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River Festival reveals 2010 Windwagon Smith

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 6, 2010, at 2:15 p.m.

The newest Admiral Windwagon Smith fits the standard selection criteria nearly perfectly — he's a longtime volunteer who's done every dirty job and served in every important post in the ranks.

But one big difference sets Devin Hansen apart from many of his immediate predecessors: about 20 years.

At 44, Hansen is among the youngest admirals ever named. Though the festival doesn't keep official records on such things, the previous holders of the job have usually included pops concerts and bathtub races among their top festival memories.

Hansen's top memories?

"What I remember the most is being young, wild and crazy — doing the block party, taking my cooler of beer down there and being in the sea of thousands of people," he said. "That, and throwing water balloons at the people in the raft races."

On Saturday, Hansen was revealed as the 37th Admiral Windwagon Smith, who serves as the costumed, sword-carrying mascot of the festival during its nine-day run, which is May 7-15 this year.

Despite his relative youth, Hansen is perhaps among the most River Festival-centric admirals the festival has ever chosen.

His day job is president of Sunflower Travel, a travel agency that's been in his family for 24 years.

Hansen got involved with the festival 16 years ago, at first volunteering to sell merchandise.

After a few years, he joined the "red shirts" — the elite volunteers who wear red shirts and make the festival happen.

He's also served as general chairman of the festival, an important step in any future admiral's ascension. The general chair leads the red shirts and is responsible for the festival's day-to-day operation.

Six years ago, Hansen wrapped up a six-year stint on the festival's board of directors. He served as chairman of the board from 2002 to 2003.

Hansen's wife, Lisa — whom he met after he started volunteering — works in the festival offices as the vice president of finance.

Hansen also serves as chairman of the board of directors of Go Wichita!, the city's convention and visitor's bureau. He hopes to merge the messages of his two leadership roles while serving as admiral and tout the festival's success as a tourism draw, he said.

"I think sometimes people take the festival for granted just because it's been around for 39 years, and that's a huge success for a festival like that," he said.

Janet Wright, the festival's president, said that having a tourism expert serve as admiral will be a big benefit.

"We've talked about that from a tourism perspective, and the festival is really important to the city," she said. "He's obviously extraordinarily interested in that topic. This is something near and dear to his heart, and he'll be a real advocate for that."

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Who is

devin hansen

Age

44

Personal

Married to Lisa Hansen, the festival's vice president of finance

Day job

President of Sunflower Travel

Community involvement

Chairman of the board of directors of Go Wichita!; District Chairman for the High Plains District of the Boy Scouts of America; member of Wichita Wagonmasters and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Interests

Racquetball, cooking, traveling

Reach Denise Neil at 316-268-6327 or at dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

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