Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita Ribfest will not return next year

The Wichita Ribfest won’t return.
The Wichita Ribfest won’t return. The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita Ribfest, a late-spring event started by Intrust Bank Arena three years ago, will not return, said A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager.

Organizers decided at the end of this year’s event, which was May 16-18 in downtown Wichita, that they would not stage it again. Their plan all along had been to look at the numbers at the end of three years and decide whether it was worth continuing.

“In the end, the attendance and revenues just weren’t on pace for us to be able to continue it,” said A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager, who brought the idea with him from his previous job at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., which Boleski led before taking over Intrust Bank Arena in July 2010.

The event invited national rib vendors to set up and sell their meals over a three-day period. Those who attended paid for the meals and also paid admission to the festival. While there, they could participate in activities and watch both national and local bands perform.

Organizers hoped for crowds of 15,000 or 20,000, but they hovered at the 10,000 mark the first two years and 12,500 this year.

Weather may have played a role. Each year of the festival, at least one night was affected by rain, lighting or storms.

This year, in an attempt to increase crowds, organizers made a few changes, including selling $5 wristbands that were good for admission to all three days of the festival. They also changed the days from a Thursday through Saturday to a Friday through Sunday.

Boleski said the arena wants to continue putting on community events but said they events will look more like a recent free-admission World Series watch party, which attracted 1,200 people to cheer on the Kansas City Royals.

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