Fried peanut butter and jelly. Grilled lemonade. Fried cookie dough. Chicken and waffles.
It must be May in Wichita.
The Wichita Riverfest opens on Friday, and, as always, among the top attractions will be the food courts, which will include the usual array of deep-fried, impaled-on-a-stick delicacies.
The main food court will again be on Century II Drive, “where God intended it,” said Ann Keefer, the festival’s vice president for programming. But the festival will have two other satellite food courts: a fairly large one at the WaterWalk that will serve attendees of Cox Kids Corner and WaterWalk concerts and a smaller one that will open only in the evenings and on weekends at the new Ackerman’s Backyard area in A. Price Woodard Park.
“We’ve got some new vendors this year that we’re trying out for the first time, and hopefully, they’re going to bring some new flavors – literally,” Keefer said.
Among the new vendors is Rita’s Italian Ice, the frozen-treat shop that opened in March at 2929 N. Rock Road. Rita’s will be set up at the WaterWalk food court serving Italian ice, custard and more. The festival also recruited a new Greek food vendor, FR Greek Cuisine, which will serve gyros, chicken, pork and Greek salad.
The new Ackerman’s Backyard will feature new vendor Cibola Catering, run by the same people who once had the restaurant of the same name in Bradley Fair. It will offer pulled pork, pulled brisket, hot link and smoked turkey sandwiches. And Kona Ice, the mobile vendor of shaved ice treats, is another new addition and will be at Ackerman’s Backyard as well.
NuWay will be back again. The local restaurant pulled out of the festival in 2009 after having participated for more than 12 years and returned in 2013. It will be back again at this year’s festival, serving crumbly-meat-is-good sandwiches, root beer floats and garlic salad.
The festival also will feature foods the crowds have demanded in the past – Pronto Pups, chicken on a stick, turkey legs, funnel cakes, roasted corn.
Following is a guide to eating at this year’s festival:
Two other favorite food events also will return. The Cajun Food Fest, a fundraiser for Goodwill Industries, will be 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday on Century II’s Kennedy Plaza. For $7, button wearers can get a plate of Cajun goodness that includes red beans and rice and more. And the popular Hiland Dairy Ice Cream Social, which offers attendees obscenely huge servings of free vanilla ice cream and toppings, will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Douglas and Water.