Riverfest Executive Directors Van Tilbury (1997 – 2001), Jane Rogers (1990 – 1996) and Deanna Korte (2002 – present)
Photography by Michael Baxley
As Riverfest enjoys four decades of live music and community service along the banks of the Arkansas River, it’s the quality entertainment and consistent leadership that continue to exceed expectations year after year. During its tenure only three outstanding individuals have served as executive director – a testament to the steadfast commitment of not only the volunteers, but also the professional stature of the organization.
Established by the Junior League of Little Rock, Jane Rogers served in a volunteer capacity for several years before she accepted the position as executive director.
Current Executive Director Deanna Korte has been involved with the festival for 20 years, initially as a volunteer – there’s a committee of 250 volunteers that work 365 days a year to present Riverfest – and then in a permanent position. She marvels at its broad appeal, noting ticket sales from 35 states last year, and the opportunity to showcase The Natural State with true Southern hospitality. “Guests come for the great entertainment; spending time at our wonderful local and statewide attractions translates into a significant economic impact – estimated at more than $33 million by the International Festival & Events Association.”
Van Tilbury remembers the 1999 festival, when “Riverfest exploded with over 200,000 in attendance – the crowds were massive, the bands rocked, nobody got hurt – everybody was happy.” He continues, “This kind of success is result the hard-working, big-hearted, fun-loving people that volunteer to make it happen.”
Flowing on the River opens the festivities with wine and craft beer for guests, followed by the two-day music festival. “Expect the traditional festival favorites – great food, arts and craft, special attractions – and, of course, the best live music of the year,” Deanna promises. “We have secured an eclectic group of artists to help celebrate this milestone year” On Sunday, the weekend concludes with a very special 40th anniversary community celebration followed by the annual firework display.
Proceeds from Riverfest support improved infrastructure along Riverfront Park. From fountains to the amphitheater and the River Market pavilion, many of the amenities in downtown Little Rock are funded, in part, by this nonprofit organization. More importantly, Jane notes the strong sense of camaraderie and friendship the festival provides to its guests and volunteers. “Besides just being a whole lot of fun, Riverfest brings our community together and instills a sense of civic pride that strengthens personal and business relationships throughout our great city.”
Thursday, June 1 – Flowing on the River
Friday & Saturday, June 2 – 3 – Riverfest Music Festival
Sunday, June 4 – 40th Anniversary Community Celebration