When you went to the Red River Revel this year, did you feel the difference? The grand ol’ gal of local festivals turned 46 in 2022, which is an eon in festival years.  It is remarkable for any festival or event to remain vibrant, relevant, and interesting to so many for so long and the Revel has been having those same issues. There has been concern among many over the past few years that the Revel had, perhaps, run its course. No more.

Friends and fun at the Red River Revel!

A convergence of things created the need for a new Executive Director and the Revel board chose an exuberant, hard-working and creative man named Logan Lewis, previously employed by the Independence Bowl. Lewis was plopped into the middle of full-blown planning for the 46th event, and -wisely- decided to watch instead of forcing major, late-in-the-game changes. What he did instead was work with the board to usher incremental, thoughtful & needed changes that combined to make a positive difference.

Revel Director Logan Lewis with award-winning artist Isabelle De Joya Vea

Lewis’ imprint was seen on things such as the diverse, popular and interesting musical lineup that invited both favorites and groups new to Shreveport, a new, fresh ‘look’ for the Revel with a remarkable Festival Plaza and Louisiana wildlife-inspired poster by Chase Mullen, a VIP area, an option for digital wristbands instead of paper coupons, and for the first time in the history of the Revel- real outreach to engage greater Downtown Shreveport into the greater Revel experience. All this combined with Lewis’ hands-on approach to marketing and the solid efforts by Emerie Gentry, the Revel’s extremely capable Marketing Director.

Lewis announcing the new downtown-oriented Revel+ program.

There is no doubt that having remarkable weather for the entire run of the event helped in a big way, but weather alone would not have created the 2022 experience.

In terms of numbers, Lewis says the biggest event draw was Everclear, a rock band that was on every radio station in 1995 with its hit ‘Wonderful.’ Their performance on Thursday, Oct. 6 happened because Lewis tracked down a guy who knew a guy, got their contact information and kept following up with them. The crowd for Big Freedia on Saturday, Oct. 1 was right up there with Everclear.

Several nights of music were top draws.

As you might expect, the greatest number of people came on the weekends,  with Saturday, Oct. 8 the top draw day followed by Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 9. In the past, Revel directors have used a means of ‘rough estimation’ for determining numbers. That rough estimation is more akin to informed guesstimates based on the numbers of people Festival Plaza’s stage areas can hold. Lewis used harder metrics.

Part of the Revel’s legion of dedicated volunteers!

“There were some shifts that were not covered by click counters at the entrances (the Revel was free until 5 pm each day, so ticket takers were not needed), but we have other metrics for checking attendance,” says Lewis. “I think it is very safe to say 50,000 came through the gates during the festival, and likely many more.”

One number that could be proven (by point of sale info) is food, beverage and art, without which the Revel cannot survive. Those categories were up roughly 40%, ‘a huge lift’, says Lewis.

Art is what it’s all about. Art by Ka.lan.DRAW.

The artists for without which there is no Revel can be notoriously tough customers, and they have every right to be. In many cases, these business people are taking 10 or more days out of their schedules and arranging their lives around the festival, paying for booth space, and putting their eggs into the Revel ‘basket.’ A lot of things can affect their sales: poor weather, poor marketing, or just disinterest in the event in general. It is important to keep them happy, engaged and provide potential buyers for their wares. This year’s Revel is getting high marks for all.

Ben Whalen in his Revel tent.

First year Revel vendor Ben Whalen, owner of Ben’s Body Basics/Clean Slate Botanicals at 717 Crockett Street, has experience at a variety of farmers’ markets, pop ups and other area festivals. He wasn’t sure what to expect but told us his overall Revel experience was ‘amazing.’

“It was the biggest and most challenging event I have ever done, but man am I thankful for the Revel team and so grateful for the opportunity to share my business with this year’s attendees,” says Ben. “I have never been amongst such an abundance of amazing, passionate vendors with their unique talents on display. Everyday I thinking to myself, “I can’t believe this is my first year, what was I thinking! This is great!” I will definitely be back next year.”

Artist Lauren Ross Simmons (right) and customer.

Artist Lauren Ross Simmons is a five-year Revel vendor, and during that time, did have some doubts about the long-term viability of it. She and her husband Derek Simmons, own and operate C&C Mercantile and Lighting and ArtiFACT at 1110 Texas Avenue, which is Lauren’s brick-and-mortar headquarters for her art.

Lauren says the Revel has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. “Five years ago, I decided it was time to sell at the Revel. From that point, the Revel has become a large chunk of my fall revenue leading into the holidays. This year, sales were up, the crowd was amazing and the energy was like no other. It reminded me of years past. People were feeling the energy and lots came back multiple times because they were enjoying themselves so much. I can’t wait to see how the Revel grows with the times. It was time for some fresh eyes, and I think we got just that.”

Proud parents watching their kiddos performing on stage.

So, overall, Revel 2022 hit high marks, and we have no doubt that more positives will be coming in 2023. There is no rest for the weary, though. The exhausted Revel staff, board and volunteers now rush headlong into BREW, scheduled Saturday, Oct. 29!

“Revel in the Madness” (Ostendo Sum in Insania) at BREW: Shreveport’s Original Beer Festival will go from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm and tickets are on sale now!

Our congratulations to all those who put in the time, effort and energy to make Revel 46 a success! We look forward to what’s ahead.