It was just something that Wichita Park & Recreation Director Troy Houtman wanted to try, an idea he’d seen presented at a conference.
So last September, not knowing how it would work out in Wichita, he and his crew closed down four miles of Wichita’s main downtown thoroughfare, filled it with food trucks and entertainment and invited Wichitans to ride their bikes over to enjoy it.
He wasn’t sure anyone would come.
But they did — by the thousands. By the end of the event, organizers Wichita Park & Recreation and the Wichita Park Foundation estimated, 18,000 people had biked or walked through the first Open Streets ICT event, and many had stopped to eat, dance, play basketball, hula hoop and toss Frisbees while they were there.
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“It was a tremendous success,” said Matthew Martinez, the assistant recreation supervisor for the park department. “It was exactly what we wanted to see — so many people on their bikes. We did not realize how many people in Wichita had bikes. It was amazing and so much fun.”
People loved the event so much, Martinez said, that many told organizers they should put on an Open Streets event twice a year. Organizers are considering it, but in the meantime, they’ve put together another one. The second Open Streets ICT event happens on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. in the same place it did last year — on the 4.1 miles stretch of Douglas Avenue from Bluff Street in College Hill to Glenn Street in Delano.
It’ll have the same basic setup as last year, Martinez said. The street will be closed to car traffic and open to foot and bike traffic. Throughout the route, businesses, vendors and organizations will have stations set up with samples, activities and more.
Because of all the buzz surrounding the first event, this year’s will have more than twice the number of participating vendors. Last year, about 80 groups signed up to entertain and feed the crowds. This year, more than 180 will setup along the route.
“It’s been kind of interesting,” Martinez said. “You’d think with 4.1 miles, you’d have no issues placing vendors, but we still have vendors asking if they can come, so we’re making it work.”
Among the attractions along the route: An obstacle course put on by Bike Walk Wichita at Douglas and Laura; ax throwing at the new Blade & Timber bar at Douglas and Sycamore; live bagpipers and drums at First Presbyterian Church at Douglas and Waco; pickle ball for all ages at Douglas and Vine; rock painting at Jimmy’s Egg at Douglas and Hydraulic; and a photo booth at Moler’s Camera at Douglas and Green.
At least 15 food trucks will be set up and selling along the route, and several restaurants that operate along the route will be offering something special. Siena Tuscan Steakhouse inside the Ambassador Hotel, for example, will be serving fresh pasta on the patio. The Anchor Meat Market will be selling its house-made Popsicles. And Paradise Donuts will be passing out doughnut holes.
Dogs are welcome, and several vendors will have special treats and activities for fury attendees. Water bowls also will be set out along the route.
Organizers have made a few changes based on feedback from last year.
They’re making the event last one hour longer. Last year, it ended at 4 p.m., but this year, it’ll last until 5 p.m. Also, for those who attend on foot and want to make it from one end to the other, the Q-Line trolleys will be running on First and Second Streets. There won’t be any specific stops — people should just wave the trolleys down, Martinez said.
Also, organizers will provide more free water along the route.
Admission is free.
For a complete schedule and list of vendors, visit openstreetsict.com/.
OPEN STREETS ICT
When: The event is from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, but Douglas will be closed from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some intersections will remain open along the 4.1 mile route to allow for north and south bound traffic to cross Douglas. They are Seneca, Broadway, Washington, Grove and Hillside.