Rockford’s On the Waterfront festival ends 29-year run
Rockford’s On the Waterfront (OTW) Labor Day weekend festival will end after 29 years, organizers have announced.
The festival, which began as a street party in 1984, was once Illinois’ largest music festival.
Featuring more than a 25-block span along the Rock River in downtown Rockford during its heydey, the festival offered many stages featuring local, regional and national acts. Among prominent headliners of the last decade were The Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, Rockford’s own Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Daughtry, Shinedown, Kansas, Blake Shelton, Styx, Puddle of Mudd, Bare Naked Ladies and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
In 2009, amid an economic recession, the festival cut back drastically, restricting festival grounds to just a few stages on the west side of the Rock River. According to reports, the festival had accumulated more than $340,000 in debt.
The festival often prided itself on offering local organizations an opportunity to earn needed funds through volunteer work at the festival, including working beverage and food tents.
The OTW name reportedly may be sold and used by another entertainment agency. The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (RAVE) is also working with OTW board members to keep a Labor Day weekend festival alive in Rockford.
RAVE Chairman Mike Dunn issued the following statement:
With the news that Labor Day 2012 was the final On the Waterfront festival, our community has suffered the loss of a 30-year Rockford institution. The festival was the embodiment of a civic celebration which served as a unique outlet for local volunteerism as well as financial support for countless local charitable and civic organizations.
We recognize the great commitments of personal time and financial resources made by many over the years to create and sustain a wonderful tradition. The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority joins the greater Rockford community in thanking the dedicated organizers, board members, volunteers and supporters of the OTW festival.
Over the last few months, we were informed of the possibility that 2012 would be the final festival for OTW. Since that time, RAVE, along with other community partners, has worked hand-in-hand with OTW board members and staff to creatively explore alternative opportunities to preserve the legacy of the festival in Rockford and provide a long-term, sustainable business model for the community-based events in downtown Rockford.
As they have done for the past 30 years, OTW’s Board of Directors and staff have remained focused on preserving the legacy of community festivals in downtown Rockford and the opportunity to engage volunteers in supporting local charitable and civic organizations.
As the manager of Davis Park, RAVE’s mission is consistent with that legacy. It is our intent and commitment to continue and enhance festival and entertainment programming in Davis Park, which will include working with local civic and charitable organizations.
We look forward to providing those organizations with the kinds of opportunities and support they have had throughout OTW’s history. We will be making announcements regarding future programming in Davis Park over the next several months, and thank the community in advance for their support of those events.
On Behalf of the RAVE board and organization,
From the Dec. 19-25, 2012, issue
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