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‘Another successful year’ for Water Festival in 2024

New events, high participation highlight festival; parade postponement, wrestling show cancellation explained

Saturday night’s fireworks show capped off the 67th Three Rivers Water Festival with a bang over the midway of the festival, while onlookers watched from the hill near the Three Rivers Public Library. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

THREE RIVERS — Another Water Festival is in the books in Three Rivers, and another one that was deemed by organizers to be a successful one.

The three-day annual festival took place from June 13-15 around the city, and despite some brief, heavy rains on Thursday that threatened the street parade, the weather stayed sunny and without precipitation for the duration of the festival.

“I think it went great; we had another successful year,” Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christy Trammell said Monday. “We had very high participation in so many elements of the festival this year. People were engaged and ready to participate this year, that’s for sure.”

With that high participation, Trammell noted they had over 100 vendors at the vendor area in Scidmore Park on Friday and Saturday, and that on Saturday, the car show sold out all 210 spots in just 80 minutes. She also reported higher participation in the Soap Box Derby that occurred Friday afternoon, 23 teams in the double-elimination Cornhole Tournament, and over 150 participants in the first-ever Silent Disco downtown.

The Silent Disco, a new event this year put on in partnership with Riverside Church, received some very positive feedback, according to Trammell.

Ryan Miller (left) and Daniel Miller (right) of Three Rivers enjoy the Hurricane ride on the midway at the Water Festival Friday, June 14. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

“They said that it was a really fun event with a variety of different music which gave you a variety of dancing options, and it was family-friendly,” Trammell said. “You had all age groups in there, and they’re asking to have that again next year, which my host agreed to that.”

However, the biggest turnout was for the street parade Thursday night – a parade that caused a bit of controversy due to the weather. Organizers received backlash on social media when they announced that with impending rain in the area, and a thunderstorm watch that was in place until 9 p.m., the start of the parade would be pushed back until 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. Those who disagreed with the move said that the parade should have been moved to Friday. However, the weather worked out for organizers, as the rain cleared out by 6:40 p.m., allowing the parade to line up at 7 p.m. for the step-off at 8 p.m.

Trammell gave some insight as to how that call was made, noting that she, along with St. Joseph County Emergency Manager Erin Goff and representatives from the Three Rivers Police Department and Three Rivers Fire Department, had a call with meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Northern Indiana at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. This, Trammell said, was a new resource available to them for situations such as these.

“They provided us with very specific, very high-tech predictions of the [weather] patterns,” Trammell said. “When Erin asked specifically to the person from the NWS about a 7 p.m. start for the parade, the person said he had a high level of confidence that at 6:30, we’ll be out of any harm’s way. That information with a high level of confidence is how we proceeded with, if we postponed [for one hour], we can still get everyone lined up and have a safe parade. It was not a random decision, it was not a one-person decision, it was a team decision based on data and information.”

Trammell added that if they had to move the parade to Friday, they would’ve had to cancel many of the events planned for Friday in downtown Three Rivers, saying it would’ve been a “domino effect” to do so.

“We were pleased it worked out well. As predicted, it did work out like they told us. The sun came out, the temperature had cooled off, so we weren’t uncomfortable with the heat, and it turned out to be a good parade,” Trammell said.

The only other snafu in this year’s festival had to do with a highly-anticipated new event: the independent wrestling show that was supposed to take place Saturday afternoon at the main stage at the Fire Department. The event was cancelled less than an hour before its 3 p.m. start time, due to what was stated as “unforeseen circumstances.”

Those unforeseen circumstances, Trammell explained, had to do with a very important piece of wrestling equipment being a no-show: The ring itself.

“The person that was supposed to bring the ring up was a no-show. They called, and could not get a hold of the guy that was bringing it up, so they let me know a little after 2 p.m. that there was nothing they could do without a ring,” Trammell said. “Huge disappointment for sure.”

Despite that, Saturday’s schedule at the main stage did go off without a hitch, highlighted by the Three Rivers High School Jazz Band and Jimmy Buffet tribute band The Last Mangos.

“The High School Jazz Band, what a great thing for the kids to be able to perform on stage for Water Festival and for us to support that program,” Trammell said. “The Jimmy Buffet tribute band was a hit; they were very engaging with the audience too.”

The pancake breakfast at the Fire Department, the Hope United Run, and other concerts that happened throughout the day also reported high attendance.

To cap off the festival were the ceremonial fireworks display, which received highly-positive marks both to Trammell and on social media, with some calling it one of the best displays the festival has had. The display was set to Olympics-themed music and what Trammell called “training-type” music, like Eye of the Tiger.

Looking ahead to the future, Trammell said there’s always room for improvement for the festival despite another successful year, and said there are some ideas for future years that are being considered, such as bringing back the judging of floats in the street parade.

“We want to bring back the judging of the floats, because that puts a fun, competitive spirit into the float aspect,” Trammell said. “We had some people who really worked hard on theirs, and even with the rain, their floats looked fantastic, so we want to certainly recognize their efforts and encourage more people to do that too.”

Overall, Trammell said festivals like this don’t happen without the support of the community, and she said the community showed that this year.

“We really see the community come together in so many different elements, and it’s really something I’m proud of our community for doing,” Trammell said. “It’s a lot of work, but when you see the community pride come out like that, we are able to show a positive, upbeat spirit.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

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