America's River Festival draws thousands to Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

America's River Festival draws thousands to Dubuque


America's River Festival has drawn thousands of people to the Port of Dubuque since opening Friday evening.

Festival coordinator and Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau president Keith Rahe said he hopes visitors will explore the riverfront plus all Dubuque has to offer.

The Marshall Tucker Band and Justin Moore drew an enthusiastic crowd filled with country music fans.

Dallas Brant and his friends came from southwest Wisconsin.

"I've always been a big Justin Moore fan. Thought I'd come out and see him," Brant said Friday night.

Folks from all over the tri-state area and beyond, however, came for more than just the live music.

John Sullivan is a food vendor at America's River Festival. He owns and operates a family popcorn business based in Mount Horeb, Wis. This is his sixth year as a vendor at the festival, and he remembers its early days.

"The first year that I was here, there were buildings that were being demolished, the pavement was all gravel, it was very, very dusty. But still people came out. But it was a lot dustier," he said. "This is really sophisticated. There's all kinds of facilities. All kinds of amenities. It wasn't like it was six years ago."

Since then, he has seen the festival grow.

"The crowds are bigger," he said. "There's more bands, there's more to see, more to do, and a lot more to taste and eat from all the vendors."

DockDogs competitions drew quite a crowd, and many of the competitors (and their owners) will return to Dubuque in November for the DockDogs World Championships.

There were also concerns about a swarm of mayflies, or fish flies as some call them, descending upon the Port of Dubuque this weekend.

Several times every summer along the river, mayflies emerge from their larva stage in the river. This emergence takes place over the course of one or several nights. Though the insects don't bite or sting, they come in huge numbers, which turns into a nuisance.

Mark Wagner is education director at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

"Lights draw in the mayflies or ephemeroptera," which is the insect's scientific name, Wagner said. "The more powerful the light, the more you're going to have."

With more than 600 amps' worth of lights on the stage at America's River Festival, there is plenty of luminance to attract the insects.

"I talked to Justin Moore," Rahe said Friday before the festival site opened. "They've dealt with, they call them mayflies. They've dealt with them before, so we'll have fun. I don't anticipate a big... you never know."

At the very least, a big swarm of mayflies indicates a healthy river.

"In a polluted system, polluted waterways, they die, they can't live, so I guess look at the bright side and say that, 'yeah, maybe these insects bother me, but because they're here, that means that the river right outside our backdoor is in pretty good health,'" Wagner said.

Once emerged from the river, mayflies live for about 24 hours. They mate, lay eggs and die.

Friday night, some mayflies emerged, but the swarm wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been - as Dubuque has seen in past years.

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