New times and locations are just some of the big changes you’ll find in next month’s Riverfest.
WaterWalk Pavilion—designed for adults seeking a little more grown-up fun than previous festivals have offered—is likely to prove one of the most popular attractions.
It’ll consist of a huge pole tent and outdoor seating area where festival goers can listen to live music, eat and enjoy a beer, wine or cocktail if they desire. From the pavilion, located on the downtown Hyatt’s south lawn, festival goers will also be able to stroll along the Arkansas River, drink in hand, as far north as Douglas. That will give them access to the festival’s main food court in A. Price Woodard Park, along with a floating stage and other events on that section of the river.
That’s right, this ain’t your momma’s Riverfest.
“We’re wanting to create an environment for those people who might not enjoy huge crowds, but who would enjoy getting out on a beautiful Kansas evening and listening to some music,” said Janet Wright, president of Wichita Festivals, Inc. “It’ll be something a little different than people have experienced before, more relaxed.”
WaterWalk vice president Doug Rupe said it made sense for the mixed use development to sponsor the pavilion.
“With it (the pavilion) being right across Waterman from us, it will be a good way to introduce people who maybe haven’t seen what we have at WaterWalk,” Rupe said. “One of the promises of WaterWalk is to create a gathering place for Wichitans, and this will be a good opportunity for us to show off a little bit.” It also plays into festival organizers’ desire to revamp the festival, which saw declining attendance last year.
Part of that can be blamed on lousy weather, which caused organizers to move this year’s festival from May to June. But there’s also a feeling that many Wichitans have grown bored with the festival after four decades.
To inject new life into it, organizers have moved events back to the original focus of the festival—the river. The festival’s biggest concerts will be held on the west bank, kids’ activities will be concentrated near Exploration Place and there will also be events in Veterans Park and at the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
“Things are so much prettier along the river than they have ever been,” Wright said.
Saturday & Sunday | June 4-5 | 4 to 10 pm
Monday through Thursday | June 6-9 | 5 to 9 pm
Friday & Saturday | June 10-11 | 4 to 10 pm
The pavilion’s pole tent will hold 300 to 400 people, with more seating outside. People can bring their own lawn chairs, “but there probably won’t be a need for it,” Wright said. Entrance will be free with a $5 Riverfest button. Children will be allowed in, but Wright said the pavilion is mainly intended for older festival goers.
A different restaurant will cater food for the pavilion each night, and plans call for a different “specialty” cocktail to be served along with beer and wine each day. In addition to bands, historical interpreters portraying John Brown, Amelia Earhart and other famous Kansans will perform and take questions.
Asked why famed prohibitionist Carrie Nation wasn’t invited, Wright laughed and said, “We talked about that, but we thought she’s been overdone.”
Entertainers and restaurants
Saturday | June 4
6-9:30 pm | Grateful Not to Be Dead
6-8 pm | Treats from Carlos O’Kelley’s Mexican Café
Sunday | June 5
6 pm | Rachel Coba Band
6-8 pm | BBQ from Wichita Wagonmasters
Monday | June 6
6:30 pm | Dr. William Worley presenting Dr. James Naismith
7:30-8:45 pm | Flatland String Band
Tuesday | June 7
6:30 pm | Kerry Altenbernd presenting Abolitionist John Brown
7:30-8:45 pm | Walnut Valley String Band
Wednesday | June 8
6:30 pm | Dr. Ann Birney presenting Amelia Earhart
7:15-8:45 pm | The Swing Daddie
6-8 pm | Favorites from Café Moderne
Thursday | June 9
6:00-8:45 pm | Mudbugs Cajun & Zedeco Band
Friday | June 10
6:00-9:30 pm | Mumblin’ Jones
Saturday | June 11
4:30-6:30 pm | Smugglin’ Yo-Yo’s
7:00-9:45 pm | Ten Day Wish