In 1983, the La Crosse Area Convention Visitors Board created Riverfest to provide a local family festival around the 4th of July in Riverside Park.  There was no Commodore or First Mate in 1983.

This changed, however, in 1984, when the Junior Chamber International (JCI) decided to honor a couple who has provided leadership in the community by giving back and making a difference.  In addition, this couple would help represent Riverfest and promote it during the event and the entire year in many ways to include parades, banquets, fundraisers, etc. The first Commodore and First Mate in 1984 was Phil & Barb Quillin, who were very involved in the community and instrumental in the beginnings of Riverfest. 

It is truly an honor to be selected as the Commodore and First Mate, who of which are selected by the past Commodores.  When selected as the Commodore and First Mate, the couple makes a 6 year commitment to be fully active in supporting Riverfest and the Commodores. However, all living Commodores and First Mates remain active and have strong ties to each other and the community, making a big impact in the Coulee Region.  In recent years, the impact of the Commodores has only grown with the establishment of the Riverfest Commodore’s Foundation, Inc., focusing on providing assistance to kids in need (see Foundation page). 

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