2022 Event Duration: August 19-21
“Yankton Riverboat Days & Summer Arts Festival is an outdoor festival located in Riverside Park along the Missouri River,” said event co-chair Michele Termansen. “It’s grown to include 140+ park vendors, 50+ food vendors, free fireworks on Friday night, a 5K walk and run, a huge Riverboat Days parade with about 120 entries, free entertainment, and I could go on and on.”
The event opens on Friday at 6 p.m. with Opening Ceremonies and closes down for the year on Sunday at 6 p.m., but between those times, Yankton entertains roughly 100,000 guests each year.
Yankton Area Arts brings in quality artists that offer their products to festival goers throughout the weekend.
“We have business sponsors from Yankton and surrounding areas and that’s how we put on Riverboat Days.” -Michele Termansen
“People from all over the country come,” explained Termansen. “There’s a lot of unique, beautiful stuff like sculptures, handmade furniture, handmade pottery, and things like that. It’s a high-end craft fair with really talented people.”
Other vendors may sell various items including jewelry, clothing, photography, edible products, vinyl records, woodwork, and metalworks.
The 605 team took a road trip out to Yankton for the weekend of 2021’s Riverboat Days and got to try some of the craft and food vendors for themselves.
While she was there, director of operations Alana Snyder couldn’t resist picking up a South Dakota print to display in the 605 Cabin in Lead. But her captivation with the event didn’t end with the art.
“Riverboat Days was started 39 years ago by just a couple of guys saying that Yankton should have a celebration.” -Michele Termansen
“I had a Stir Fry bowl that was to die for, and apparently we weren’t the only ones who felt that way,” said Alana. “There was a huge line, but it was worth the wait.”
Termansen adds that food varies from classic fair food like cheese curds and funnel cake to gelato, SDSU Ice Cream, barbecue, and chislic.
For the little ones, there are tons of free activities including a Kiddie Centipede Train.
Last year, kids were able to learn archery with rubber-tipped arrows. 605’s sales and account manager Taylor Hanson gave it a shot herself.
“There’s tons of inflatables, a ferris wheel, a whirly bird, and those types of things,” said Termansen.
While kiddos need a wristband to participate in these activities, who doesn’t have a blast on an inflatable obstacle course? Trust me, it’s worth it. Other inflatables include a slide and bouncy houses.
*Times may vary for each vendor booth with art booths often closing earlier on Saturday.
Friday // 6 p.m. – Midnight
Saturday // 10 a.m. – Midnight
Sunday // Noon – 6 p.m.
Parking near Riverside Park can be a hassle. Termansen says that free transit is offered throughout each day. Park at The Center, Yankton Middle School, Riverside Park Amphitheater, or Avera Sacred Heart Hospital to catch the transit bus as it loops every 15 minutes.
Captain + Belle
Every year, a Captain and Belle are chosen to represent Riverboat Days in various parades across the state. They are chosen typically for their help with the weekend in the past.
And of course there’s plenty to keep people of all ages busy with the Classic Cruiser Car Show, Tri-State Iron Association Tractor Display, the Riverboat Days parade with a ton of floats and participants, and live music in the park.
The free music begins on Friday night with some bigger name bands like last year’s Omaha Street Percussion, Bad Neighbor, and JoDee Messina.
There were also performances from Bear Hollow Wood Carver who does chainsaw sculpting, the Academy of Dance, and the Flippenout Productions Trampoline Show.
And Friday night there is the infamous fireworks show between live performances.
To support the community, enter the raffle.
“We have a huge raffle that businesses donate prizes, cash prizes, prints, a Yankton package where they can spend Yankton bucks downtown, and other gift cards from lots of businesses,” said Termansen.
“We draw 100,000 people through the weekend, and our population is like 14,000. It’s a lot of people for a town our size.” -Michele Termansen
Overall, with tons of shade and entertainment, Yankton Riverboat Days & Summer Arts Festival is a must see to end your summer with some good, small-town fun.
“I loved the variety of local vendors and things to do at the event in general,” said Alana. “You can walk around for hours and have different ways to have fun or shop. It’s incredible to see the town of Yankton come alive in the best way.”
Keep up to date on vendors and events online or through the Riverboat Days app.
For more information, visit RIVERBOATDAYS.COM.