The Mississippi River is wreaking havoc with the summer festival schedule this year, but last year it was rain that washed out Moline's annual Riverfest event, with several inches drowning the event and forcing its cancellation.

The weather prevented the Quad Cities from seeing significant changes to the festival, which has shifted focus over the past three years.

"We weren't able to show all the work we had put in," said Lisa McCluskey, Riverfest director.

This year's edition is scheduled for June 29 through July 1 on Ben Butterworth Parkway. (Flooding has had some impact on the event; Riverfest won't be able to use the entire Parkway as it has in years past.)

Riverfest started as a free general festival - "There was no theme you could put your arms around," McCluskey said - but after the 1998 edition, organizers tried to create a transition to a family-oriented event. Last year was the second year of what was envisioned as a three-year process. "A lot of people would have seen the transition as almost complete," she said.

The goal is to target an older audience that will bring their children to the festival. With that in mind, the music now skews toward classic rock (this year featuring the Classic Rock All Stars and John Kay & Steppenwolf, among others), and other components of the event have been modified while new features have been added. The arts and crafts show is now juried, and last year was the first for a "children's recycle art exhibit." "For the short duration it was open, it seemed to go over pretty well," McCluskey said.

Riverfest also instituted an admission fee two years ago - $5 on Friday and $10 on Saturday. Admission on Sunday, when the festival runs from noon to 6 p.m., is free. "That significantly changed our audience," McCluskey said.

New this year will be a "humanities" component - storytellers and puppeteers.

Riverfest has always been a money-loser, but last year's washout prompted some members of the Moline City Council to question whether the city should put it on at all. Last year, the festival lost $130,000.

But McCluskey said Riverfest faces some challenges that other festivals don't have to deal with. For one thing, while volunteers take care of things such as first aid and setup at most large community events, the city has to pay its employees - time and a half plus benefits. Those costs comprise $50,000 to $70,000 of the festival's $251,000 budget. "We pay some pretty high prices," McCluskey said.

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