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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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AMERICA'S RIVER FESTIVAL. America's River Festival traces its beginning to the re-enactment of one of the 19th century’s biggest events on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. “A Grand Excursion,” held in June 2004, celebrated the arrival of a flotilla of riverboats and pleasure craft traveling up the river from the Quad Cities to the Twin Cities. These boats were commemorating the original Grand Excursion of 1854, in which President Millard Fillmore and hundreds of business leaders and dignitaries traveled the upper Mississippi River to celebrate the first continuous railroad connection with the East Coast. (1)

Since the first event in 2004, the festival successfully focused attention on the Port of Dubuque. Its success prompted organizers to launch in 2005 an annual America’s River Festival entertainment event the second weekend of June. Audiences enjoyed live musical performances from regional and national acts, brought their dogs to participate in the "Dock Dogs" competition and enjoyed a mixture of entertainment for all ages. (2)

In 2013 despite attendance 4,000 less than in 2012 when the event lost $150,000, promoters were declaring the event the most profitable in the event's history. (3) In 2014 an estimated 3,000 people attended the country acts while 5,200 watched the rock-themed performances. (4) The greatest attendance for a full festival--15,000, occurred in 2017. America's River Festival brought 8,000 people to the event and generated an economic impact of $1.3 million. (5)

In August, 2019 the America's River Corporation, the organization backing the festival, voted to discontinue the annual event. Although the festivities in four of the last seven years had attracted more than 120,000 attendees, the decision was based on the increase in live music options available in the city. FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER has attracted larger acts while the two casinos have focused on marquee musicians. Q CASINO RESORT AND HOTEL in 2017 premiered an outdoor concert series--the Back Waters Stage. (6)



1. Reilly, Jessica. "Throwback Thursday: Organizers Launch America's River Festival after Success of Flotilla," Telegraph Herald, June 8, 2017, Online: http://www.telegraphherald.com/news/public_announcements/article_204d7205-e67e-58a7-a2e0-f984673b6d89.html

2. America's River Festival. Website. Online: http://www.americasriver.com/festival.htm

3. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2014, p. 31

4. "June," Chronology 2014, Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2015, p. 11

5. Montgomery, Jeff, "Festival Ends Run," Telegraph Herald, December 13, 2019, p. !A

6. Ibid., p. 2A