GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While some will be making a splash in the city pool, feasting on watermelon, perusing through a maze of 100 food and craft vendors, or finding a comfortable place to watch …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While some will be making a splash in the city pool, feasting on watermelon, perusing through a maze of 100 food and craft vendors, or finding a comfortable place to watch fireworks, councilman Matt Johnson believes the most significant part of the day-long gathering is recognizing those who’ve served the nation’s military.
For 35 years, the city’s biggest single-day attraction starts with veterans and family members stepping to the microphone to describe their service and sacrifices. After all, Johnson said that’s what Memorial Day is all about.
“I was really impressed the first time I went to RiverFest and saw the wreath laid at the soldier memorial,” he said. “I’ve never seen in my life a ceremony where the microphone is handed to every single person who served, and they’re given the ability to tell the public about their service. It can be as simple as, you know, you served 32 years in Florida Army National Guard or it could be you served in Vietnam or Korea, with the Army or the Navy.
“It’s just really so special. I’ve never seen any place do this where they invite every single veteran to say a word about their service, so it’s a way to celebrate.”
Johnson is a retired U.S. Army colonel. He served with the 146th Expeditionary Signal Battalion during Iraqi Freedom and was the former commander of Camp Blanding.
For some, RiverFest is an opportunity to finally receive the accolades they earned more than 50 years ago.
“It’s really neat because some of these people have bottled this up for years, especially Vietnam veterans that were never welcomed when they got home,” Johnson said. “They are allowed to say a quick word about their service, so I believe that’s what makes RiverFest so special.”
The festivities will start at 10 a.m. at Spring Park, and it was span into the night with a fireworks show by North Florida Pyrotechnics Fireworks over the St. Johns River at 8:45 p.m.
Opening ceremonies will last 90 minutes and include a flyover by the Green Cove Springs-based Dreamland Squadron, the laying of the wreath, ringing of the bell, TAPS and more than 150 veterans participating in the remembrance ceremony.
For families, RiverFest is a celebration of summer as the park comes alive with the sounds and sights of the season. Parents can enjoy the lineup of 23 local food trucks and more than 75 craft vendors that line the park – all while children enjoy the Kids Zone with horse rides and more.
The food truck lineup includes Bright Light Catering, Java Jitters Coffee Truck, Hooked Up Seafood, Wicked Good Mini Donuts, Crown Majestic Kitchen, Hit the Spot JAX, Sweet Treat Concessions, Chinchilla Eats, Hawaii Five-Sno, Cajun Cravins’ 2 Go, Café Ybor, Fun Time Foods, Walter Allen’s BBQ, Hibachi Party, Nitrogen Creamery, Kona Ice, Kelley’s Corn, DCA Concessions, Emangeo’s Brick Oven, Twisted Okie, Tikiz Shaved Ice & Ice Cream, Pizza Pit Shop and Chelus Island BBQ.
Music is another highlight of the day. The Clay County Community Band will be in the park gazebo at noon, followed by Steve Amburgey, Mariachi Band, Velvet Edition, Michelle Reaves, Brooke and Jacob Thomas, Miss Marie’s Kids, Remedy Tree, Wyatt Shane, Star Search winners Pickles Chaz and Manny Torres and wrapping up with the headlining act, the BedRock Band.
BedRock promotes itself as “The Ultimate Hair Band” with tributes to 1980s and 1990s music, including songs from Bon Jovi, Poison, Guns n Roses, KISS, Journey, Van Halen, Pat Benatar and Ozzy Osbourne.
“We are celebrating the 35th annual festival and having lived here my whole life, I’ve attended almost all of them! I work with an amazing team who strives to make each year better for those who attend and a community that comes out and supports this day of celebration and remembrance! Organizing this event each year gives me great joy and makes me proud to be a part of the City staff and a part of this community,” said City Event Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the City Manager Kimberly Thomas.
Another popular event is three rubber duck races from the springs toward the St. Johns River. The cost is $100 a duck, with each race limited to 100 ducks. The first race is at 2 p.m. and, tickets will be on sale at the park from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. All proceeds benefit Green Cove Springs veterans.
Since the fireworks show attracts several thousand residents, the police department created plans to ensure everyone has a good time – and remains safe.
According to the city, boat owners can take their boats on the water for a spectacular view of the show. The City Pier will be closed to boats from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in preparation for the show.
Green Cove Springs Police Department will have a “No Anchor Zone” around the City Pier from 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, to 11 p.m. on Monday, May 29, and red GCSPD mooring buoys will mark it.
With so many attending the daylong event, the city will have 11 places where festival-goers can park for free – VyStar Credit Union, Clay County Supervisor of Elections Office, the vacant lots between Burger King and U-Haul on the corner of Park Street and Orange Avenue, Visual FX, First Presbyterian Church, Wells Fargo Bank, Vallencourt Construction, City Parking lot behind Sweet Sensations and across from City Hall, Clay Theatre and Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
For more details, visit www.greencovesprings.com/290/Green-Cove-Springs-Riverfest, or call Tiffanie Kelly at (904) 295-9471.