Niles Riverfest future uncertain

With a little over three weeks to go before the scheduled start of the 2012 version of Riverfest in Niles, the event’s largest financial sponsor has jumped ship.

“Unfortunately, a festival is not a necessity, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Riverfest Chairwoman Marie Weimer.

Riverfest’s largest single sponsor had been the City of Niles, until the council voted 4-1 Monday night to deny a $2,500 funding request for 2012.

For Weimer, the move raises questions as to whether the show can or will go on as scheduled, starting August 2nd.

“But we would have to return all the food vendor money, and you’re talking over $6,000 just for that,” said Weimer of the possibility of shutting down Riverfest.

Riverfest has been part of Niles for the past 20 years.

Riverfest is famous for its Dragon Boat races and its Anything Goes Raft Race. Now, ‘anything goes’ where the future of the festival is concerned.

“Bottom line is we need M-O-N-E-Y,” said Marie Weimer.

Applefest funding was cut as they put in their application two weeks ago at the previous city council meeting and we turned them down also,” said Bill Weimer, Marie’s husband, and a city council member who abstained from Monday night’s vote.

Yet the council seemed to sing a different tune in May when it did approve a $2,500 funding request from the city’s Bluegrass Festival.

“It’s a little bit of the timing, but also bluegrass is the newest festival, the festival with the least amount of money,” said William Weimer.

While everyone seems to agree that the loss of city funding is a big blow to Riverfest, not everyone sees it as a potential fatal blow.

“I think that Riverfest will never ‘not’ happen, it will just change and evolve based on the resources that we have available,” said Riverfest Committee Member Tom Majerek. “I enjoy having the government participate in the event, but they have a tough choice to make and that's the choice that they made, so we'll live with it, and the community will put on a good festival for itself.”

So the race is on to raise more sponsorship money from private sources in the community. Riverfest has always been a ‘free’ festival, and there are no plans to change that.

The 2012 version of Riverfest is scheduled to start August 2nd and run through the 5th

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