BEAUMONT, Texas — The grounds are open, and folks are piling in at the Port Neches Riverfest.
While the thrills and spills of the tunnel boat races don't start until this weekend, people are enjoying the first day of fun.
After it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the Port Neches Riverfest is back! It's a welcoming sight for those who look forward to the event every year, especially vendors who have suffered over the past year.
"It's something to be excited about. Get a lot of people to come out, maybe more than normal and just get out here and have some fun," David Roggenkamp said.
Roggenkamp can cook some delicious kettle corn. He just hasn't had many people to sell it to over the past year because the pandemic has wiped out most of the events in Southeast Texas.
"It was depressing because you really didn't have nothing to do every other weekend or whatever, just found something else to do," Roggenkamp said.
Roggenkamp said he has been making ends meet by attending smaller events, but he's looking forward to large events like the Port Neches Riverfest.
"It's fun to be back, to definitely be back,” Roggenkamp said.
Joe Pipes is another vendor who has struggled this past year.
He says, fortunately, barbecuing is not his primary job, but the cancelation of so many events has left him and many business owners feeling frustrated.
“There's a lot of people out here that have put in a lot of hard work trying to get their business back going, along with myself, so we're just hoping on a good year this year," Pipes said.
Like Poggenkamp, Pipes is looking forward to hungry people chowing down on his barbecue.
"We were planning on doing the barbecue last year,” Pipes said. “We were all geared up for it and then at the last minute everything was cancelled, so hopefully the barbecue works out and we get a good crowd out here. Looking forward to it. Looking forward to seeing people again, seeing crowds out here."
Tommy Martin and her friends are just some of the hungry customers who are attending Riverfest.
This year, they are hungry for more than just the fair food. They are hungry for connection and are looking forward to seeing friends and neighbors in person.
"It's gonna be really exciting and hopefully other families and their children can come here and check out the new experience if you haven't been here before. It'll be a great time, I'm sure,” Martin said.
The Port Neches Riverfest grounds will be available to the public Wednesday, April 28 until Sunday, May 2. See full schedule of events here.