In the spring, Wichitans' fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love for the Wichita River Festival, with its throng of runners, foodstuffs on sticks, music under the stars and fireworks over the "Big Ark."
OK — not all Wichitans. Some just love to hate it.
Fortunately for those feeling the seasonal yearning about now, the 39-year-old Riverfest tradition endures, stopping for neither rain nor recession as it brings the community together.
The party that starts today already has gracefully weathered some adversity, including the cancellation of headliner Bret Michaels (and replacement by Cheap Trick) and the economy-related cutbacks in corporate sponsorships. At least last year's worries about swine flu are over.
Beyond rock band Cheap Trick tonight, the 2010 festival promises country singer Jake Owen on Saturday and the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Sunday (all at the West Bank Stage, each for a $10 admission fee, plus the $5 festival button). The Wichita Eagle's Virtual Medallion Hunt is among the returning events, with newcomers including jet ski racing and a hot-air balloon glow. From today through May 15, there should be enough street food and catchy tunes for everybody.
This year's festival was preceded by talk of moving the 2011 festival largely to Central Riverside Park, and also perhaps to a later date.
Moving Riverfest to June seems worth not only considering but trying. The weather may not be more reliable, but the timing could prove more convenient for would-be festivalgoers and volunteers. Especially for families, May calendars are a mess of school-ending obligations. There isn't much room for Riverfest.
It's harder to imagine the festival almost entirely out of downtown — something the Wichita Festivals board decided against, at least for next year. Riverside Park has offered a relaxed setting for certain events in the past. But part of what defines the festival is what it brings to the heart of downtown, where the Arkansas River runs through it. The likely disruption to the Riverside neighborhood and lacking of parking are of further concern.
Just as worries about insufficient parking for Intrust Bank Arena have proved overblown, though, surely simultaneous Riverfest and arena events this year needn't be a big deal. Some foresight and patience will be required. There may never be a better time to park at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium or Exploration Place and catch the Q-Line bus.
But the more people downtown, the merrier for Wichita.
Just buy a button, please, and leave the dogs and bad attitudes at home.