Tampa Riverfest is back! After a two year hiatus due to the pandemic, Tampa Riverfest kicks off on Friday, May 6 and continues Saturday, May 7 along the Tampa Riverwalk featuring two days of free, family-friendly events showcasing Tampa’s cultural institutions, local music and restaurants. New this year is a colorful, illuminated Riverfest Lantern Parade on Saturday evening, with workshops to help participants create their own designs to carry along the festive parade route.
Produced by the non-profit, Friends of the Riverwalk, Riverfest offers activities spanning the Tampa Riverwalk. This year’s festivities begin on Friday, May 6 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. with live music on the main stage at Curtis Hixon Park, along with Taste of the Riverwalk from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Taste of the Riverwalk showcases the variety of dining options that are available along the Riverwalk from local restaurants and dessert food truck vendors. With the purchase of a wristband, festival-goers can enjoy samples of signature dishes from local restaurants.
On Saturday, May 7, celebrate a late Cinco de Mayo with Tacofest. A large tent will be set up at Curtis Hixon Park offering a wide selection of tacos for purchase. The day’s festivities kick off at 10 a.m. with the Florida Wiener Dog Derby. Back by popular demand, dogs compete in a running race and other contests like best kisser, best costume, and the ever-popular tail wagging. One of the largest Dachshund gatherings in the state, the festivities will include games, raffles, foster dogs and a silent art auction.
The fun continues at Water Works Park with a Paddle Invasion and races starting at 8:30 a.m. In partnership with Urban Kai, racers can choose to race on a long (6 mile) or short (2 mile) course as they compete for awards. From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Riverfest welcomes Yoga in the Park with a donation-based class for all levels taught by Robin LC with The Calm Collective. There will be food trucks with items available for purchase from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Throughout the day, student musicians from Hillsborough County Schools will perform from 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a spring concert featuring the Tampa Bay Pride Band starting at 7 p.m.
The highlight of this year’s event is the inaugural Riverfest Lantern Parade sponsored by The Beck Group. Participants design their own colorful paper creations and register to march with them during a joyful one-mile parade along the Riverwalk from Water Works Park to Curtis Hixon Park featuring music and local marching bands beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Local artists will host lantern-making workshops for kids and adults prior to Riverfest on April 27 at Armature Works, and on April 21 and May 2 at The Straz Center for Performing Arts. Workshops will be held 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Registration for the workshops is required and can be found online at www.TheTampaRiverwalk.com. The registration fee covers supplies and instruction. Lanterns can also be created throughout the day on Saturday, May 7 in Water Works Park , Participants may also visit www.TheTampaRIverwalk.com to purchase a lantern kit to assemble at home and bring to the parade. Supplies and kits available for purchase are limited – so place your order early.
When the sun sets on both Friday and Saturday night, Curtis Hixon Park will light up with one of Riverfest’s signature events, the hugely popular Hot Air Balloon Glow, which begins at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting. The balloon glow is sponsored by Coastal Construction, Re/Max Alliance Group, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Riverfest is a celebration of our Riverwalk and what it means to our community,” said David DeVaney, Friends of the Riverwalk Board Chairman. “We’re thrilled to be back and offer such a wide range of activities for festival goers of all ages to experience. Friends of the Riverwalk is committed to hosting first class, free public events along the Riverwalk for all of Tampa Bay to enjoy.”
This year’s event also includes a full concert series featuring bands and a D.J. that will entertain the crowd on the main stage at Curtis Hixon Park both Friday and Saturday. Saturday night’s headline band will feature the Ultimate Lenny Kravitz Experience.
All events and entertainment at Riverfest are free and open to the public. Taste of the Riverwalk and TacoFest require a wristband purchase for food sampling. A portion of each purchase will be donated to Friends of the Riverwalk. Taste of the Riverwalk and TacoFest wristbands are available for purchase in advance online at www.thetampariverfest.com, and are $15 for 3 samples/tacos, $20 for 5 samples/tacos. Online food sales will end 24 hours before the start of Riverfest, and if not sold out, wristbands will be available at the event.
A VIP tent, hosted by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, JW Marriott and the Tampa Marriott Water Street, will be available from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday offering complimentary beer, cocktails, soda, water, light bites, front row access to the mainstage and access to executive restrooms. Friday night VIP tickets include a wristband for 5 Taste of the Riverwalk samples. Tickets are day specific and cost $75 for Friday night, $100 for Saturday, or $150 for both days and are available for purchase at www.thetampariverfest.com. Online sales end 24 hours before the start of Riverfest, and if not sold out, wristbands will be available at the event.
Event sponsors for Riverfest include: Baker Barrios Architects, Inc., Famous Tate, Florida Aquarium, The Leytham Group, Lifeguard Imaging, Lincoln Center – Westshore, Regions Bank, Saint Leo University, T-Mobile, Tampa Bay Rays/Rowdies, Urban Kai, Wade Trim, The Beck Group, Bliss Wellness Market, Busch Gardens, Bush Ross, Diamond Resorts, ECS Florida, Freedom Boat Club, Glazer Children’s Museum, GTE Financial, J & J Realty, Modera Tampa, Re/Max Alliance Group, State Farm, Tampa Downtown Partnership, University of Tampa, Valley Bank, Verra Mobility, Visit Tampa Bay, Coastal Construction, Couch Family Foundation, Milo’s Tea Company, Inc., Tampa Bay Lightning, , Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Mad Bear Productions, Pepin Distributing, Inc., Splitsville Southern + Social, City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, JW Marriott and Tampa Marriott Water Street,.
Schedule of Events
Friday, May 6, 2022
• Taste of the Riverwalk (Curtis Hixon Park)
o Live Music 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
o Beer Tents 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
o Vendor Market 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
o Dessert Trucks 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
o VIP Tent 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Wristband Required $)
o Taste of the Riverwalk 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. ($)
o Hot Air Balloon Glow 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (weather permitting)
o Closing Headliner Band (The Raydio Band) 8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, May 7, 2022
• Curtis Hixon Park
o Live Music 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
o Beer Tents 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
o Vendor Market 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
o Dessert Trucks 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
o Wiener Dog Derby 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
o Tacofest 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. ($)
o VIP Tent 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Wristband Required $)
o Hot Air Balloon Glow 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Weather Permitting)
o Closing Headliner Band (The Ultimate Lenny Kravitz Experience) 8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
• Water Works Park
o Urban Kai Paddle Invasion & Races 8:30 a.m. & 8:45 a.m.
o Food Trucks 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
o Yoga in the Park 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. (rain or shine)
o Hillsborough County Schools Music Performances 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
o Lantern Workshops 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. ($)
o Tampa Bay Pride Band Spring Concert 7 p.m.
o Inaugural Riverfest Lantern Parade 8:30 p.m.
($) – denotes a fee or wristband required to participate
About Friends of the Riverwalk
Friends of the Riverwalk is a privately funded non-profit that supports special events, activities and beautification efforts along the Tampa Riverwalk. Working in partnership with the city, its mission is to develop, activate and promote Tampa’s downtown waterfront. For more information, visit www.TheTampaRiverwalk.com.