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If you go
What: IPFW RiverFest
When: 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday
Where: IPFW campus, along the St. Joseph River near the Visual Arts Building; enter the campus at the Crescent Avenue or St. Joe Road entrances; the Coliseum entrance is closed because of construction
Admission: Free; there is a cost for some activities; go to
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Boaters take to the St. Joseph River at last year’s IPFW RiverFest. This year’s event is in a new location on campus.

Move gives RiverFest room for more fun

Last year, the IPFW RiverFest staff tossed around the idea of expanding from its base at the Ron Venderly Family Bridge toward the campus’s north lawn areas. The idea was shelved as a potential option for the future.

However, when Sarah Payne, RiverFest’s project manager, learned the festival would lose its main entrance off Coliseum Boulevard because of construction this year, it became clear that the time for expansion is now.

“Every one is going to be thrilled. It’s going to be so much bigger,” Payne says.

“There’s so much shade and so much more beautiful views of the riverbanks. It’s going to be such an improvement.”

The fourth annual IPFW RiverFest will take advantage of its relocation Saturday as it embraces more of the St. Joseph River banks that run behind IPFW’s Visual Arts Building and Williams Theatre.

The festival has added new activities, including a 5K Mud Run, 400-meter Kids Run and Cardboard Regatta boat race.

With construction closing the Coliseum entrance for the summer, the festival will use the campus’s Crescent Avenue and St. Joe Road entrances.

Payne says not only does the new layout provide the festival with more space, but the campus’s Parking Garage 3 behind Williams Theatre will put families closer to the activities than in previous years.

“The biggest thing is getting the word out that we have a new location on IPFW’s campus,” Payne says.

“I want to send a very loud message that people shouldn’t be scared if they can’t enter through Coliseum. Go over to Crescent or St. Joe, and you will be really close. The biggest goal is driving people to the new location.”

The RiverFest’s Farm to Fork area will host short seminars about the rivers and their connection to farming in northeast Indiana. The area will feature 35 local food vendors in the farmers market, a pony ride and a large straw maze.

The Mud Run, an obstacle course running across the river and throughout the festival, and the Cardboard Regatta put participants on the rivers, which Payne says can be mistaken as polluted because of the loose sediments that give the St. Joseph River its brown color.

According to the RiverFest website, the rivers are considered safe for boating, limited fishing and even a little wading most of the time – other than in flooding situations. The festival will have canoe, kayak and pontoon rides throughout the day.

“It’s driving it home that the water is safe, and it’s driving it home the fact that we need to keep it this way,” Payne says.

Jessica Butler of the IPFW Alumni Association says the Cardboard Regatta was an idea to give the association a more active role in RiverFest.

The boat race has three divisions: guppie class for one- and two-person boats; dolphin class, for three- to five-person boats; and whale class for six- to 10-person boats. Butler says the regatta has registered 12 boat teams, including one 10-person boat. Cash prizes include $500 for first place.

“People seem to be very intrigued,” Butler says. “We get a lot of, ‘Is the cardboard going to float?’ ”

Most participants are using 60-inch-by-70-inch cardboard sheets donated by Kelly Box and Packaging that are double-walled, making the cardboard less flimsy. Each team received a pamphlet on boat designs, tips and rules about making a cardboard boat to race.

Although Butler says registration has been slow, new teams will also be able to build a one- or two-person boat on site the day of the festival. Butler says she hopes people won’t hesitate to build a boat and go a little overboard.

“We went on boats to map out the course, and it was great. It was so beautiful,” Butler says. “That’s what we wanted to do, bring another opportunity for people to be on the water – and potentially in the water.”