Wichita’s new Admiral Windwagon Smith is a former radio personality and longtime festival volunteer who says he’s looking forward to the chance to hang out at the Wichita River Festival instead of work.
“It’s like Wichita’s big family reunion, man,” said Todd Johnson, 51, who on Wednesday was named Admiral Windwagon Smith XL. “I’m going to go out there and shake as many hands as I can.”
Johnson’s selection was announced by new festival president and CEO Mary Beth Jarvis at a news conference at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in the Wichita Boathouse. Admiral Windwagon Smith wears a red uniform and serves as the mascot of the festival. Each year, past admirals choose a new admiral from the ranks of longtime volunteers.
Johnson, once well known around Wichita as “Mr. Chico,” a morning radio personality on T-95, now works as a sales manager for Protection 1 Security Solutions. He’s a graduate of Wichita Southeast High School and Wichita State University.
He’s been a Wichita Festivals Inc. board member since 2008, has been on the Riverfest operations committee since 1997, and served as the festival’s food and beverage chair in 2004 and 2005. He served as the general chair in 2009, overseeing all festival operations.
Jarvis said she was pleased with Johnson’s selection, noting that his experience organizing and running various parts of the festival will be vital to her on her first year on the job.
“The admirals knew I would need a strong partner this year,” she said.
Before naming Johnson, Jarvis revealed a few more details about the festival, which is scheduled for May 31 to June 8 in downtown Wichita.
She confirmed that singer Chris Mann, a local who earned fame competing on NBC’s “The Voice,” will perform along with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra during the festival’s opening night Koch Twilight Pops Concert. That will be followed by the Capital Federal Fireworks show.
She also said that on the festival’s final day, Kennedy Plaza would be filled with 310 tons of sand and would become the scene of a giant beach party, with tug-of-war, sand volleyball and more.
In addition, the first Sunday of the festival will be called Learjet Throwback Sunday and will have a “retro” theme, she said. Some old festival events will return with a new twist, and people will be admitted wearing a button from any festival, past or present. More details will be released in coming weeks, Jarvis said.
Festival buttons go on sale May 10 at local AAA, Dillons and QuikTrip stores. This year, the festival will sell 25,000 $3 children’s buttons in addition to the usual $5 adult buttons.
For more information, visit wichitariverfest.com.