HARTFORD — A scaled-back version of Hartford’s Riverfest celebration, which was cancelled over the weekend because of unsafe water levels on the Connecticut River, will take place next Thursday.
The event took over a year to put together and would have featured hundreds of entertainers, vendors, and activities, but organizers were unable to produce the same program for the new date.
Riverfest will only feature fireworks this year, event organizers said Tuesday.
“It’s an unprecedented situation,” said Charlie Myers, Riverfront’s director of programs and events. The Connecticut River had not flooded for Riverfest in the 33 years since the celebration began. “We feel lucky to even get the fireworks.”
There was no contingency plan in case July 6 and the July 7 rain date were canceled, Myers said Tuesday.
In addition, with Riverfest already costing $150,000, he said organizers would have had to spend an extra $40,000 to $50,000 to reschedule or book new performers — funds they did not have.
“We had to attempt to rebuild the event by scratch and came up with different scenarios,” Myers said. “Every time we came up with a proposal, we came up with obstacles … Despite what people say, Hartford is a busy town. People have made commitments.”
This year’s Riverfest would have included bands, bounce houses, log jumps on the river, bull rides, a lumberjack competition and a water skiing show, among other amusements, Myers said. Those performers will still be paid.
“When these companies book with us for this event, they’re not booking somewhere else,” he said. “[July 6] is a prime Saturday in the summertime. If we cancel, we can’t expect them to not get paid. So we have to pay them. There’s no discount.”
Organizers have begun planning for the 2014 Riverfest, he added. “A flooding river is a circumstance beyond our control. We feel fortunate that we’re able to bring the community fireworks and not canceling them outright… The real star of the show is fireworks.”
“The July 18th date is subject to approval from the various permitting agencies,” Myers said, “but we have received tremendous support thus far and we do not anticipate any major issues.”
The fireworks are scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m. The rain date is Friday, July 19.
“Everyone needs to pray for sun on Thursday,” Myers said.
By Vanessa de la Torre, Hartford Courant