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Sunday, Feb 26, 2017
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Mac and Cheese Throwdown, free concerts and hot air balloons set for RiverFest 2016

Tens of thousands are expected to descend on downtown Tampa this weekend to celebrate the city’s culture and the Hillsborough River.

The second annual RiverFest takes place Saturday and Sunday with special events sprawling across 10 locations near and along the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.3-mile waterfront path that links Water Works Park in Tampa Heights to Cotanchobee Park near Channelside.

“Last year’s attendance was estimated at 40,000 over the two days of programming,” said Shaun Drinkard, executive director of Friends of the Riverwalk, which is presenting RiverFest in conjunction with the city of Tampa. “With the continued interest in the Tampa Riverwalk, we expect to far exceed last year’s attendance.”

Favorite aspects of the 2015 fest, such as the Mayor’s Mac & Cheese Throwdown (4-7:30 p.m. Saturday), The Plank pop-up bar, live music and pet adoptions, are back again this year. There are also several new events, including:

Shakespeare in the Park and Tampa Gym and Dance at Water Works Park both days, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

♦ Live animal displays and family-friendly activities from Busch Gardens at USF Park both days, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

♦ Walk For Wishes, a Make-A-Wish fundraiser, at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday, 8 a.m.

♦ Pan Am Dragon Boat Races at Cotanchobee Park on Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

♦ Gasparilla Stand Up Paddleboard Races at Cotanchobee Park on Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

♦ Hot Air Balloon Night Glow at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday, 8:30-9:30 p.m.

♦ Riverwalk Brunch Festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

♦ Free concert lineup in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park featuring Spam Allstars, Jacuzzi Boys, Selwyn Birchwood Band, Veiny Hands, The Savants of Soul, Dropin Pickup and Alexander and the Grapes on Saturday, 4 to 9:30 p.m

“As you can see from the above list of new components, we feel this is one of the most collaborative projects in Tampa Bay,” Drinkard said. “Not only is RiverFest free to attend, but we partner with a wide array of businesses and organizations to execute RiverFest.”

The brunch event on Sunday replaces the Bloody Mary Festival, which took place last weekend.

“Similar to the Mac & Cheese Throwdown, participants can purchase a wristband that will provide them a number of opportunities to try a variety of brunch options,” Drinkard said. “A number of brunch drink favorites, such as mimosas and Bloody Marys are available for purchase as well.”

Drinks purchased from official RiverFest vendors and restaurants along the RiverWalk can be carried anywhere along the RiverWalk.

Sunday will end with Tampa’s largest outdoor yoga class at Curtis Hixon.

The whole shebang raises money for Friends of the Riverwalk, a non-profit group that schedules events on the Riverwalk and works to improve the walkway.

“Everyone in Tampa Bay should experience RiverFest because it truly offers an experience for everyone,” Drinkard said. “Sporting events, culinary experiences, live concerts, cultural institutions with specials, family activities, waterfront activities and all free to experience along the Tampa Riverwalk.”

For more information, visit www.tampariverfest.com.

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