Some might try to say that the Wichita River Festival is all about fun and fireworks and family time.
But it’s really all about food — specifically deep fried funnel cakes, bodacious bean-filled burritos and buttery ears of corn.
This year, festival food fans will have to pay attention to find their favorite treats. The main food court has moved. Vendors have been more evenly distributed across various venues. A whole new dining area will offer fancier fare. And adults will be allowed to order adult beverages and stroll with them in-hand — legally. Here’s what you need to know to get fed properly when the festival opens on Friday.
Main food court: Don’t go to the street east of Century II where the main food court has always been. This year, it has moved over to the west side of the building, where 11 food vendors will sell traditional fare that diners can enjoy on picnic benches in A. Price Woodard Park, 401 W. Douglas. Among the popular vendors set up in the main food court will be Tad’s Bodacious Burrito, Tad’s Chicken on a Stick, the Original Corn Roast and Chan’s Concessions, which offers Chinese fare. The main food court will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, from 10 am. to 10 p.m. Saturday; from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on June 11.
Food court at Kansas Star Music Park at West Bank: Because they’re staging all the big concerts on the West Bank stage this year, Wichita River Festival organizers decided to expand its food court, which will feature seven vendors. Among them are several new vendors, including F & J Catering & Concessions, serving a variety of German/Austrian fare, from brats to knockwurst with kraut to German skillet potatoes. Visitors also can find fried candy bars, roasted corn, funnel cakes and more. It’s open from 5 to 10 p.m. today, from 3 to 9:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 5 to 9:45 p.m. Monday through June 10 and noon to 9:45 p.m. June 11.
WaterWalk Pavilion: The festival is introducing a new food option designed to attract a professional crowd. The Waterwalk Pavilion will feature a different local restaurant set up under a giant tent on the Hyatt lawn each night, starting on Saturday. Diners will be able to purchase dinners from the restaurant (which average about $10) and listen to music from a popular local band. (Saturday’s opening night, for example, features food from Carlos O’ Kelly’s and music from Grateful Not to Be Dead.) Patrons can purchase wine, beer and mixed drinks at the Pavilion, too. The Waterwalk Pavilion will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday through June 11. A complete guide to restaurants and bands is available at www.wichitariverfest.com.
Exploration Place: All the festival’s kid-friendly events will take place around Exploration Place this year, and it will have its own mini-food court selling kid-friendly fare such as hot dogs, corn dogs, funnel cakes and slushes. It’s open from 6 to 9:30 p.m. tonight, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through June 10 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 11.
New alcohol rules: The festival is taking advantage of a city ordinance that will allow patrons to take adult beverages from Waterwalk Pavilion to A. Price Woodard park and back, as long as they walk along the river and both venues are officially open. If one of the two venues is open, patrons may purchase alcohol and enjoy it in that location. The Kansas Star Park at West Bank food court will still serve 3.2 beer, which must be kept within the gated area.
Cajun Food Fest: The popular event is still on the schedule but will take place around the Tripodal on Century II’s Kennedy Plaza from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Meals are $7 with a Riverfest button.