PEORIA — The Tailgate N' Tallboys Music Festival has increased its reach in the past two years, drawing people from across the country to the Peoria riverfront for some of the biggest names in country music. Now the festival is trying to reach even more people during the actual performances — including people on the river.
That is one of several innovations Inked Entertainment is debuting for the 2018 version of the festival, which begins this Friday and sprawls out across several other dates during the summer. For the boaters who take to the Illinois River on warm summer weekends, a visual treat awaits.
"We're going to have a river-facing screen off the Peoria side," said Leon Edwards, vice president of marketing for Inked Entertainment. "For all of the boaters and because of how many people are going to be there."
The 9-by-13-feet video screen will allow the people on the boats to see the acts performing on the main stage in Festival Park while hearing all of the twangs and ditties of the live music filling the riverfront area Friday through Sunday. Boaters often congregate on the river for riverfront concerts, and Inked saw it as an opportunity to create an even more unique festival experience, Edwards said.
If the boaters want to dock and then enter the festival, they can do that by docking at the Eastport Marina and then taking a shuttle to the festival grounds. Edwards also said that the Coast Guard and AMT will be on duty to oversee the river gathering.
Elsewhere at the festival — which will feature Old Dominion, Nelly, Kane Brown, Jon Pardi and a dozen other acts — will be a partnership with Crusen's Bar to keep the music going before and after the official hours of Tailgate N' Tallboys. A pre-party stage that backs up to the Gateway Building will open in the early afternoon hours and is free for anyone to attend, according to Edwards. Once the headliners have finished their sets late at night, a shuttle will be available for after-party concerts at Crusen's on Farmington Road.
The Peoria Park District's riverfront division will be in all-hands-on-deck mode with the influx of people arriving for the weekend, which could near the 10,000-mark on Saturday night. Nick Conrad, the supervisor of riverfront events for the park district, said much of his division's attention will be helping with security. In the wake of the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival last fall in Las Vegas, ample security measures have been installed at Tailgate N' Tallboys, including metal detectors and bag checks.
"People are more aware about the security measures needed now," Conrad said. "We've been telling people to arrive early to prepare for the line."
The Steamboat Days carnival will once again be open for the duration of the weekend near the festival grounds, a partnership between the festival and Peoria Area Community Events that began last year. It is free to enter the carnival area but individual rides do cost money.
Steamboat Days Festival and the region have received a boost from the rising profile of the country music festival. According to Edwards, almost 50 percent of pre-sales have come from outside the 100-mile radius around Peoria, drawing people from as far away as South Carolina. That has only bolstered the ambitions of the festival for this year and moving forward.
"We've completely surpassed expectations on a national level," Edwards said. "And we've already locked in our dates for next year."
Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.