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Something old, something new makes this festival place to be

Time to gather the blankets and lawn chairs and stake out your place for the annual River Falls Days parade as part of the River Falls Days, Homegrown Life on the Kinni, festivities held Thursday, July 11 through Sunday, July 14.

The parade, held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 12, is only one of the beloved favorites featured at this year's event.

With over 100 floats, the parade is a gathering place for friends, neighbors and visitors to watch creative floats inspired by the yearly theme, hear school marching bands, and wave at local and visiting dignitaries.

According to River Falls Chamber of Commerce Event Coordinator Maranda Mahr, the parade is filling up, but the chamber is still accepting applications for parade entry.

Parade applications can be found at the chamber website,, click on "River Falls Days," scroll to the bottom of the page.

As part of the pre-festival build-up, runners have been flocking to the streets in preparation for the annual 10K, 2 mile and 1K race on Saturday morning, July 13.

The cannon sounds on Main Street and Cascade Avenue by Dairy Queen for the start of the 10K/2 mile race at 8 a.m.. Same-day race registration will be from 6:45-7:45 a.m. at Glen Park. Pre-register by July 5 for a race T-shirt.

Kiddos can also lace up their running shoes and run the 1K course around Glen Park at 9:15 a.m. Each child will receive a medal, bib and t-shirt.

The faves

A highlight, according to Mahr and River Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO, Chris Blasius, are street dances -- Thursday-Saturday.

On Thursday night Bad Habits Brass, made up of past and present UW-River Falls students, will take to the stage at Second and Locust streets at 8 p.m.

The funk band follows the annual slider eating contest at 7:30 p.m. -- an event that's sure to get even the biggest eater sweating.

On Friday night, following the parade, pop band Junk FM will entertain from 9-11 p.m.

Saturday features the return of country music to River Falls Days, as well as a local favorite. The Tommy Bentz Band takes the stage at 7:30 p.m., and at 9:30 p.m., Lost Highway will get the cowboys and cowgirls kickin' up their heels.

Blasius said she is particularly excited for the Saturday night bands.

Mahr added that Lost Highway is a very popular band that has played Country Fest.

Live music on Friday and Saturday nights require an entry fee -- the Thursday night street dance is free.

River Falls Days will again welcome a carnival on Spruce Street. The carnival will be open 3-10 p.m Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Wristbands for $20 will be available from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Friday; and 12-4 p.m. Saturday.

Another classic, according to Blasius, are the community organization run food booths that will be located at Main and Locust streets -- as well as the north end industrial park.

Miller beer will be available, as well as pork chops on a stick, hamburgers, nachos, brats, walking tacos, chicken fajitas, island noodles, cheese curds, kettle corn and more.

Other River Falls Days favorites include:

--The crowing of the 2013 River Falls Royal Ambassadors at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 11 at the River Falls High School. (Look for the candidate bios in the July 4 edition of the Journal).

--The dunk tank noon to 3 p.m., Friday, July 12; and noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, July 13 at Main and Locust streets.

--Petting zoo, kiddie parade and River Falls Ambassadors meet and greet at the River Falls Public Library from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 13.

--Truck and tractor pull at the north end industrial park at 7 p.m., Saturday July 13; and at 1 p.m., Sunday, July 14.

--Fireworks at Hoffman Park at dusk on Sunday, July 14, can be viewed from Hoffman Park and Greenwood Elementary Fields, E Division Street.

Somethig for everyone

For the little ones, Mahr and Blasius mentioned the children's entertainment area from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday at Second and Locust streets. The area will include inflatables, games, the gymnastics area, martial arts demo, face painting and more.

In the same area, the big tent will feature performances similar to last year -- a juggler, kids music, Mad Science, and the annual talent show.

Not the be left out, teenagers can find fun at the Friday night teen dance from 9-11 p.m. on Main and Walnut streets. On Wednesday, July 10, First Covenant Church, 1374 N. Main Street, will host Mudfest for middle and high school students.

Older folks can try their hand at Bingo, which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday in the big tent and at 7 p.m., Saturday at the American Legion, 701 N. Main Street.

There will be a car show at Westwind, 709 N. Main Street on Saturday, a Car Cruze-In in downtown on Sunday and a boxing match at 5 p.m., Sunday at West Wind.

There will also be numerous community dinners and merchant sales in downtown River Falls throughout the festival.

All in this together

When deciding on the River Falls Days 2013 theme, Mahr said that the goal was to find an inclusive and all encompassing theme. The chamber also did an online poll and Homegrown Life on the Kinni was one of the top choices.

Mahr said that the theme encourages locals to be proud of their roots and of River Falls. She hopes that each person interprets it as their own and promotes local things.

Along with the selection of a yearly theme, a themed button is also designed and sold.

This year's $3 button is available at the chamber office and downtown businesses. As it has in previous years, a button purchase includes a raffle ticket and discounts to the street dances Friday and Saturday and the north end events.

To pull off River Falls days each year, an army of volunteers are needed. Blasius estimates the total number is over 350 volunteers, many of whom check IDs, sell beer, sell food, help with race registration and more.

"They make the festival what it is," said Mahr. Both women credit the work of volunteer coordinator, Patsy Linehan, with keeping a good crew that comes back each year.

Blasius said that the chamber, which uses the River Falls Days profit to fund the chamber and chamber events, credits the many festival sponsors with making the festival a success.

The chamber is still looking for volunteers to help at this year's River Falls Days. Those interested should call the chamber at 715-425-2533.

New additions

After working at the River Falls Municipal Utilities for 12 years, Blasius became the new chamber CEO earlier this year.

She said her biggest concern with her first River Falls Days is missing or forgetting something and hoping that the community does not notice.

Blasius said that she has been in contact with former CEO, Rosanne Bump, who left in early 2013 for a job with the Saint Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation.

"She (Rosanne) has been a great resource -- her heart and soul is in River Falls," said Blasius.

Blasius has relished the opportunity to work with so many community members since starting her new job. She has found everyone to be extremely helpful.

Besides a new CEO taking on the festivities, there will be a multitude of new events.

New events include:

--Laser Tag from 6-10 p.m. Friday; and 8 a.m.. to 10 p.m. Saturday, in the Family Fresh Market south parking lot, $6.

--Volleyball Tournament starting on 9 a.m. Saturday at Hoffman Park. $60 per team.

--Youth bean bag tournament for ages 13-17, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Second and Locust streets.

--Hope's Market featuring art, antiques, food, crafts and more from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Sterling Ponds on Highway 35.

--Tennis social mixer from 3-7 p.m. Sunday at the River Falls High School tennis courts.

--Garden tractor pull at 1 p.m. Sunday at the north-end industrial park. Will run at the same as the Truck Pull, $5 entrance fee.

Mahr said the the garden tractor pull will be a unique addition to the event. Blasius added that it "draws a different niche than the truck and tractor pull."

A complete schedule of events and registration forms can be found at the chamber website,, click on "River Falls Days."

Printed event schedules will be available closer to River Falls Days at the chamber office and local retailers.

For more information about River Falls Days (July 11-14), call the chamber office at 715-425-2533 or email

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046