Featured business person: Ann Keefer of Wichita Festivals

10/11/2012 6:45 AM

10/11/2012 7:01 AM

Keefer joins Wichita Festivals, which stages Riverfest, as the annual community celebration tries to reinvent itself.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I think I’m kind of uniquely positioned. I’ve got a big network of people I can reach out to for help.”

Keefer, 56, has cultivated that network through years of involvement in community events. A Wichita native, she left for a decade in her 20s, then returned to marry and raise a family.

Keefer started as a volunteer for the Old Town Association and Riverfest, chairing such events as the Old Town block parties, barbecue and chili cookoffs. She managed the Farm & Art Market building before it became the Museum of World Treasures, then spent the past decade working in marketing for the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

She’ll start at Wichita Festivals on Oct. 22 as a search is under way to replace the nonprofit’s longtime CEO and president, Janet Wright, who is retiring at the end of the year. Wichita Festivals also runs Autumn and Art at Bradley Fair, but Keefer said reinvigorating Riverfest will be her main goal.

“Anything after 41 years has got to change and evolve,” she said. “A lot of people want to harken back and recall the better days of the festival. I’m not saying that won’t work again. But it’s a new day, so we’re going to have to re-examine everything. Ultimately it’s got to represent the community. That’s going to be my goal – getting the community engaged in helping us figure out what it’s going to reflect.”

Keefer and her husband, Jim, a well-known bassist, have three children.

Outside of work, she said, “Art is a passion – art and music. I actually spend a lot of time out supporting artistic events and music events. I also tend to read a lot when I get the opportunity, and garden.”

Joe Stumpe

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