Chill and charge up

At Riverfest 2017

Written by Karen Long | Photography by Wichita Festivals, Inc.

Don’t be surprised at this year’s Riverfest to see exotically costumed superheroes striding through the crowds, programmers blinking in the light and fresh air, health care workers sporting scrubs or entrepreneurs enthusiastically networking. Some of 2017’s new events are calculated to draw fresh audiences to the festival, running from June 2-10 — in addition to all of your old favorites.

411 on fun

Create your costumes now for the first weekend of the fest, and help launch the all-new Wichicon, a comic and collectible convention happening in the Century II Exhibition Hall. “We’re hoping people will dress to the nines in their most creative costumes for that,” says Teri Mott, director of marketing and communication at Wichita Festivals, Inc. There will also be a costume contest in conjunction with the Flaming Lips concert on Saturday night, and all the participants are invited to march in the Sundown Parade.

For wellness aficionados, “We wanted to provide fun and educational events related to the health field,” says Ann Keefer, vice president of programming for WFI. The Riverfest Health Fair will offer screenings, cooking demos and exercise classes, plus a joint initiative with the American Heart Association, which aims to train 50,000 Wichitans in its Hands-Only CPR Program.

Ideas and energy will be flying during a portfolio of entrepreneur-minded events at Riverfest this year: One Million Cups, Ground Level and Startup Grind will all be holding talks, and the Boathouse will play host to the e2e FuturEpreneurship Expo packed with presentations and interactive activities. Afterwards, the party moves to the Red Guard stage where youth entrepreneurs will be honored, and everyone will jam to a concert featuring headliner Randy Newman.

“We are at a great time for Wichitans to embrace their pride in their city,” says Mott, “and we strive to be a big part of that.”

The tech of the fest

The winners of last year’s Hackathon ICT contest got to work with city officials to implement their ideas for solving civic challenges through technology, and the event was so popular that it’s expanding this year into a whole suite of events called Tech Midwest, with the addition of speakers and booths at the Wichita Boathouse.

STEAM City, the expo of companies showing off their prowess in science, technology, engineering, art and science, was a big hit in 2016 and will be back bigger than ever for 2017. Two high-schoolers presenting at Ground Level and Startup Grind got their big break at STEAM City last year when they pitched their ideas to one of the businesses, and landed full-ride scholarships to WSU.

No matter what your personalized schedule looks like, keep track of everything with the new Riverfest app, and stay chill and charged up with a new food court tent, misting tents and areas, and a 60-outlet charging station powered by Westar. Check-N-Safe Lockers will provide secured storage for a minimal fee.

Playground for your ears

Last year’s Roots concert was a blockbuster with 35,000 fans grooving out, and this year’s music lineup builds on the momentum. The festival will be bookended by two headliners: The Flaming Lips on June 3, and OK Go on June 10. “We can expect both of those Saturday nights to be big visual shows,” says Mott.

On those same evenings the Red Guard stage features Hispanic programming, bringing back the wildly popular Lucha Libre Wrestling preceding La Raza Fest on June 3, and Fiesta del Rio takes the stage on June 10.

The six days in between will be studded with concerts by legendary blues vocalist Mavis Staples, country duo LoCash, gospel singer Jonathan Nelson, ska-style band Less Than Jake, and Flobots will open for award-winning rapper and actor Common.

Festival faves

And of course, all your event favorites will be back from fireworks to funnel cakes. Ride the Arkansas with Wagonmasters River Tours, cool off at the Hiland Dairy Ice Cream Social, get a lift from watching hot air balloons and don’t forget to sign up for some of the 20 participatory events. Are the River Run or Kayak Races your speed? Maybe the Cardboard Regatta, Human Foosball and the Beard & Mustache Contest are how you roll? Sign up now at

In addition to the ever-popular Kids Corner, this year brings expanded fun to the stroller set on Monday and Tuesday, with earlier hours and even more programs, such as Wichita Children’s Theater and Dance Center’s production of "Three Billy Goats Gruff", a kid’s karaoke party, and a "Teens Got Talent" competition. Students will join Wichita’s own Jenny Wood onstage for a concert centered on her anthem and mission, “Don’t Let Them Get in Your Head,” an anti-bullying initiative.

“I’m happy to say, I’m not the only one who’s excited that White Castle is coming back.” — Teri Mott, Wichita Festivals, Inc.

Whether you come for the wrestling, the concerts, the costume contest, the health fair, Tech Midwest, fireworks, the entrepreneurial expo, the grilled alligator, the kid’s karaoke or an intersection of the above crossed with your choice of 120 events and activities, Riverfest 2017 is hitting a high point.

“We’re very much focused on making Riverfest what it was established to be,” says Mott, “a community festival, where all our neighbors — no matter who they are or what they love — come together and celebrate Wichita.”

Save the Date

Wichita Riverfest
June 2-10

For the complete schedule go to or download the new app on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Buttons available now. After May 5 buttons for adults will be $10, kids $5. Kids 5 and under are always free.

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