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FALL ARRIVES: Riverfest in downtown Wilmington officially welcomes the ‘cool’ season

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Sun Coast Cruisers will have numerous cars on display during Riverfest on Saturday, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Courtesy photo


Despite the high-80 and low-90 temps we’ve been experiencing over the last week, fall officially has arrived in southeastern NC. While Riverfest always has been the kickoff to the “cooler season” in Wilmington, its postponements over the last few years, due to hurricanes and the like, have moved it into November (about the time we actually wear sweaters and flannel around these parts). However, Riverfest’s return to the first weekend of October in 2019 brings with it 40 years of festivities celebrating downtown Wilmington.

“Riverfest was originally organized to bring people back to downtown Wilmington to revitalize the local shops [in 1979],” says Chris Snowden, past president of Riverfest, who now oversees PR and marketing. “It’s is still focused on showcasing not only the magnificent river but also the vibrant downtown scene.”

The weekend welcomes 130 arts and crafts and food vendors, set up along Front and Market streets between Front and Water, and on Water between Market and Princess streets. Thirty-two will provide eats, from giant turkey legs, to sausage and onion sammies, to fried everything imaginable. Ninety-five percent of the artisans curated for the street fair handcraft all items. Among them is Linda Callison of Out of Chaos. “I have been making jewelry and wind chimes and more for 25 years,” Callison tells. “Most everything is one-of-a-kind.”

Callison has represented her business in numerous art fests and craft fairs throughout the years. She does custom work and specialty requests, like repairs on jewelry and the like. Her interest in wind chimes came out of happenstance in her kitchen, when she dropped a small, metal salt shaker and the sound resonated with her.

“I have been off and running with it for years,” she says. “What separates me from most jewelers is my simplicity and uniqueness of materials, finding the rare and unusual. My wind chimes are mostly one-of-a-kind beaded jewelry for the home and yard. I try to always have something for everyone, in different themes and colors.”

Out of Chaos’ booth will be located at Princess and Market streets.

While the main focus for the 114,000 attendees is to merely have fun at Riverfest, behind the scenes, the festival continues to give back to the community at large tenfold. Scholarships and monies are awarded annually, with donations coming from community businesses and organizers.

“Riverfest has contributed more than $130,000 to a scholarship fund at Cape Fear Community College Marine Sciences,” Snowden says. “In the past few years we have donated to the Cape Fear River Watch as well. This year we intend to continue the donations to CFCC and hopefully announce a new organization that will benefit from the festival.”

Here’s a rundown of how to celebrate fall in Wilmington on Saturday, October 5, and Sunday, October 6.


Located in the Ligon Flynn Parking Lot (20 S. 2nd St.) at 2nd and Market streets (where Downtown Sundown was held throughout summer), families are welcome to bring the kids to enjoy bouncing on multiple inflatables. Also, the raptor center will be on hand, and the kidz stage will have performers both Friday and Saturday.


Next to the Kidz Zone in the Ligon Flynn Parking Lot (20 S. 2nd St.)  is the beer garden, where folks can enjoy adult beverages while listening to free live music throughout the day.

On Friday from 6:30 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.,  local original act Striking Copper will take the stage. The Zac Brown Tribute Band, 20 Ride, will take over from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

On Saturday at noon, L Shape Lot will open the afternoon of live entertainment. Josh Solomon and Eric McGuinness will play at 1:45 p.m. and The Kolby Oakland Band at 3 p.m. At 4:45 p.m., Starkey takes over, followed by Massive Grass at 6 p.m., and the Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, Tuesday’s Gone, at 8 p.m.


Both Saturday and Sunday will feature refurbished hot rods and antique cars galore for automotive enthusiasts. On Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Sun Coast Cruisers car club will have their rides on display, including General Motors, Ford, Chevrolet, Mopar, street rods, rat rods and more.

On Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Cape Fear Chapter of the Antique Auto Club of America will showcase their numerous rides. All AACA cars have been restored and preserved to their original condition, with vehicles being at least 25 years or older.

Both car shows will be lined up on Front Street between Market and Dock.


Team Gold Medal will feature some of the biggest names in BMX that have competed in contest, such as the X-games and The Dew Tour. These athletes are also competing for a spot on team USA’s newly formed Freestyle BMX team for the 2020 summer Olympics.

Attending athletes for the 2019 Wilmington Riverfest include: Isaiah Jordan, Lane George, Keith Schmidt , Alex Johann, Jacob Lenta, and Rob Armour. There will be a potential appearance by Daniel Dhers.

The show will take place on Front Street, between Red Cross and Walnut.


No seasonal celebration is complete in downtown Wilmington without fireworks over the Cape Fear River. Riverfest will shoot explosions in the sky as soon as the sun sets. Be sure to arrive early and secure parking; expect downtown traffic to be heavy.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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