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Great Music and Weather Help Draw Thousands to 2nd Annual Downtown Riverfest

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Photo Courtesy of Steve Knutson

Last summer, Downtown Sioux Falls threw the first ever Downtown Riverfest. We were set up on the east bank of the river beneath Cherapa Place with some talented local musicians, a couple of food and beverage vendors, some local artisans and a dream of attracting 3000 people. An estimated 10,000 of you showed up letting organizers know that this was an event that you were looking for.

Saturday night, with help from great sponsors like Lloyd Companies and with improvements now completed on the west bank of the river and all the work done at Raven Industries (and their cooperation to let the event use their parking lot for vendors) Downtown Riverfest spread out along a two block stretch in Sioux Falls with even more talented local and regional musicians and even more vendors. And your response was again outstanding! I haven’t seen any ‘official’ counts from DTSF as of my writing, but it seemed like we easily exceeded last year’s attendance thanks to the expanded grounds, beautiful weather and an excellent music lineup.

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Photo Courtesy of Sheryl Jackmon

There was an expanded kids area this year, some wonderful mural artists working under the 8th Street bridge and two stages of musicians on the Midcontinent Communications and Great Western Bank stages. Mitchell, SD singer/songwriter Billy Lurken got the music started at 4pm with an acoustic set, followed by Greyson Shulz who did an acoustic set of his own on the stage near 8th Street. Schulz played the main stage last year as a member of his band Hometown Glow. This year his Hometown Glow bandmate Alexander Olsen was back on the main stage as a member of the nine-person Main Avenue Warehouse who closed the festival and brought the house down!

I’m an admitted horn fan in rock and pop music, so when Main Avenue Warehouse started  setting up with FOUR horns, I knew we were in for a great time. They opened with a cover of Joe Cocker’s “The Letter” which had people up and dancing immediately and they slid seamlessly through covers of everything from Chicago, to Stevie Wonder, to the Reverend Al Green, to Prince and more. As the night got later, the families were replaced by people coming down to enjoy a few adult beverages and great music, so the ampitheater stayed full til the end of the night through the fireworks!

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The main stage entertainment started at 4:30 with a local singer songwriter who I’ve been a fan of since the first time I heard him nearly a decade ago. Thomas Hentges, who performs under the name Burlap Wolf King told me he recently has put a band back together after performing largely as a solo performer for the past few years. Their 60 minute set was all original music and grabbed the crowd’s attention and admiration. Be on the look out for a new BWK album down the road and more shows!

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Next up on the main stage was a talented duo from the Black Hills who you’ve heard on The White Wall Sessions, Jami Lynn & Dylan James. The acoustic folk duo brought along some friends for the show adding a stand up bass and dobro which really complimented their sound! Their 75-minute set left the growing crowd wanting more and I heard a lot of people saying it was their first time seeing them but definitely not the last.

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Also on the main stage Saturday night was a group of South Dakota Rock & Roll Hall of Famers playing under the name “Deeper Than Square”. If you try to look them up, you won’t find them because Saturday night was literally the second time the five had played together! We asked Jim Groth to put together a band of fellow Hall of Famers for the event as he was being elected into the Hall for the third time when we were putting together the talent lineup. He brought along Dave Wood, Mark Lane, Butch Zierath and Bobby Berge to play Riverfest and they sounded like you’d imagine a band of Hall of Famers would sound like: awesome. Playing a mix of Groth originals to covers of Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne and their set closing Stevie Wonder cover “Joy in My Tears” that saw Burlap Wolf King, Jami Lynn, Jim Newman and Victoria Pennock adding background vocals.

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Photo Courtesy of Spirit Sparks

Another fantastic festival in the books! Thank you to all the sponsors, organizers, vendors, musicians, and especially all of you for coming out and supporting such a great event for Sioux Falls. I know I’m not alone in saying I can’t wait for the 3rd Annual Downtown Riverfest next August!

Check back later this week for videos from some of the performances!


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