Dining With Denise Neil

Uncertainty on Douglas means two of Wichita's biggest fall events have found new homes

The Wichita Wagonmaster's Downtown Chili Cookoff is moving away from Naftzger Park this year.
The Wichita Wagonmaster's Downtown Chili Cookoff is moving away from Naftzger Park this year. File photo

Two of fall's most popular and well-attended events won't be where people are used to finding them this year.

Because of construction or the possibility of it, organizers of both the Midwest Beerfest and the Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff have decided to move their events from their longtime homes.

One isn't going too far. One is.

The chili cookoff, an annual late September event, for years has lined East Douglas between St. Francis and the railroad overpass with dozens of chili-serving booths and draws a crowd of around 5,000. But construction at Naftzger Park, which is getting a major redesign, will make that spot unusable for the event, said Ron McEwen, this year's head "chili dipper."

So the Wagonmasters are moving their event to a footprint that will be familiar to Wichita Riverfest-goers. The group will set up its chili-making tent on Kennedy Plaza in front of Century II, and that's where a live band will play, too. The chili booths will line Douglas in front of Century II from Main to Waco.

The Wagonmasters also have chosen a slightly different date for their event. It's usually on the last Saturday in September, but this year — because of a change of date for the World Championship Chili Cookoff — the group had to move it up to Sept. 22.

The Midwest Beerfest is moving farther away — all the way to Mulvane. Organizers have decided to relocate their grand tasting event to the Kansas Star Casino this year. The date is Oct. 13.

Organizers said they did not want to sign a contract at longtime home Century II because the venue could not guarantee what state it would be in by October. A steering committee has been put in place to decide what Century II's future will be, as some think it should be razed to make way for a new performing arts and convention center and others think it should be preserved and renovated. (Century II officials stress that they're still open for business and booking events while they wait for a decision to be made.)

The grand tasting will be in the casino's arena and will include all the features fans are used to, including an outdoor food truck area. Uber will be there to take people home, and people will be able to buy packages that include an overnight stay at the arena's hotel.

Tickets for the beerfest will go on sale on Aug. 1.

Organizers for both events said they will decide after this year whether to move back to their original homes.

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