The Riverside Chamber of Commerce has decided to drop one its longtime events in favor of a new summer get together — Riverfest in the Park — which chamber officials hope will become a popular family event in the years to come.

Riverfest will be held Saturday, July 25, in Centennial Park and along East Avenue from 5 to 10:30 p.m. The general public is invited to the free event, which will feature the band Midnight from 6 to 10 p.m. 

The Chamber of Commerce will be selling beer and wine, while 34 East Lounge and Fiore Bakery will be providing the food, which will be available for purchase. Aunt Diana’s will also be selling items and people can buy raffle tickets to win various prizes.

Riverfest replaces the chamber’s annual steak fry, which last year marked its 71st year as the organization’s signature summer event. Attendance has been dwindling in recent years, giving chamber officials an opportunity to change direction.

“We’re just trying to inject some new enthusiasm,” said Riverside Chamber of Commerce President David Moravecek, who will be bowing out as the organization’s leader in December after 10 years at the helm. “We want to offer events and programs that people from the community will feel it’s a nice place to live.”

According to Moravecek, the Chamber of Commerce saw the success of events such as the July 3 Concert in the Park and the village’s inaugural Riv-Inia concert last year and decided to try that route for its own event.

“They are venues where people really enjoy getting together,” said Moravecek. “It’s an open atmosphere with music and food from local vendors.”

Joe LaMantia, who has been the Chamber of Commerce’s point person for Riverfest, said the organization’s membership immediately supported the change, with more than 30 businesses signing on as sponsors, meaning the event has a real possibility to be a solid fundraiser for the chamber.

The rush to sponsor the event was a new development for the chamber’s summer event.

“There’s lot of enthusiasm,” Moravecek said. “We have tremendous sponsorship. That’s never happened before with the steak fry.” 

The Chamber chose Centennial Park as the location, because it’s a seldom used but picturesque spot. The beer and wine tent will be located right below the water tower and the food vendors and stage will be on East Avenue. A large tent will cover much of the street.

The steak fry was always the place where the Chamber and the Riverside Township Lions Club would announce their Riverside Township Person of the Year. The chamber has decided to pull its sponsorship of that award. In its last year as a sponsor in 2014, the Person of the Year was Aunt Diana’s manager Patti Miglore, a longtime chamber member.

“Patti’s was a tremendous success and a wonderful way to end it with the chamber,” Moravecek said.

LaMantia said that in the future, the chamber may name its own business person of the year at Riverfest. And if the event grows too big for Centennial Park, it could end up in Guthrie Park, where the July 3 and Riv-Inia events are held.

“We hope to do it every year,” LaMantia said.