By Daniel Murphy, Jr.
I AM TALKING about Riverfest, the Grand Daddy of all festivals in the State of New Jersey. It was rated in 1998 by Life magazine as one of the top 100 outdoor events in the United States. This festival had grown stronger and better every year from 1980 to 2001, as a great family event. People traveled from all over the states back to their roots to attend it.
The event was the brainchild of Rick Bott, then a fledgling caterer, who came to me with the idea of having a food festival in Marine Park at which Red Bank restaurateurs could promote their restaurants and Red Bank.
With the permission of then-Mayor Mike Arnone and the help of two former Red Bank restaurateurs, Dieter Bornemann of the Little Kraut and Lou Vaiti of Sal’s Tavern, we put on the first Red Bank Food Festival.
It was held under one big tent in Marine Park, and 14 local restaurants and about 5.000 people showed up. The event grew in popularity each year and in the early 90’s we hired the Jazz and Blues Foundation to bring in “big music.” From that point on, it was a runaway event, which drew 120 to 140 thousand people over the three-day weekend.
What made the festival famous was the combination of great food and great music in a beautiful location on the Navesink River.
In its peak years, 27 area restaurants served everything from old favorites to new gourmet creations. Junk food was at a minimum, thank God, and you could graze all day on some of our area’s best cuisine. The music (by juried performing artists) was nonstop.
In 2001, the event was given to the Jazz and Blues Foundation to run and it was no longer Riverfest.
For the next ten years, the event was run as a music festival with fast food vendors from outside the area.
Last year, the event was given back to the original organizers. With the help of the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce and This is It Productions, Riverfest was back. Tim McLoone took the reins, organizing the music, and the festival again featured great food served by local restaurants. There was magic on stage, with local musicians performing diversified music for everyone. Riverfest was back and run to perfection.
I highly recommend you put this event on your calendar for this coming June. Riverfest 2012starts Friday June 1 at 5 p.m. in Red Bank’s Marine Park.
Plan to stay and attend Saturday June 2th and Sunday June 3. Brings the kids, the family, and your loved ones and create or relive the memories that only this event could create.
Daniel Murphy, Jr. is the owner of Danny’s Grill and Wine Bar, He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org