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Rainy Riverfest's attendance 'way down'

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 18, 2010, at 12:02 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, May 31, 2012, at 9:10 a.m.

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Tornado threats and days of cool wet weather hurt attendance and probably caused a financial loss for this year's Wichita River Festival.

Janet Wright, festival president and CEO, called it the most challenging of her 11 years as festival leader.

"It was definitely the most difficult to work with in terms of the weather," she said

A decision is expected within a month on whether to move the festival to June, in part to avoid the unsettled May weather.

Reports of tornadoes even prompted officials to cancel all festival activities one day, a step not taken in many years, if ever.

Final attendance and financial records won't be known for several weeks, Wright said. But the turnout was "way down" from previous years, she said.

"It was just disappointing. You really work for a year to try to figure out what the public is interested in and what you can afford and... then you get bad weather," Wright said.

The festival has a reserve fund and will survive, she said. She wouldn't say how much is in the fund. "There is money there to help us through these times," she said.

Reports filed with the IRS show that at the end of December 2008 the organization had about $495,000 in cash, and total assets of about $916,000.

Its total revenue for the year was $2.09 million, and total expenses were $2.03 million.

Financial information for 2009 is not yet available.

Discussions have been under way about moving the date the festival to avoid the unsettled May weather, as well as end-of-school activities that keep families away, Wright said.

Those discussions started seriously last fall when planning got under way for next year's 40th anniversary of the festival. A decision will be made within a month, she said.

Wright said she is OK with the idea.

"I think May is so challenging from a weather and family perspective. At least for one year we ought to give it a shot," she said.

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