The Newport Area Chamber of Commerce and Portfest directors have announced that they will be transitioning their efforts from the annual Portfest Festival to a new six-month long entertainment series in downtown Newport.
“Portfest has been a staple in Newport and Jackson County for 35 years, and this decision was not made without great consideration and serious discussions by festival directors and the Chamber board,” explained Julie Allen, director of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce.
The festival, held annually on the banks of the White River at Jacksonport State Park, has been impacted in recent years with issues beyond organizers’ control, namely, Mother Nature. River flooding and severe thunderstorms caused cancellations in 2011, 2014 and 2015. River flooding also affected the 2017 event, which was relocated to downtown Newport. In the first 27 years of the festival’s existence, weather only impacted the festival twice. However, in the last eight years, the festival has been impacted nearly every other year.
In addition to the weather risks, rising costs of performers’ fees and general festival expenses have grown exponentially over the last decade.
“Acts that previously cost $20,000 ten years ago are now asking $50,000 to $75,000 per act,” said Allen. “It is hard to justify higher ticket prices to cover costs while offering the same festival experience.”
Although the Portfest Festival is over, organizers are excited to finalize plans for a new downtown Newport entertainment series to be held in the new $1 million downtown park. Events have been scheduled for 22 of the 26 weeks from April through September centered around the park’s new permanent stage and will include movies in the park, Bluesday Tuesday concerts, River Country concerts, a community fireworks show on July 3, Memorial Day celebration, Depot Days Festival and much more. Complete details will be announced soon.
“Our wonderful sponsors are enthusiastic about this transition and have pledged their support to the new series,” added Allen. “Their support will allow all events in the series to be free to the public.”
Organizers hope that the disappointment felt by Portfest’s fans will be short lived as the downtown entertainment series kicks off with the first event on April 7. A day-long celebration will include live music, fireworks and the dedication of the new Terry Scoggins Memorial Stage. A longtime music supporter and one of the first Portfest Captains, Scoggins’ memory will live on through the many events scheduled on the stage named for him.