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Organizers hoping for good response to inaugural Animas River Jam


Alternative to Riverfest expected to draw smaller crowd

FARMINGTON — More than a dozen bands and at least nine food vendors have been secured for the inaugural Animas River Jam, the two-day festival planned for Memorial Day weekend in Berg and Animas parks.

The event, which is presented by the nonprofit River Reach Foundation and the City of Farmington, is intended to serve as a smaller alternative to Riverfest, the long-running Memorial Day weekend festival that was cancelled this year and last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

D'Ann Waters, president of the River Reach Foundation, said the festival will run from noon to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 29 and noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 30 at two sites – the River Reach Terrace in Berg Park and the Rocky Reach Landing in Animas Park. Admission is free, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets, as tables, chairs and bleachers will not be provided because of the difficulty involved in keeping them sanitized, she said.

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Waters said she is looking forward to the event and is hoping it draws a significant crowd.

"If we get a good response from people, we're hoping to do this again in October, maybe with some arts and crafts," she said.

Among the groups or artists scheduled to perform are the Fetz X-Tet, Pete Guiliani Trio, Sheldon Pickering, D'DAT, the Shawn Arrington Blues Band, Ben Gibson, Black Velvet, Ben Gibson and Kirk James. Waters said four acts would be featured at each stage on the first day of the festival, while three acts will perform at each stage on the final day.

Waters hopes to have between four and six food vendors on hand at each site throughout the festival. She said nine vendors already have been lined up, and arrangements are being made for a handful of others. Their offerings range from hamburgers and hot dogs to kettle corn and turkey legs.

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An April 28 announcement by New Mexico government officials that the state's multitiered system for public health restrictions had been updated and revised was welcome news to Waters, as it will allow the festival to proceed as planned.

"We were really starting to worry," she said, referring to San Juan County's slide back to the Yellow Level in early April, the second-most restrictive level on the state's four-tier system. "We were really happy to hear that."

But under the revised system, San Juan County advanced to the Green Level on April 30, the second-least restrictive level, and could progress to the Turquoise Level, the least-restrictive level, by the time of the festival.

Waters emphasized that social-distancing measures will remain in place for the festival, as all groups of visitors will be expected to remain at least 6 feet from other groups, and everyone will be asked to wear a mask. But she doesn't expect crowding to be an issue at either site.

"It's such a big area, people can spread out," she said.

Since the festival is free, there will be no fencing around Rocky Reach Landing or River Reach Terrace to limit access. While she is hoping visitors show up in high numbers for the event, she doesn't expect those figures to rival those for the event it is replacing, which traditionally attracts approximately 30,000 people over its three-day run.

"We'd like to see a nice turnout, but not the turnout we usually get for Riverfest," she said.

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With that thought in mind, Waters said no shuttle buses would be offered for the Animas River Jam. While visitors typically linger for several hours at Riverfest, browsing among the merchandise, and arts and crafts vendors, or taking part in various activities such as the popular Duck Race, she expects people to spend a shorter amount of time at this event. Organizers anticipate that will result in faster turnover for parking spaces.

"It'll be more of a come-and-go thing," she said. "They'll be able to listen to a band and get something to eat. … This is strictly the music, so I think that is going to limit the time a lot of people spend there."

Visitors to the festival will have the chance to fill out a survey exploring their likes and dislikes about the event, Waters said. Anyone who provides their name, address and contact information with the survey will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize, which likely will be a river rafting trip for two people, she said.

Call the River Reach Foundation for more information at 505-716-4405.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.