This year’s Wichita River Festival will offer buttons at two prices: the usual $5 adult button plus a new $3 button for children ages 6 to 12.
The change was announced at a news conference Wednesday led by new festival president and CEO Mary Beth Jarvis, who also revealed the artwork that will adorn the 2013 button.
A grinning orange octopus, nicknamed “Ollie” by his creator, artist Dustin Commer, will decorate both buttons plus all the posters and promotional materials for the festival. In his eight arms, Ollie holds essentials for fun at the festival, including a mustard-covered corndog and an ice cream cone.
The festival will be May 31 through June 8.
Commer, who works as art director at Associated Integrated Marketing, is a three-time winner in the button artwork design contest. He also created the yellow fish on the 2004 button and the flying bathtub on the 2002 button. His design was one of 30 entries received this year, Jarvis said, and his prize was $3,500.
“We do know he is not native to Wichita waters, but he symbolizes a lot of unpredictability and just a magical experience,” Commer said of the octopus.
The discounted child’s button is the first major festival change announced since Jarvis took over as president and CEO of the organization in November. Jarvis, who previously worked in communications for McConnell Air Force Base and then Koch Industries, replaced longtime leader Janet Wright, who announced her resignation last summer after 13 years in charge.
Wright also announced last summer that the festival had lost money for the fourth year in a row because of declining button sales and a shortage of corporate sponsorships.
Jarvis said she has spent the past three months listening to concerns and suggestions from all areas of the community.
“For a family of five to attend the festival, it will now cost below $20,” she said. “We want working families to see this as a reinforced invitation to come down and enjoy the festival.”
Only 25,000 of the 150,000 buttons that will be produced will be for children, Jarvis said, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Children ages 5 and younger will continue to be admitted for free.
The adult button has a blue border; the child button’s border is yellow.
Jarvis also said that this year, the button will serve as admission to all events, including any concerts. In previous years, an additional gate admission was charged for some concerts.
Jarvis said she intends to bring a mix of national and local acts, as the festival has in the past, but no extra gate admission will be charged.
She also indicated that festival events would all take place in a more concentrated area that includes Century II and the WaterWalk area. The West Bank Stage area won’t be used this year, she said, and entrance to festival activities will be controlled by a gate. Only those with buttons will be admitted.
Festival buttons go on sale May 10 at local AAA, Dillons and QuikTrip stores. They’ll be available in March at wichitariverfest.com.
More changes and festival specifics will be announced in the coming weeks, Jarvis said. The new Admiral Windwagon Smith, who serves as the figurehead for the festivities, will be named March 13.