Under the leadership of Alecia Castleberry, the fun runs deep and the tradition continues.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Dero Sanford | Hair by EC Haynes with Salon EC | Necklace provided by Beyond Cotton | Makeup by Kristin Ivey with Pout | Shirt provided by Terri Shotts, fashion stylist & personal shopper with Dillard’s Park Plaza | Graphics provided by Eric Rob & Isaac
Riverfest has enjoyed nearly four decades of festivities on the banks of the Arkansas River celebrating music, the arts and community service. This year introduces exciting attractions with the same solid leadership and a committee of more than 250 volunteers. The fun runs deep and the tradition continues.
Chairman Alecia Castleberry leads a cast of thousands, including her husband and sons, as the music festival moves from Memorial Day weekend to the first weekend in June. “Judy Tenenbaum recruited us and we’ve been involved ever since,” Alecia remembers. “Serving year after year with the hardest working volunteers that I’m proud to call friends to bring the best entertainment to our loyal patrons makes Riverfest a family tradition for us.” Her husband Mike has volunteered with Riverfest for more than 10 years with the grounds committee coordinating logistics. With the help of their three sons, the Castleberry family has tackled nearly every Riverfest task.
Alecia admits she’s “all in” when it comes to any project. It’s no surprise she embraced the opportunity to rock the guitar during photography for our story. “I’ll try anything once, especially for the good of the group!” That mantra, coupled with her sassy sense of humor, always promises a whole lot of FUN. “Alecia’s enthusiasm and experience make her an invaluable resource for our Riverfest committee,” notes Riverfest Executive Director DeAnna Korte. “She solidifies the collective effort of the committee and additional volunteers with undeniable good times through all the hard work.”
This sense of camaraderie and authenticity makes her a favorite at Pulaski Academy, where Alecia worked as a science teacher and now serves as upper school dean of students. Her philosophy of “service to others” and adoration of her students cultivates strong civic leadership at the school. Students at the high school complete 15 to 30 community service hours each year. “I encourage them to live by our core values of respect, responsibility, integrity and excellence,” she notes, “with a vision for their future that holds limitless possibilities.”
It’s this kind of optimism that keeps her Riverfest committee on task and excited about the festival as it showcases an all-star concert series, including international performers as well as local and regional talent next month. “We welcomed more than 230,000 guests last year,” DeAnna explains. “Riverfest evolves and improves to meet the expectations of our greatest resource – the people of Arkansas.”
For the first time in its rich and colorful history, Riverfest hosts two weekends of activities: Springfest in April and the music festival June 3-5. “Riverfest serves two distinct audiences – families and music enthusiasts,” explains DeAnna. “Springfest allows us to make our most popular daytime activities available to families while the music festival attracts top-name musical acts for our Riverfest concerts.” Highlights include Chris Stapleton – a winner at this year’s Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards – and ACM Best New Female Country Vocalist Kelsea Ballerini. “With old-school favorites like the Flaming Lips, the Goo Goo Dolls, and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic – and so much more – this might be the most exciting Riverfest lineup ever,” DeAnna continues.
Flowing on the River opens the weekend’s festivities with fellowship and fun in signature Riverfest style. Sponsored by Arkansas Craft Beer Distributors, Natural State Distributors and Chuy’s Tex-Mex, the evening is an opportunity for a more intimate gathering that celebrates civic leadership. “Flowing on the River honors our patrons, sponsors and a commitment to the community that makes Riverfest so unique,” notes Alecia. “We all love Riverfest and what it brings to Little Rock, making Arkansas a better place to live and work.”
Proceeds from Riverfest support improved infrastructure along Riverfront Park. From fountains to the amphitheater to the River Market pavilions, many of the amenities enjoyed in downtown Little Rock are funded, in part, by this nonprofit organization. “Riverfest has donated over $1 million to various projects – including renovations and a new roof for the First Security Amphitheater, which serves as the backdrop for our annual fireworks display that celebrates Riverfest and summertime in Arkansas,” boasts Alecia.
Alecia’s commitment to Riverfest reflects her family’s values and what she loves most about the Natural State. “We have created a great sense of belonging here – from our Pulaski Academy family to our Hillcrest neighborhood and the Riverfest committee.” She continues, “We want our boys to be kind and giving; Mike and I teach them by example. Serving others – whether it is my kids, husband, students or my community – brings me great joy.”
Vacation Destination: any beach
Cocktail: Rombauer Chardonnay
Song: Traveler by Chris Stapleton
Riverfest Tradition: the fireworks
Summertime Tradition: “Working Riverfest with my family and ending my summer at the beach.”