This weekend’s big BlackTop Nationals event is designed for fans of classic cars and fast motorcycles.
But even non-motorheads can have a fun-filled weekend at the event – as long as they don’t mind crowds.
BlackTop Nationals opens at 3 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday in and around Century II, 225 W. Douglas, in downtown Wichita. The fourth annual event is expected to draw more than 150,000 people from more than 20 states.
Although cars, motorcycles and events related to them are the focus of the event, it will also include food, live music and unusual activities, such as tethered hot-air balloon rides.
“This is going to be a party,” said Mike Flores, the sales manager for the event. “All we’re trying to do is throw a party outside. And it’s all free. No buttons, nothing. It’s all free. The only cost is to get inside.”
Admission is $5 to see the cars on display inside Century II.
One big draw will be live music set up throughout the weekend on two different outdoor stages, Flores said. Organizers decided to add live music to the car show last year, but constant rain dampened those plans. All but 30 minutes of one set was canceled because of weather.
Organizers are trying again this year, and they have two days of local and national acts scheduled throughout the festival.
The biggest names are country singers Rusty Rierson and Stephanie Layne, who each will perform individual sets on Saturday night as well as sing a few songs together.
Rierson, who says his heroes are George Strait and Johnny Cash, grew up on a farm in Leon and attended Kansas State University. He got into music when he was 14 and got his first big break at the Kansas State Fair in 2005. He won several country music competitions after that and is now promoting his album, “Souvenirs,” which he recorded in Nashville. The title track from that album was a No. 1 hit in Europe.
He’ll play from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday on the Kennedy Plaza Stage, just north of Century II. Layne, a Minnesota native and regular Nashville performer, will appear from 6 to 7 p.m.
The Kennedy Plaza Stage also will feature local band Crisis on Friday night from 7 to 9 p.m., and a second stage near the corner of Water and Lewis at the WaterWalk will feature locals The Kentucky Gentelmen from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, followed by hair band act Banned from 7 to 9 p.m. The WaterWalk stage will have blues act Ms. Lady Dee “Me & The Boyz” from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Linnaberry Wine from 7 to 9 p.m.
BlackTop Nationals also is trying a new approach with its food. For the past few years, Wichita Festivals Inc. has provided a River Festival-esque food court. But this year, organizers decided to recruit local food trucks and other mobile dining businesses.
Among the trucks signed on to participate are B.S. Sandwich Press, Big Daddy’s Smoked Shack Meats, Chino’s Parrilla and the new Cajun food truck, Vautrot’s Cajun Goods. Lemonade, root beer and funnel cake folks will set up as well as Chris Cakes, the famous purveyor of pancakes and link sausages.
The vendors will be stationed throughout the event all three days. No matter where they are at the show, attendees will likely find some mobile food nearby. Food vendors will be serving from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Other activities include tethered hot air balloon rides near Douglas and McLean. They’ll be available for $10 a person from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Also at high noon on both Saturday and Sunday, performers from the Old Cowtown Museum will stage a gunfight on Douglas Avenue. The Air National Guard Mobile Experience will be set up to the west of Century II near the Tripodal and will offer activities such as a pull-up challenge designed to show what life is like for recruits during military training, technical school and drill weekend.
Another odd attraction: A “mentalist” named Curtis Waltermire will drive a 1963 Chevy Nova while blindfolded through an auto-cross course at the Lawrence Dumont Stadium parking lot, 300 S. Sycamore. Not only will he be wearing a double blindfold, but the car’s windshield will be covered in newspaper. He’ll perform his stunt at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Also for plane enthusiasts, the opening ceremony at 3 p.m. on Friday will feature three World War II-era planes flying over Douglas from east to west. They’ll pass over Kennedy Plaza three times.