The Conway Chamber of Commerce’s Riverfest 2014 opening ceremonies kicked off to a sunny start with no rain on the parade.
Hours after Conway Bassmasters Bass tournament began at 6 a.m., the Anderson Brothers Brother’s Bank Golf Cart parade traveled Elm Street to Second Avenue then on to Marina Drive where the Santee Cooper Business Expo and Artisan Market opened at 11 a.m.
Nearby, the Riverfront Tennis Court parking lot became Nye’s Kids zone with camel and pony rides, a Jell-o jump and inflatables.
By 1:45 p.m. though, festivalgoers were hovering under trees trying to stay dry and escape the rain as it poured down while vendors scrambled to protect their wares.
First-time festivalgoers Nathan and Katrina Sanders stood in the closest dry spot they could find with Audrey, 3, who sported pink and white face paint and Cooper, 7, who looked a little disappointed at having to wait on the rain to have more fun.
“I’m disappointed,” said Susan Barnes of Calabash, N.C.
Her temporary tent tables that displayed “Gettin Glassy” hand-painted wine glasses and accessories didn’t escape the drops: Display boxes and signs were soaked and would need to be replaced and an entire table of wine glasses glistened with the wet of about a half-inch of water.
“I’ll use the down time though, to plan out the next show,” Barnes said as other vendors tried to keep the rain from blowing in under their awnings and from soaking their displays also.
But not long after it started, the downpour turned into a trickle and soon subsided.
So for those who stayed to stick it out, drenched or not, it was back to the fun of jumping into a pit of electric blue Jell-o to search for an invisible black ball or rolling around in a giant pool inside a 6-foot clear plastic ball with 45 minutes worth of air time.
“Nobody seems to care. They’re everywhere,” said Mark Burlinson, a 12th-year veteran of Riverfest and member of the chamber’s board of directors.
Undeterred by the weather, the Baker family was at Conway’s riverfront for the day.
“We’ve been here all day and we’re staying until 11 tonight,” said Rebecca Baker, who was making her way through the Kids Zone with Lee Lee, 10, Ava, 7, Rylee, 6, and Trent, 3.
“I just got here,” said Jonathan Baker who said he sat through 30 minutes of standstill traffic to get to the Riverfest.
“We’re staying until the end,” said both Bakers.
The Baker children all nodded happily, but that wasn’t the case for Coleman Drake, 3, who was soaked from head to toe. He buried his head into his mother’s equally soaked shoulder and declined to comment.
Meanwhile, and over by the Beer Garden, set-up was underway for the evening agenda: a 7:15-9 p.m. performance by Eagles Tribute band, On the Border, and Lynyrd Skynrd tribute band, Tuesday’s Gone was set to hit the stage at 9:40 p.m. after Conway National Bank’s Fireworks Extravaganza.
Both bands were rained out last year, and it wasn’t looking like this year would be any brighter.
“There’s a storm headed this way in about 15 minutes,” said Conway police officer Chris Jones. “When it’s not just rain, it becomes a safety issue and we have to make sure everyone goes quickly and orderly to safety.”
Officer Jones was joined by two other officers as they prepared to clear the park if the better weather didn’t hold.
No matter if or how much though, as long as it’s safe, there’s one thing for certain:
“We will have fireworks,” said Burlinson.