Fireworks cap River Festival's run

05/15/2010 12:00 AM

05/31/2012 9:10 AM

After an overcast and sometimes misty day, the 2010 River Festival ended on a high note Saturday as a fireworks display went off as scheduled on the banks of the Arkansas River.

"It was dreary, but you know we put everything together that we intended and hoped that people enjoyed it," said festival president Janet Wright. "Under the circumstances, I think we did best possible job we could."

The week saw its share of dreary weather — rain forced the festival to cancel all events on Monday — prompting a lot of talk about moving the festival to June.

Wright said weather has caused problems for several River Festival events in recent years.

"Last year there were challenges," she said. "The year before that there were challenges. This week didn't do anything to change my opinion that it might not be a bad idea" to move the Festival to June.

Among those who flocked to the Arkansas River banks for the last day was Wichitan Sue Hickey who gathered because it was family tradition.

She kept an eye on the clouds as she tacked down plastic tarps and staked out a territory where she and her eight grandchildren planned to watch fireworks.

"We'll have our umbrellas," she said.

Hickey didn't pay much attention to the Plunge, one of the newest River Festival events, as it played out in front of her.

The Plunge attracted 12 teams of four between the Lewis and Douglas Street bridges to paddle the river in pontoon-type bathtubs, lift tubs of river water with their feet, pull inflatable rafts and launch water balloons at a target in the river to trigger fireworks from a floating outhouse.

A team representing the city of Colwich took first place.

Phyllis Brewer of Augusta watched the races with her daughter Amanda and family friend Sandy Lockard.

Brewer was unimpressed.

"I'd rather see the bathtub races," she said.

Some of Saturday's events were moved indoors, such as the Koch Twilight Pops Concert in Century II's Exhibition Hall. Others, such as the USAF Heartland of America Band, were canceled.

The weather didn't intimidate some of Saturday's festival goers.

Monica Gorcos had lived 10 years in Wichita before venturing out to the River Festival last week.She and her family took in three days of the River Festival, including its last day.

On Saturday, they ate at the Food Court at Century II, took in a production of "The Ugly Duckling" by the Wichita Children's Theatre and shopped at the Riverfest Marketplace.

Gorcos said her 4 1/2-year-old son was having fun.

Matt Hutchison was helping man a booth for Bikers Against Child Abuse. His 9-year-old daughter, Kristen, had yellow and orange flames painted on her face by an artist at the booth.

He said traffic at the marketplace had been steady but not overwhelming.

Before returning to their booth, Hutchison and Kristen had hit the food court. She had pizza; he had a "half-pound bratwurst," he said, smiling.

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