Jenifer Ermey staked out a spot Saturday on the west bank of the Arkansas River with her two freckle-faced children.
Mitchell, 3, was focused on the jet skis roaring up and down the river.
Lexie, 4, was troubled when a racer clipped one of the 3-foot buoys that defined the race course.
"Do they pop the balls?" she asked her mother.
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"No, they don't pop the balls," Ermey explained. "They're buoys. They have to go around them."
"Why do they go around them?" Lexie asked.
"Because that's the race course," Ermey said.
Lexi seemed satisfied.
Out on the water, more than 30 racers from across the Midwest were competing in the Wild West Water-Cross Tour, which is a new event for this year's Wichita River Festival.
The races, which continue today between Douglas and Lewis, are the first stop on the tour, which is sanctioned by the International Jet Sports Boating Association.
Craig Fritz of Boscobel, Wis., traveled the farthest to compete.
"I actually drive semis for a living; it's safer," he said during a break in the racing.
Fritz said he rode jet skis recreationally before he learned about jet ski racing through the Internet.
"I tried it kind of on a whim, and I was hooked," he said. "I loved it from the start."
Tim Hicks of Topeka said most jet ski racing is done on lakes. Having a river event makes for a much tighter race course.
"It's kind of like motocross," he said. "You're racing against the other guy, not against the clock."
Event promoter Terry Hiebert of Wichita said the Wild West tour is designed to attract riders from five states, with Wichita, Kansas City and Omaha forming the points of a triangle that generally defines the region.
Other events will be held this year at Lake Perry, Cheney Lake and El Dorado Lake. The final stop on the tour has not been announced.
Hiebert said some of the better riders have their eyes on the Jet Sport Boat Association's world finals, which will be held in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in October. He said that event draws the best jet ski racers in the world.
"Basically this is the proving grounds to get there," he said. "You've got to get good to get there. You've got to practice."
Among those taking in the races were Pearl Bloom and Jaclyn, who recently moved to Wichita from Lawrence.
Bloom came to Wichita to enroll in Friends University's zoo science program, and Goodrich found a job working with preschool children.
They offered a positive review of their first River Festival event.
"I'm enjoying it," Goodrich said.
Ermey said she and her children didn't set out to watch jet ski racing. They were visiting the carnival at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, she said, and walked over after hearing the jet skis.
"We come over to see what they were doing, and we decided to stay," she said. "I love anything that's water-related."
When one group of racers finished a five-lap heat, Lexie was again asking questions.
"Why did they slow down?" she wanted to know.
"Because the race is finished," Ermey explained.
"Now can I get my face painted?" Lexie asked.
"Yes," Ermey said. "Now you can get your face painted."