2018 River Park concert

The 2018 River Park concert.

Even before the 2019 River Park concert arrives in Hillsborough next Saturday, the concert’s planning co-chairs Joshua Collins and David Hayes have begun the process of booking the performers for the 2020 concert.

The River Park concert is still a relatively young event; in fact, the 2019 concert is just the fifth annual installment. Yet it has already seen strong growth since its creation in 2015 by Eric Steidinger, evidenced by the work done by its co-chairs, Collins and Hayes, and the planning staff. At the time, the concert was created, partially because “we’re actually a very rich area in arts and music,” according to Collins. “We have a ton of great music around here and a lot of people that love music.”

In its first year of existence, the concert was put together thanks to Steidinger and his nonprofit, Pleasant Meadow Philanthropy. However, the event had to be moved inside due to heavy rain. In 2016, Steidinger again ran the event, but this time the concert remained in its natural elements outdoors.

Beginning in 2017, the Hillsborough Arts Council took charge of the event, and it began to expand with the help of regional and national acts, as well as local performers. With the help of RAD Productions, a local production company, the Arts Council was able to book Seth Walker, whose latest album “Are You Down?” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Blues album chart, as well as Grammy winner Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Eric Lindell. 

One year later, the River Park concert saw its largest success to date, with attendance doubling to around 4,000 to 6,000 people. 

Although the event saw large growth last year, perhaps owing in part to the popular national and regional performers, Collins stressed the importance of highlighting local music with the River Park concert.

“From a mission standpoint we want to leverage the stage that we have to not only support music but also support local, so every year we feature a local band,” Collins said.

In 2018, the Shoaldiggers, a Hillsborough-based band, performed at the concert. This year, the Eno Mountain Boys are the local opening act, performing at 12 p.m. 

After the Eno Mountain Boys take the stage, Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics, voted the best R&B Soul band in Atlanta six times, will follow at 1:30 p.m. At 3 p.m. Samantha Fish, whose accolades include Best Blues Album at the 2017 Best of the Beat Awards, will take the stage before ceding the spotlight to concert headliner Anders Osborne at 5 p.m. Osborne has won countless Best of the Beats awards dating all the way back to 1995. Following his performance, Fish will return to the stage to collaborate with Osborne for an All-Star Encore Jam at 7 p.m. to conclude the show. 

With a packed lineup of talented musicians, Collins is hoping that the attendance will not only continue to grow this year, but also sustain its size throughout the event.

Though outside food, drinks and coolers are not permitted at the event, there will be plenty of tasty dining options, with four food trucks set up featuring American food, Mexican food, Soul food and dessert options. The proceeds from the food trucks help make the event non-ticketed and free. The Village Diner will also be cooking free food for attendees.

For those who are 21 years or older and have a form of identification, there will also be a beer garden available, as well as wine options and a truck serving Foothills Brewery draft beers. 

As Collins pointed out, the event aims to give a platform to support local artists. Therefore, local artists and vendors will be set up in tents along the Art Walk at the event. 

Considering the buzz the event has generated in just a few years thanks to a collaborative effort by the Arts Council, sponsors, vendors and performers, the River Park concert looks to be a fixture in Hillsborough for years to come.

“We hustle really hard to ensure that we do what we can to keep it free for the community so that anybody of every background and every economic means can come out and enjoy a free day in the community,” Collins said.