Reimagining autumn events

Nonprofits keep rising to the challenge

Written by Karen Long

As Wichitans look forward to a cooling fall climate, the uncertain public health climate means that nonprofit organizations are turning on a dime to bring traditional fall favorites to the community.

Necessary responses to the Covid-19 pandemic raise enterprise-wide challenges, as well as changes to specific events, but organizers remain flexible and determined to find innovative ways to bring us Autumn & Art, The Wichita Open, PedalFest and more. Here are multiple ways to get involved — whether by enjoying the events themselves or supporting your favorite local nonprofits during a challenging time.

Wichita Festivals, Inc.

Many assume that Wichita Festivals, Inc., the umbrella organization which brings us crowd favorites like Riverfest and Autumn & Art, is a government entity or a for-profit business. Actually, according to Teri Mott, director of marketing and communications, it is an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which relies on revenue from its events, including Riverfest, which was presented as a free virtual event this year.

“We spend our days actively researching and looking for replacement sources of revenue,” she says, “and preparing to pivot from in-person events to virtual ones — or vise versa — at the drop of a hat. It’s definitely a different work model for us, but our team is fierce and creative.”

How You Can Help

• Donate to WFI at WichitaFestivals.com.
• Attend Autumn & Art: an Online Art Fair, info at AutumnandArt.com.
• Purchase merchandise such as Riverfest 2020 souvenir packs and Autumn & Art masks at WichitaFestivalsShop.com.• Follow WFI events on social media:
Facebook:Wichita River Festival, Autumn & Art, Wichita Festivals Golf Tournament, Fidelity Bank River Run
Instagram: @wichitariverfest, @autumnandartict, @fidelitybankriverrun

The Wichita Open

In 2019, their 30th anniversary, the Wichita Open welcomed over 50,000 spectators during tournament week, and was honored as the top destination on the Korn Ferry Tour. In 2020, the fairways and greens will be even more silent than usual as the tournament is going forward without an audience. “We want to do what’s best, considering the health conditions, for everybody in the city,” says tournament director Roy Turner.

That means summer favorite, the SPLURGE! Night party, is out. “But all golf events, including pro-ams will go on as scheduled,” according to Turner. “Anybody participating in our pro-ams will all have to be tested.”

All these cancellations and modifications raise financial challenges for The Wichita Open, but that hasn’t dimmed their determination to support their nonprofit partners: They’re on track to donate over $125,000 to local charities including League 42, the Auggie Navarro Scholarship Foundation, the Wichita Junior Golf Foundation, and the Children’s Miracle Network.

“Like everybody else in the world, we’ll be struggling financially,” says Turner, “but like everybody else in the world we’ll get through.”

How You Can Help

Volunteers are essential to the success of the tournament, and there are multiple ways for local businesses and community leaders to get involved as event sponsors or as part of the Ambassador Program. Go to wichitaopen.com for more information.

Junior League of Wichita

Nicole Easton took over the leadership of the fund development council for Junior League of Wichita on July 1. Where others might see unfortunate timing, Easton sees possibility: “I’m excited for the challenge and for our team to really have this opportunity to think outside of the box.”

After making the difficult decision to cancel two events, Kitchen Tours and Holiday Galleria, JLW is planning a new fundraiser: a restaurant tour called Taste of Wichita, Oct. 2–11. They’ve invited upscale and mostly locally-owned restaurants to participate, and some — including Georges, Chester’s and Bonefish Grill — have already accepted.

Seventy percent of the proceeds from Taste of Wichita will benefit From Homeless to Hope, a nonprofit that finds permanent housing for homeless women, and 30 percent will go back into the League, to train and develop women leaders in the community.

How You Can Help

• Get out and enjoy a cornucopia of fine dining during Taste of Wichita, Oct. 2–11.
• Purchase the Junior League of Wichita Cookbooks.
• Local businesses and individuals can partner with JLW to conduct small-scale fundraisers.
• Donate to JLW’s Community Outreach Endowment Fund or Legacy Endowment Fund, visit jlwichita.org for more information.

Heartspring

“I think more than anything, Covid has shown Heartspring how resilient we are and how flexible we are,” says Stacie Williamson, director of development at Heartspring, the organization supporting children with special needs and developmental disabilities and their families.

In July Heartspring announced that PedalFest 2020, happening Aug. 22, is going virtual. Riders can choose their own routes or download one from pedalfest.org. “We are encouraging everyone to get out and ride, run, walk, whatever amount of route they are comfortable with,” says Megan Schapaugh, special events coordinator. “They can even break up the 100K and do it in a number of days or weeks rather than all at once,”

Donations raised through all that pedaling will go toward items like the Zono disinfecting cabinet, a recent Heartspring addition. The closet-sized apparatus will fully sanitize equipment used in physical therapy, such as adult-sized mats. Williamson says this is the kind of technology they’ll use long after Covid-19 has passed.

How You Can Help

• Continue to participate and stay involved, even if events look different.
• Make direct donations at heartspring.org.
• Donate PPE gear, face masks, gloves and especially full-body coverings, which are growing scarce and are essential for working with at-risk children.
• Purchase items on the Heartspring Amazon wish list at tinyurl.com/Heartspring-Amazon.

Fall Events

Heartspring PedalFest, Aug. 22

The virtual bike ride benefits Heartspring’s Pediatric Services. Organizers will be live-streaming the day of the event and throwing a virtual awards ceremony to recognize top fundraisers. See pedalfest.org for details.

Autumn & Art: an Online Art Fair, Sept. 18–20

Browse and buy from online booths, and even chat with the artists, live. Enjoy entertainment, artist demonstrations and fun for kids, too. The Opening Night Patron Party will take place as a virtual fundraiser Sept. 18, with a Patron Patio Party in a Box delivered to your door. More details at AutumnandArt.com.

The Wichita Open, Sept. 24–27

The tournament will be closed to spectators, but you can follow scores as they’re updated on PGA.com and wichitaopen.com. Find the Wichita Open on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Junior League of Wichita, Taste of Wichita Restaurant Tour, Oct. 2–11

Savor set menus from upscale favorites such as Georges, Chester's Chophouse & Wine Bar, and Bonefish Grill. Ten percent of each menu purchased will go to support JLW and their mission. For more information visit jlwichita.org or find Junior League of Wichita on Facebook and Instagram. Restaurants interested in participating can contact JLW at tasteofwichita@gmail.com.

Wonderfall, Nov. 5–8

A fall celebration in honor of the 150th birthdays of Wichita and Sedgwick County, brought to you by Wichita Festivals, Inc. At this time the event is scheduled to take place on St. Francis from William to Second Street in downtown Wichita. If large gatherings are still restricted, Wonderfall will transition to a virtual event.

 
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