TOWANDA - Many thousands of people are expected to attend the 23rd Annual Riverfest, the three-day festival in downtown Towanda that starts on Thursday.

"Every year, it (Riverfest) appears to get bigger and better," said Les Sheridan, a member of the Riverfest Committee, which organizes the festival.

Riverfest will feature a range of live entertainment, a fireworks display, carnival rides, carnival games, karaoke contests, hay rides, the Little Miss/Mr. Riverfest Contest, and much more.

There will also be approximately 53 vendors - a record number for Riverfest - selling food, crafts and other items, said Mary Ann Harris, co-chairman of Riverfest.

Riverfest takes place Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday from morning to night.

The midway opens at 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The festival usually ends each night around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., Harris said.

State Rep. Tina Pickett will deliver some remarks at the festival's opening ceremony, which takes place at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

There will also be a flyover of airplanes during the opening ceremony. The annual flyover at Riverfest typically features four or five planes, said Heather Blokzyl, a member of the Riverfest Committee.

There is no admission charge to attend Riverfest, and all of the entertainment at the festival can be seen free of charge, Harris said.

People can buy a special ride bracelet for $6 to go on the carnival rides an unlimited number of times from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday.

The $6 bracelet ride special will again be in effect from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday.

The live entertainment will include performances by the following area bands: Gary Strope & the Bandits, the 5-Man Trio, and the Heart and Soul Band.

There will also be performances at Riverfest by the Rafael Grigorian School of Ballet of Elmira, N.Y., and Binghamton, N.Y.; singer Lynn Trybula, who was last year's winner at the Riverfest karaoke contest; the Towanda K-dettes; St. Agnes students; Maggi Frawley Dancers; the Endless Mountains Dance Studio; singer Ike Bowers; and the One More Tyme Singers.

The fireworks display, which begins at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, is expected to last about a half-hour, Harris said.

Riverfest's annual fireworks display is "the largest (fireworks) show in the area," Harris said.

Fifty people have already signed up to participate in the Towanda Riverfest 5K Walk/Run, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and which takes place on the Merrill Parkway, said Les Sheridan, director of the walk/run. The participants will begin the walk/run near the parkway's intersection with Park Street, travel north to a turnaround close to the intersection with U.S. Route 6, and then return to downtown Towanda.

The Merrill Parkway will be closed for the walk/run from approximately 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sheridan said.

The Towanda Fire Department will be selling pork dinners at Riverfest beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and will also be holding a chicken barbecue at the festival, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The Towanda-Wysox Kiwanis Club will be selling tickets for the Kiwanis River Raffle at a booth at Riverfest, which has a grand prize of $1,000, as well as 45 other prizes, which are gift certificates and products donated by local businesses, said Susan Ben Kinney Schwab, a member of the club.

"It's our only fundraiser of the year," and the money raised from the raffle funds "all our youth activities for the year," including the annual Easter egg hunt in Veterans Memorial Park; a free book for all first-graders in the Towanda and Northeast Bradford school districts; and college scholarships, she said.

Tickets for the Kiwanis River Raffle cost $5 each, or five for $20.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.