Those who’ve managed to conceal Riverfest’s Cox Kids Corner from their children the past several years will have a much harder time this year.
The event, a colorful conglomeration of bouncy houses and kiddie carnival rides, will be in a new spot this year and will be anchored by a hard-to-miss attraction: a 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel that will be glowing with LED lights at night and will be visible from Kellogg (and from just about everywhere else).
The dramatic new ride and the relocation of Kids Corner, which is leaving its former home at A. Price Woodard Park to a more spread-out area at the WaterWalk south of Century II, are among several changes and additions to the most child-friendly part of Riverfest.
“We debated a lot, and what it actually boiled down to was that we had a sponsor in Cox that wanted to expand the footprint,” said Ann Keefer, the festival’s vice president for programming. “They wanted more space, so that led to some decisions and looking at the footprint in a whole new way.”
A. Price Woodard Park, Keefer said, wasn’t ideal because of its hilly surfaces and sloping embankment. The area was cramped and was a difficult place to anchor and plug in inflatables. It also was somewhat tucked away on the west side of Century II.
The new Kids Corner will be set up at the WaterWalk from just west of Main Street to the lawn south of the Hyatt. Anyone who isn’t clear where that is, said Keefer, should just look up, locate the Ferris wheel and head toward it. The Ferris wheel, not to be confused with the 40-foot Ferris wheel that is not affiliated with the festival but pops up at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium every year during festival time, will be the only Kids Corner attraction that’s not free with a button. Rides will cost $3, $1 of which will go to St. Francis Community Services for foster care programs.
The new location offers several benefits, organizers say.
For one, it’s close to stroller-friendly parking, such as the WaterWalk and Gander Mountain garages and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. It also offers more room for additional events, such as the Ferris wheel and a new tent filled with educational activities based on science, math, art and other subjects.
Activities in the tent will change each day, giving kid opportunities to make robots out of toothbrush heads, make slime, create catapults, make big bubbles and create art projects. The educational projects will be offered from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and June 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday and June 7. Kids can work on make-it-take-it art projects, sponsored by Wichita Center for the Arts, from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Monday, Wednesday and June 6; from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday; and from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday and June 7.
The kids area also will have its own expanded food court with lots of child-friendly fare such as pizza, Sno cones and funnel cakes. It’ll have magicians, a chalk art area and flamenco dance lessons starting on Monday and continuing daily at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“We have lots of exhibits that are going on continually,” Keefer said. “We also will have things like balloon twisters and stilt walkers and clowns and jugglers all day, every day.”
The only downside to the new location, Keefer said, is a lack of shade. But festival organizers are making plans for that, too.
“We have a little bit challenge in that there are no trees and it’s not as shady, but we’re going to utilize what shade we do have, and there will be a misting tent or two,” she said. “So there will be some relief.”
The Cox Kids Corner will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and June 6, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and June 7 and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Inflatables and rides will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and June 6 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7 and June 8.
It’s for ages 12 and under, for whom most activities are included in the cost of a button.