Last day of River Festival is a beach

05/31/2013 7:25 AM

05/31/2013 7:36 AM

For the final day of this year’s Wichita River Festival, the concrete of Kennedy Plaza will be coated with 310 tons of sand, creating a Kansas beach of sorts.

This 2-foot-deep “beach” will play host to activities such as a sand volleyball tournament, tug-of-war, limbo, hula dancers, ukulele bands and a steel drum concert.

“We were looking for something fun and unique, and several of us recalled a beach party the Downtowners did many years ago,” said Ann Keefer, vice president of program development for Wichita Festivals. “We are going to have a beach.”

Beran Concrete donated the sand and will deliver it for free early June 8.

The process of transforming the plaza for this one day is a messy one. Crews will arrive to start dumping sand before dawn that Saturday, then come back afterward to suck up the leftover sand. The cleanup process is expected to continue until Sunday.

“As soon as the event is over, we’re going to start cleaning it up,” Keefer said. “You won’t even know we were there come late Sunday afternoon.”

Brock Beran, president and owner of Beran Concrete, said the company plans to re-use the donated sand for future construction projects, in houses, commercial buildings and even at Mid-Continent Airport.

“It’s easy to give to the Riverfest,” Beran said. “After it’s done, we’ll haul it off and stockpile it until we need it. Every house in the city needs sand.”

This will be the first year the River Festival has included an event of this sort. Keefer said it falls within the theme and mascot of this year’s celebration, even though they were chosen after the beach party was planned.

“Our initial thought was that everyone’s going to question why there’s an octopus in the Arkansas River,” Keefer said. “It just so happened to tie in well with the beach party.”

Riverfest patrons can bring pails and shovels to build sand castles on the beach, or just relax to the sounds of ukuleles playing throughout the afternoon.

Organizers are planning limbo and other beach-themed activities so attendees can give their feet a break from the concrete.

Teams of six can sign up for a tug-of-war competition, Keefer said. The women’s division starts at 2 p.m., the men’s at 2:30 p.m. and the co-ed at 3 p.m. Winners will receive gift cards and prizes, the specific amount of which was not available at press time.

A sand volleyball tournament begins in O.J. Watson Park on Friday, and the finals will be held at Kennedy Plaza on Saturday. Registration for the tournament has closed, and walk-ons will not be allowed to play.

To cap off the beach party, the all-female band the Go-Go’s will perform at 8:15 p.m., playing its hits, most notably “We Got the Beat.”

“This is actually the first stop on their national tour,” Keefer said. “From the Facebook chatter, phone calls and buzz we’ve been receiving, it’s been a pretty popular topic.”

After a country concert by Wade Bowen and Clearwater native Logan Mize at WaterWalk Plaza, Riverfest will conclude with its standard Airbus Americas Fireworks Finale at 10 p.m.

Keefer said organizers planned to make the final day as activity-packed as the first day of the festival.

“It’s going to be a different flavor than it’s been in the past,” Keefer said. “We’ve been looking for a way to end it with a big bang, besides the fireworks. We’re hoping it will be a huge night.”

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