Riverfest Calls It Quits

After 40 years of music in Little Rock, Ark., organizers of Riverfest made an announcement July 18 that they were suspending the festival, saying that it was just too difficult to compete with the for-profit events as a nonprofit.

Riverfest Little RockRiverfest Little Rock

“Rising costs of performers’ fees, coupled with a greater number of competing festivals around the country are the underlying factors leading to this decision,” Riverfest’s executive director DeAnna Korte said. “Our entire budget is $2.6 million. That may sound like a lot, but in the world of music festivals, it is a shoestring budget.”

“It costs $300,000 just to run two stages. Security … is nearly $200,000. Fencing the perimeter is $60,000. Clearing the grounds is $30,000. We have done everything we could do to cut costs. … But it takes money to make money, and we are a nonprofit.”

The last iteration of the festival was held June 1-4 in Downtown Little Rock and featured Cage The Elephant, Wiz Khalifa, Cold War Kids, and Morris Day & The Time. Previous years featured the likes of Chris Stapleton, Peter Frampton, and Sheryl Crow.

At its height, organizers said the festival was attracting 250,000 attendees with an economic impact of $33 million.

Over the years the Riverfest nonprofit put more than $1 million into projects like a new roof on

The festival had three paid positions including Korte at the time of suspension, and was supported by 2,500 volunteers annually.

Gretchen Hall, president of Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau told the Democrat-Gazette: “Unfortunately, mid-market music festivals are becoming a dying industry with approximately 10 established festivals folding in the last two years.”

Organizers cited Pemberton, Karoondinha, Gathering of the Vibes, BayFest and Wakarusa as examples of recent closures in the competitive climate.

Riverfest took its name from its location on the banks of the Arkansas River. It started as The Summer Arts Festival in Murray Park in 1978.

The event was booked by Red Mountain Entertainment, who couldn’t be reached for comment at press time.

“With our bills paid, and our heads held high, we are closing the doors,” Riverfest board member Cheddy Wigginton said. “We had a fantastic 40-year run, and we had a great economic impact upon Little Rock and Arkansas.”