Clarksville Says Final Goodbye To Rivers And Spires Festival

Posted at 8:53 PM, Apr 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-20 21:53:28-04

A fifteen year tradition will not return to downtown Clarksville in 2018. The Rivers and Spires Festival kicked off Thursday evening for the final time throughout the city's downtown core.

Reaction from downtown businesses is mixed.

"Some are sad that it's going, others neutral," said festival coordinator Steven Stroman. "Some are glad because it is hard to get in and out of downtown if you have a business here."

The festival first launched in 1999 as a reaction to an EF-4 tornado that ripped through downtown, destroying businesses, the courthouse, and many churches.

But in recent years, the number of attendees has overwhelmed festival organizers, security, and narrow city streets.

"Police have a hard time keeping up with it. If someone were to be injured or sick, it's hard to get a vehicle into get them out and get them to help," Stroman said.

But some are sad to see the spotlight on downtown disappear.

"I think it's sad and I think it's going to hurt Clarksville a little bit," said Bonnie Portillo, who works at Mildred and Mabel's Boutique downtown. "We do get a diverse community that comes when the festival is going on. Austin Peay gets tours of incoming students and then they come downtown and enjoy the music and the downtown shops we have."

It's also difficult to find people willing to donate their time and money in order to make the festival a success, Stroman said.

"Most years, we're lucky to break even," Stroman said. "This year we've invested about half a million dollars."

Stroman is hopeful a new event might replace the festival in an area more equipped to handle crowds, but for now, he said nothing is in the works.