Following a year stolen by COVID-19, festival revelers returned in droves to enjoy the sights, sounds and a variety of fare at the Riverfest.
Skies were gray and the weather looked foreboding as the Riverfest Seafood Festival kicked off its weekend return on Saturday, Nov. 20, after a COVID-19 hiatus was imposed the previous year.
“We were a little bit nervous about the weather at the beginning of the weekend,” said Becky Parker, Ormond Beach Mainstreet’s event organizer. “But I thought people would come out regardless. As we saw with the Celtic Festival, it was packed. Everybody was just ready to be out and about.”
This was Parker’s seventh year helping to organize the event that has been well-attended for 12 years. Approximately 100 volunteers were utilized over the course of the weekend to setup, run the children’s events, offer vendor support, man beverage booths and break down. Family members usually join together when volunteering for the festival. Parker’s father flies in to Ormond Beach three times per year just to assist with anything she may need for the city’s annual festivals.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Don’t go around Becky during festival time, you’ll get dragged into volunteering’,” she said as she laughed.
Over two dozen vendors packed the Rockefeller Gardens with a variety of savory food offerings ranging from Seashore Seafood’s lobster mac-n-cheese to Greg’s Seafood & BBQ’s frog legs basket along with a multitude of sweet treats including Jeremiah’s Italian Ice and fried Oreos.
Greg Lewis, the owner of Greg’s Seafood & BBQ, started his business 15 years ago after his uncle John Watson taught him everything he knew about becoming a food vendor. Lewis assisted Watson when he would travel to Jacksonville to cook at the NFL Jaguars’ home games. Currently Lewis works for the City of Ormond Beach in the stormwater department during the week and on weekends, travels to Tallahassee, Miami or anywhere his mobile restaurant is requested.
“Yes. I work a lot,” he said. “Usually seven days per week. I love it. I love this festival. Always a great turnout.”
Vintage music and draft beer offerings created a haven for adults to enjoy each others company along the picturesque Halifax River. Kids also had a chance to enjoy outdoor activities at the Kid Zone under the Granada Bridge and by participating in the Kid Fish clinics at Fortunato Park where they were giving out free fishing poles. Parents could stop by to chat with Delores Cope at the Early Learning Coalition bus to discuss educational options for their children while the kids played at the interactive stations.
Travis Konarik and his wife Kristy Knight were the first volunteers to setup the Kid Fish clinics seven years ago. In the past, Fish Florida donated fishing poles along with grants which would be used to obtain 300 poles to be given out at the festival. This year, the poles arrived late which made it necessary for Ormond Beach Mainstreet to purchase them in time for Konarik and Knight to put them together at their house. The late arrivals will be used for next year’s clinics.
Veteran Thad Harris, owner of the Harri Axe — a mobile axe throwing business — had a line at his vendor booth. His trailer consists of an axe throwing cage large enough to accommodate two throwers simultaneously. Harris had reached out to Ormond Beach Mainstreet to participate in his first event—the Celtic Festival and followed it up with the Riverfest. Siblings Noah and Samantha Stevens were excited to see Harris again. After a few rounds of axe throwing rivalry, the two said it was fun and would get their parents to stop the car if they saw it in their travels.