When he walks in a crowd, Admiral Windwagon Smith is an obvious kid and chick magnet.
Small children smile and wave. He waves back.
Women plead to have pictures taken next to him. He obliges, wrapping an arm around each and smiling into the camera.
The admiral is the leader of River Festival activities, the purveyor of charm and goodwill. He gets to carry a real sword, and wear a cool hat and a spiffy red jacket.
"He's our second choice," Marcia Koeppen said a few seconds after her photo was taken with the admiral. "We wanted a picture of the horses."
Never mind, says Devin Hansen, Wichita's 37th Admiral Windwagon Smith. He gets to keep the white pants that go with the uniform.
"Do you know how hard white pants are to find in December?"
And really, he asks, how can you compete against Budweiser's Clydesdales?
Hansen was upbeat about being the admiral for this year's festival. A long-time festival volunteer in other capacities, he mingled with the crowd Sunday at Old Cowtown Museum, allowed some of Dixie Lee's Saloon dance girls to sit on his lap, nodded in time to the girls dancing the can-can, and joshed with the Prairie Schooner Mates — students from area high schools who assist Windwagon Smith during the River Festival — calling them his minions.
Christian Hood, one of this year's Schooner Mates, said Hansen was "the hippest admiral."
As admiral, Hansen stood next to the Clydesdales on Sunday while cameras in the crowd clicked and clicked.
The gig has perks, he said, mostly free food and access to all the River Festival activities.
"So many people know who you are," said Hansen. "It is a figurehead. Everybody is nice. Even in the car" — that would be the official Admiral Windwagon Smith Corvette —"people honk and wave. Course, you can't go far in this jacket without people knowing who you are."
Normally, Hansen serves as the president of Sunflower Travel, a travel agency that has been in his family for 24 years.
But the role of admiral is clearly one he enjoys.
His cell phone rings. He answers.
The voice on the other end asks if this Devin Hansen.
"No," he replies. "It's Admiral Windwagon Smith."