Rio Vista Bass Derby & Festival sees some firsts this year
By Susan Hiland

RIO VISTA — The fish were biting, the streets were filled with vendors and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky Saturday for the 73rd Rio Vista Bass Derby and Festival. This year is different than in the past with several firsts, some to accommodate the changes due to Covid-19. To begin with, the carnival that was scheduled to start Thursday afternoon is not part of this year’s festivities. “The people who have done the carnival for us just don’t have the staff to run it,” said Walt Standish, chairman of the Bass Derby and Festival. “They could do one festival so we improvised.” By improvising, they were able to get a new local farm, Legend Dairy Farm, to provide a petting zoo. “This is brand new,” Standish said. “We have never done this before.”

More than 140 vehicles were on display at the car show on Main Street during the 73rd Annual Rio Vista Bass Derby and Festival, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Susan Hiland/Daily Republic) Mary Blanchard moved in 2018 from Oregon to Rio Vista to join her high school sweetheart, Jacob Markow. She brought the farm with her, including goats stuffed in the back of her minivan.

They share a 170-acre farm, located on a rescue animal preserve, with 40 goats, assorted egg-laying hens, peacocks, horses, cows, guinea fowl, turkeys, dogs and cats. “This is the first time I have done a petting zoo,” she said. Blanchard said she always dreamed of doing a petting zoo where people could come and get close to the animals. “Covid put a wrench in those plans,” she said, “but I am very joyful about today and finally getting to do this. It’s just fun.” Her daughter, Athena Bassett, wrangled some baby goats away from the fence, where they kept trying to make an escape. “All the goats have names,” Bassett said. Rio Vista held off on doing a festival last year because of the pandemic, so it’s still the 73rd year for the event.

“After everything we have been through, it is nice to see people out,” Standish said. “Covid changed our lives in ways I don’t even think we realize.” The festival grew from 2018 with more than 125 vendors. The car show Saturday also expanded with more than 140 vehicles. The Covid vaccine is being offered by Solano County Public Health. The first 100 people to get their first Covid vaccination received a $10 Bass Bucks certificate to be used anywhere in town this weekend. Kaiser Permanente came out for the first time and offered free flu vaccines.

The Western Express Railroad takes visitors on a trip through downtown Rio Vista during the 73rd Annual Rio Vista Bass Derby and Festival, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Susan Hiland/Daily Republic) The Western Express Railroad came out for the first time. The locomotive is designed to resemble an 1850s steam engine. It runs along Main and Front streets for visitors to sit back and enjoy the community at a slow pace.

A fireworks show over the river closed out the fun Saturday, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The Bass Derby Parade, with a theme of “Honoring Our Home Town Heroes,” kicks off day’s activities at noon Sunday. The first derby took place in 1933, then stopped for a couple of years, resuming in 1949 when it became the official Rio Vista Bass Derby. It was started by two newspapermen, Phil Rose of Redwood City and Harry Proctor of Oakland. Joanna Wilson just started her candle-making business in May and called it American Farmhouse Candles. She has been coming to the festival all her life, first as a child with her parents, then with her own children. This was the first time she had her own booth to sell her items. “It’s been wonderful to come out here for this festival,” she said.

This was more than a weekend of fun. It also serves a couple of other purposes. Mainly it’s a fundraiser for the chamber of commerce to help raise money for various activities throughout the year, but it is also a way to share the small town of Rio Vista with visitors who event organizers hope will come again.