Mother Nature switched up her game in response to the Wichita River Festival’s move from May to June, hitting festivalgoers with six days of triple-digit heat followed a night of tornado warnings and flash flooding. But the 40th anniversary of Wichita’s party down by the river was far from a washout. June still might be the month.
Even when the numbers for button sales and other factors come in, the results on the May-vs.-June question may be inconclusive for festival organizers. It’s unlikely that the 2011 festival completely reversed the trend of last year, when it lost $170,000 and had to lay off staff.
The scheduling still presents some challenges, competing with other events that had long-standing claim to the early June timetable.
But the crowd seemed to have no problem realizing that the Koch Industries Twilight Pops Concert with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Capitol Federal fireworks show were on opening night, rather than closing night.
Staging major concerts at Kansas Star Music Park in the West Bank area worked well. The food, drink and music in the upscale WaterWalk Pavilion seemed to be a hit.
The consolidation of events along the river underscored the reason for the festival’s being. It was great to have The Eagle Medallion Hunt back (even though it took Cindy Mork only three days to find the medallion).
And the zip line across the river — well, why didn’t festival organizers think of this sooner? Wichita clearly has enough wannabe daredevils to justify more hours and maybe even multiple lines and sites.
If the organizers stick to June, they also will need to maximize the opportunities for families, including vacationing ones from elsewhere, to spend their free weekdays enjoying the festival.
All in all, it felt and sounded like the Riverfest, only hotter. The satisfied smiles certainly were the same.
This being Kansas, the only guaranteed way to guard against meteorological surprises and extremes is to hold everything indoors — which is no way to celebrate a river.