See more than 40 years of Riverfest moments
Wichita has always loved the Wichita Riverfest — almost as much as Wichita has always loved hating on the Wichita Riverfest.
Complaints about the annual citywide party have been a thing since it was first staged 46 years ago. But when the internet came along, trolling the Riverfest became a bit of an art form.
No matter what was posted about the festival, or who posted it, comments would inevitably appear with bitter complaints about the price of the admission button, the entertainment lineup, and about how much better the thing used to be.
Now, though, Riverfest trolls are on alert.
A self-appointed online Riverfest defender — sick and tired of all the hate — has made it his mission to troll the trolls.
Say something mean about the Wichita Riverfest online, and you’re likely to hear from Kody Ramsey.
“I’m just not a big fan of people complaining about things all the time,” said Ramsey, a local bar manager who has become a bit of a cult hero. “And I have so many friends and people that I know who volunteer or work for Riverfest and who bring this stuff to town, it’s just a bummer when I see people talking trash on it.”
Ramsey started monitoring Riverfest haters about four years ago, he said. Every year, when festival publicity ramps up, he watches Facebook. When he sees an impolite missive, he pounces.
Recently, a woman named Virginia complained in a Facebook comment about the festival’s musical lineup, wondering why “the price gets raised for the buttons when the entertainment got worse???”
“They were actually going to make the buttons free this year, but you bummed them out when you started complaining on fb, so now they’re going to charge $50 a button. You ruined it for everyone, Virginia.”
When a man named Bill insisted that the musical lineup was just another reason he would not be attending this year’s festival, Ramsey replied.
“I’m gonna buy an extra button and tell everyone you DID attend this year.”
Christina had just one thing to say about the music at this year’s festival: “Wow. Horrible.”
Ramsey had just one reply.
“You weren’t invited anyways.”
Ramsey said he tries keep a tone that’s more chiding than hateful. He’s careful with his words.
“I like to pick on people who have no idea what they’re talking about,” he said. “My goal is not to ruin anyone’s day when I’m messing with them. It’s just to make them think twice about what they’re complaining about.”
Several times, it’s worked. Ramsey said he once engaged in a back and forth with a man complaining about the price of food court tickets. By the time their exchange was done, he said, the man had decided to give the festival another try.
Ramsey said he’s also shamed many people into deleting their negative posts.
Meanwhile, something unexpected has happened. Ramsey has developed a fan club among people who love to watch him battle the haters.
On the Facebook post announcing the musical acts, for example, someone commented, “I”m just here for the Kody Ramsey comments.”
“I’ve had multiple times when people tell me that this is their favorite time of year,” Ramsey said. “And I say, ‘It’s mine, too.’”
Teri Mott, who is the director of marketing and communications for the festival, said the staff is definitely aware of Ramsey’s activities.
Like many targets of critics, the festival staff tries to either not respond or respond evenly to those with complaints. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a volunteer defender, she said.
“The festival has, at times, been one of Wichita’s favorite things to grinch about. I take that as a compliment, because if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have an opinion,” Mott said. “Kody is one of a handful of fierce and funny self-appointed Riverfest social media defenders and I’m grateful. It feels terrific to have Riverfest fans respond to negative comments with enthusiast support.”
Ramsey, who is also a local artist, said he always buys a festival button and tries to get to as many events as his schedule allows.
He will always make time, however, to patrol the internet.
“I grew up being taught to just be appreciative of everything I have or any opportunity that’s around me,” he said. “To see people talk so much trash about something that’s so good for the community is just a bummer.”
Warning: Ramsey said he will be watching the comments on this story, too.