Wichita River Festival fans who haven’t been paying attention could find themselves lost when they arrive for opening night on Friday (provided they didn’t already attempt to attend opening night a month ago).
The festival, an annual nine-day party that draws thousands of Wichitans downtown for fried food, fireworks and fun, is celebrating its 40th birthday this year by changing or tweaking many events, locations and details.
The main change, of course, is the date. In an attempt to move itself away from jam-packed end-of-the-school-year family schedules and from unpredictable early-May rain, festival officials moved the event back a month.
Starting Friday, organizers will start to see if the crowds come and if the early June forecast — rain-free, hot and windy — makes for a more festival-friendly environment. The festival begins tonight with one of the biggest changes: a packed schedule featuring most of the marquee events.
The Sundown Parade will be followed by the ice cream social, followed by the Koch Twilight pops concert, cannon launch, flyover and Capitol Federal fireworks show. All but the parade were formerly finale weekend events. Using this guide, festival goers will notice other key changes:
The main food court has moved west of Century II to the A. Price Woodard Park area. (Read more about Riverfest food on Page 14.)
Saturday’s River Run will follow a new route through the Riverside neighborhood.
All the main concerts will be centralized at the newly renamed Kansas Star Music Park at West Bank. (Read more about concerts on Pages 3 and 23.)
The glossy guide to the festival formerly sold with $5 buttons has been discontinued. Save today’s Go! section, which contains the full schedule.
The new WaterWalk Pavilion will offer higher-end eats, alcoholic drinks and bands intended to draw a professional crowd.
Fireworks will be launched from different locations than in the past and will be best viewed from Kansas Star Music Park at West Bank, not from the areas along the riverbanks where people have traditionally reserved spots with tarps (though they'll be visible from there, too).
Kids’ activities will be centralized at Exploration Place, and the once-popular Treasure Island will return on Sunday outside the Mid-America All-Indian Center. (Read more about it in today’s A section.)
Buttons are still $5, available at the festival and at Dillons, Walgreens, Walmart and QuikTrip locations. They’ll be required to enter almost all activities. For more information, visit www.wichitafestivals.com. Get ready for Riverfest
Friday, we bring you a special GO! section dedicated to all you’ll need to know about Riverfest 2011. The outermost pages contain an event map and complete schedule that you can carry to the fireworks or food court. (The festival brochures with this information are not available this year.)