Thirtysomething festival ready to rock

The Wichita River Festival has one last chance to party down before it turns the big 4-0 next year.

The annual festival — best know for its funnel cakes and fireworks — will start celebrating the last year of its 30s on Friday with the popular Sundown Parade through downtown Wichita.

One party guest had to back out at the last minute. Bret Michaels, the glam rocker scheduled to play at a post-parade concert and fireworks show tonight, had to cancel his performance last week after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

Though his mug is plastered all over the official Riverfest Guide, the festival replaced him with classic rock band Cheap Trick.

Festival organizers want you to want to go — and pay to do so. Admission to the three big West Bank Stage shows this year is $10 plus a River Festival button. Besides tonight's Cheap Trick show, the $10 admission fee also will apply to Saturday's country concert with Jake Owen and Sunday's concert by the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

The festival will include all of the classic events festivalgoers expect, including the River Run and the Art and Book Fair on Saturday, the Cajun Food Fest on Thursday, the Block Party on May 14 and the closing-night pops concert and fireworks show on May 15.

Also back — the dodge ball tournament on Saturday, the funnel cake eating contest and ice cream social on May 14, and the Cessna Kids' Korner, a children's event that runs throughout the festival.

The festival also will feature a couple of new events, including a jet ski racing tournament on Saturday and a hot air balloon glow on Sunday.

As always, festival president Janet Wright is hoping for clear skies and happy crowds.

"It's springtime," she said. "I think we'll all be thrilled to go outside and enjoy a slice of life."