Organizers behind the rebirth of Little Rock's decades-running music festival say ticket prices for 2018 will be "significantly" lower than they were last year.
Event director Jack Daniels of Memphis-based Universal Fairs LLC said a $30 three-day weekend pass can be bought in advance of this year's Riverfest, which will be May 25-27 along the Arkansas River.
Daniels said he expects patrons will feel that prices for entry, food, drinks and merchandise are "very fair."
"That is something that we are actively working with all of our vendors to ensure," he said.
Advance tickets for last year's event were $40. Gate admission was $55 for the three-day festival, which was held the first weekend of June.
Early pricing for this year's event will be in place from March 1 through the end of that month. Weekend passes will increase in price after that, but an exact cost hasn't been announced.
Organizers said the 2018 ticket price was derived from a study of operational expenditures. The company expects the event to break even and plans to spend about $2 million operationally in the Little Rock area this year, Daniels said. The firm also estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 people will attend each day.*
"Pricing is very important to us," Daniels said. "It is one of the things, when we studied the event, that we found to be a challenge that some people had with Riverfest activities in the past."
The cost of items such as food and beer also should decline, he said. The company has made a deal with a nonprofit partner to handle beer sales for a portion of the proceeds.
Organizers announced in July the decision to shut down Arkansas' largest music festival, citing increased performer fees and competition from other music festivals. The festival posted a net loss of $300,000 in 2017.
Riverfest Inc.'s board of directors voted July 18 to dissolve the nonprofit organization and appoint a committee to wind down operations.
On Dec. 7, Riverfest Inc. sold the brand as well as its online presence to Mark Lovell, CEO of the for-profit firm Universal Fairs. Financial terms of the sale were not released.
Gretchen Hall, CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, called her organization's cooperation with Riverfest's new owner "a perfect marriage."
"Their events are all about family and friends coming together to do the things that they love and enjoy, and I think that's just the type of organization that can successfully revitalize our wonderful festival," Hall said.
This year marks the return of Riverfest's traditional Memorial Day weekend schedule and keeps its two-stage setup. Performances are set for the First Security Amphitheater in Riverfront Park and, tentatively, at the Clinton Presidential Center.
The music lineup -- a mix of local, regional and national performers -- will be announced in early April.
Daniels hinted that the musicians will lean "toward a country/classic rock theme" as well as "some well-known adult contemporary music."
"We're going to target our music and our talent to really highlight bigger names as opposed to simply bringing in a long list of sort-of-known names," he said.
Riverfest is set to feature an enlarged area for attractions. More than 25 amusement rides and other family-friendly activities are planned in a "family fun zone."
The festival's layout will not encompass President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock's River Market District -- a move organizers say they hope will keep the area "open for commerce."
The smaller footprint, Daniels added, will allow for downtown Little Rock's "main tourism corridor to stay open."
Information for this article was contributed by Eric Harrison of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
State Desk on 02/13/2018
*CORRECTION: Memphis-based Universal Fairs LLC estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 people will attend Riverfest each day. That number was incorrect in a previous version of this story.