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Riverfest button sales up 38 percent from last year

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 26, 2013, at 6:53 a.m.

Mary Beth Jarvis had a good feeling as she walked through the crowds at this year’s Wichita River Festival.

Jarvis, CEO of Wichita Festivals Inc., said the festival felt like a success, and now she has the numbers to back it up.

Button sales for this year's Riverfest were up 38 percent from last year, Jarvis said Thursday. Festival attendees bought 104,000 buttons, the most since the 2008 festival.

Jarvis said Wichita Festivals Inc., which puts on the festival each year, is poised to end the year profitably for the first time since 2008. This year’s festival brought in about $170,000 more in revenue compared with 2012.

But Jarvis said this year’s festival had more costs, too. Between fencing, new events and other supplies, Jarvis said the extra costs totaled about $70,000, which left about $100,000 in profit.

“We have other events this year, so we can’t rest on our laurels, but it looks as though our organization will finish the year in a good financial position,” Jarvis said.

When Jarvis took over as CEO last November, the company was operating with a deficit of $85,000. She and her staff set about planning a litany of changes for this year’s festival, including a renewed emphasis on attendees wearing the $5 buttons that would get them into all of the festival’s events, including concerts. The entire festival area was fenced in for the first time, which Jarvis said helped allay safety and security concerns expressed by attendees from previous years.

“On the first day, some folks were surprised by the renewed emphasis on buttons, but the overwhelming response was that it helped create a festival area that was safe and secure and populated by folks who were there to enjoy the events, rather than just passing through,” Jarvis said.

This year’s festival also featured more than 20 new events, as well as the return of what Jarvis called some “old favorites.” Overall, Jarvis said the response to both types of events was positive.

“People were delighted to have some old events back, like the Cajun food fest and the block party, and the new events seem poised to be new classics going forward,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said the beach party and its touch-a-truck event, both new this year, were among festival-goers’ favorites.

“We want to be true to the Riverfest spirit, which is all about coming together and being neighbors,” Jarvis said, “but that spirit also has to be constantly renewed. We have to be responsive to new generations and new populations.

“We want folks to see themselves in the event. It’s part tradition and part renewal.”

Reach Elizabeth Scheltens at 316-268-6562 or escheltens@wichitaeagle.com.

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