Nearly perfect weather, a strong schedule, large crowds, good times. What a Wichita River Festival that turned out to be – one that set a fresh course for the future for the enduring community celebration.
As Mayor Carl Brewer said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, “It’s been awhile since we’ve had a River Festival of this caliber.”
After losing money for the past four years, Riverfest needed to make some changes and recapture attention and attendance. So it was great to see the 2013 festival draw an estimated 360,000 people, a 30 percent increase over last year. Food court sales also rose 11 percent, while on-site festival button sales increased from 12,000 in 2012 to more than 30,000 this year. (Off-site button sales are still being tallied, as are other revenue numbers.)
Even though a rainstorm significantly delayed Saturday’s concert and Airbus Americas Fireworks Finale, an estimated 12,000 opted to wait for the Go-Go’s show. A crowd of 22,000 gathered for the Montgomery Gentry concert while 5,000 attended the Westar Energy Block Party – impressive turnouts for a Wednesday night. And the mood was upbeat and the crowd an estimated 70,000 for the opening night’s events, which included the Koch Industries Twilight Pops Concert with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and singer Chris Mann and the Capitol Federal Fireworks.
Thanks are due the nearly 5,000 volunteers who help make Riverfest run smoothly, and to the businesses that show their support for the community by sponsoring Riverfest events.
One key measurement of the 2013 Riverfest will be whether revenues match expenses this year. And this year’s cool temperatures are no guarantee of future success in the festival’s ongoing battle against the weather.
But new Wichita Festivals president and CEO Mary Beth Jarvis and her team are off to a great start.