Final preparations are being made along the Embankment and in Russell Park in readiness for up to 250,000 visitors expected over the two-day extravaganza.
The River Festival will see the return of lots of old festival favourites, from the music stages and funfair, dragon boat and raft races on the river, and lots of stalls, activities and attractions across the Embankment, Mill Meadows and at St Mary’s Gardens.
For the first time in festival history, Bedford High Street will be closed for the weekend extending the fun and celebrations into the town centre. The High Street, sponsored by BedfordBID, will host the Festival of Motoring, with more than 100 unique and eclectic vehicles on display and Bands on the Bridge introducing performances by some of the best bands in the area.
This year's River Festival kicks off at 10.30am on Saturday with Dragon Boat Race heats until 5pm at St Mary’s Gardens with the Illuminated Boat Parade bringing the day's entertainment to a fitting finale.
The following is a round-up of what’s on:
> Russell Park features the River Festival’s Main Stage, sponsored by the Harpur Centre with performances from a wide range of bands and acts throughout the weekend.
> The Sports Island, sponsored by the University of Bedfordshire, will feature sporting and martial arts demonstrations, acrobatics and dance performances, ‘have a go’ activities and more.
> Mill Meadows will be a hub of activity with trade stalls galore and ever popular Community Stages, sponsored by the Harpur Trust, showcasing fantastic performances from the community of Bedfordshire.
> New for 2022, Mill Meadows will feature ‘Inclusion Island’ designed for visitors with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
> St Mary’s Gardens is the new home of the heritage re-enactments, featuring ‘Pirate Island’, sponsored by HSBC UK. There are plenty of adventurous activities courtesy of Canoe Trail, with a prime viewing spot for the dragon boat races.
> Castle Mound will host the BBC Introducing Stage and a brand new Vegan Fair. Catch some local up-and-coming talent and browse the range of vegan gifts and homewares on offer.
> The Embankment will feature the Festival Market full of craft and food stalls from around the world, along with The Dance Music Stage, sponsored by Gallagher Developments, hosting a line-up of world famous DJs.
> Additional bus and train services will be running throughout the weekend.
Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said: “After the postponements due to Covid-19 I’m delighted we are now getting ever closer to our first Bedford River Festival in four years.
“It’s fantastic to see how the festival has grown since 1978 to become one of the biggest free events in the country.
“Everyone has been working incredibly hard to make 2022 the best River Festival ever. It’s another reminder of our great community spirit and brilliant local enterprise that means this even grows every time and I can’t wait for the events to get under way.”
> The festival will be operating a reusable cup scheme across all nine festival bars.