daniels told reporters he wants to keep options open for people and encourage patrons to explore downtown.

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