Riverfest Celebrates the Rivers of Farmington, N.M. on Memorial Day Weekend

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Each Memorial Day Weekend Farmington, New Mexico has a big riverside party, a family-oriented festival called Riverfest. There is much to celebrate. Forty percent of all the surface water in New Mexico runs through the Animas, La Plata and San Juan Rivers that merge in Farmington’s city center. Building public spaces and trails along these rivers in the high desert has been a community goal for decades.

Riverfest in Farmington, N.M.

The Riverine Project has been the best thing that has happened in Farmington area since the development of the natural gas industry here and will continue to be the most significant public and private partnership enterprise in the years to come.

Riverfest is one of the most popular annual events promoted by the Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau. It has live music, a juried art show, arts and crafts booths, river rafting, a wiener dog race, a pie eating contest, 5K and 10K races and more. Families come from around the region to enjoy entertainment on the trails and brick terraces that line the Animas River. They stop at an All Veterans Park along its banks, paying tribute to servicemen and women. Along with the fun, Riverfest is a symbol of the community’s pride in a public/private partnership that has greatly enhanced Farmington’s quality of life.
Farmington’s Riverine Project, which to date has developed five parks along the Animas River, began in the1980’s combining city government backing with citizen activism. Working together, they began the long process of cleaning up and beautifying rivers that were then ignored trash-filled back waters. According to Bob Hudson, retired Farmington City Manager, who came to Farmington originally to head its Parks and Recreation Department, “The Riverine Project has been the best thing that has happened in Farmington area since the development of the natural gas industry here and will continue to be the most significant public and private partnership enterprise in the years to come.” In 2011 the river parks’ trail system received a National Recreation Trail designation from the Department of Interior.
The River Reach Foundation in Farmington is the nonprofit organization that spearheads volunteer work and private fund raising to protect and improve the river corridors. The group also seeks land grants and easements from owners to increase park access along the rivers. Their volunteers help City parks staff build new trails and maintain old ones. Most recently City staff and Foundation volunteers repaired the Rocky Reach Rapid creating a hydraulic wave feature for kayakers and boaters in the process. Besides producing Riverfest, the Foundation also organizes a RiverGlo at Christmas and various concerts along the river.
Over the years Farmington’s riverside parks have played host to numerous other local, state, regional, and national events. They serve as a surprisingly successful economic and tourism generator, even “serving as a selling point for hosting conferences and conventions,” notes Hudson.
Despite the importance of Farmington’s riverside parks as community assets, it may be just as important to remember that these parks along a river in Northern New Mexico are a fine place for a quiet walk in a natural oasis now reclaimed.

The Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau is a destination marketing organization that supplies visitor information to travelers interested in things to see and do in Farmington and the Four Corners region.

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