Partying at the Wichita River Festival can be thirsty business, particularly on a hot June day.
But don’t fill your cute S’well or CamelBak bottles with icy water and approach the gates – because your water bottles aren’t getting in.
After questions were raised on social media earlier this week, Wichita Riverfest organizers are clarifying their stand on outside water.
Their policy says that no outside food or beverages are allowed into the festival, and that includes water. Allowing outside bottles in limits the festival’s ability to control exactly what liquids people are bringing into the festival, said Mary Beth Jarvis, the festival’s president and CEO.
It’s a policy that has evolved over the past five years, ever since the festival’s new managers decided to begin gating the perimeter and requiring buttons for entry.
After the social media discussion erupted, and people began to question the safety of prohibiting any water that isn’t purchased on site (16 oz. bottles of water sell for $2 apiece), festival officials met on Tuesday to discuss the issue, Jarvis said.
Their decision: When the festival opens on Friday, people will be able to bring in outside water but only if it’s purchased from a store and still sealed. Refillable bottles or bottles that have previously been opened will not be allowed in.
“The bottom line is that we can’t know the origin or content of outside food or beverage items, but we’ll allow patrons to bring in bottles of water still sealed from purchase,” Jarvis said.
Attendees who do show up with prohibited water vessels will be able to discard them, take them back to their cars or stash them in lockers, which will be available for rent at the gates for those who don’t want to lug their belongings around.
Another exception to the policy: Baby food and bottles and medicine will be allowed through the gates.
People who find themselves in need of water during the festival also will have the option of visiting a Sedgwick County Care Station, where cups of water will be available in an air-conditioned trailer. One trailer will be near the RedGuard Stage, and the other will be along Douglas near Kennedy Plaza.
Another note: The festival will have two lines at the gates this year. People who show up carrying nothing but their car keys and a sealed bottle of water can pass quickly through one. The other will be for people carrying purses or bags, which will need to be checked before entry.
“So if you arrive with your button on and just a phone and debit card in your pocket, you’ll have the chance to breeze right in and immediately get to the business of enjoying the festival,” Jarvis said.
The Wichita River Festival runs Friday through June 10 in and around Century II. For more on the festival, check Friday’s Go! section.