GREENFIELD — Riley Festival vendors started arriving Wednesday morning, setting up booths and putting the final touches on the street fair that kicks off this evening.
The final hours before the festival opens at 5 p.m. are always a rush, said organizers, as they prepare for the annual event that will draw tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Greenfield over its three-day run. But even with several changes, organizers said they are expecting the weekend to go off without a hitch.
“Things are coming together just fine,” said Linda Lowe, Riley Festival representative.
For the first time, vendors will be picking up their packets of information as they enter the festival between 8 a.m. and noon today. As always, vendors’ arrival times have been determined by the side of the street on which they are positioned to control traffic, but the packets with parking passes, booth cards and general information that are usually mailed out will be distributed in person.
Debbie Pfeiffer, Riley Festival chair, said rising postage costs led organizers to make the change. She said while there may be a slight delay getting into the festival in the morning, plenty of volunteers will be on hand to get materials distributed efficiently.
“We’ll try that this year and see what happens,” Pfeiffer said.
Volunteers will be distributing the materials to a record number of vendors, as well. The festival added a handful of additional booth spaces this year to account for increased interest after the festival was featured on the cover of the 2012 Indiana State Festival Association guide book. The coveted exposure is also expected to drive up crowds at the festival, although weather could diminish those hopes slightly.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a good chance for rain Friday, the festival’s first full day, and cool but sunny weather for the rest of the weekend.
The weather held out Wednesday to allow festival organizers and city employees to finish setting up what they could before State and Main streets were shut down at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Greenfield Power & Light workers finished setting up the last of the electrical grids, and Greenfield Parks Department employees worked to set up picnic tables on the courthouse lawn.
Dave Berard, a member of the festival board and Greenfield Sertoma Club, got a head start Wednesday setting up Sertoma’s tent, where the service club sells sandwiches and sides as a fundraiser.
“We’ve got the tent set up,” he said. “We got to bring in tables, chairs and cooking equipment.”
The group has had a booth at Riley Festival for more than 40 years. Berard said, by now, members have setting up and running the booth down to an art – much like running the festival itself.
But no matter how many years the city has the festival, the three-plus days during which revelers overtake downtown border on just barely controlled chaos.
Lowe said new vendors and visitors each year always come with plenty of questions, but so far things have been running smoothly.
“There’s a lot left to be done,” she said. “This is the calm before the storm.”