Last year, the message was sent to Riverfest loud and clear: The people want water.
Riverfest, which starts Friday, isn't changing its water-bottle policy, but it is making it easier for people to stay hydrated on the festival grounds this year.
In fact, it's encouraging guests to bring reusable water bottles to the festival — empty, of course.
Wichita Festivals recently purchased two "Water Monsters," 125-gallon coolers that will provide ice-cold drinking water for Riverfest attendees this year. One will be set up on Douglas and the other on Waterman — both adjacent to Sedgwick County "Care Stations."
A recap of Riverfest's water-bottle policy:
▪ Single-use plastic water bottles can be taken through the gates only if they are store-bought and unopened.
▪ All other bottles — such as reusable S'well bottles or Yetis — have to be empty.
The "Water Monsters" will be marked with a 12-foot blue flag to help people easily locate the water bottle filling stations, according to Mary Beth Jarvis, president and CEO of Wichita Festivals.
"We want to do the right thing by everyone," Jarvis said. "We want to stay safe and secure — we can't have just a free-for-all at the gates in terms of food and drink coming in, but we want to make sure people stay hydrated and safe.
"This way, we can do that and continue to reduce our environmental footprint."
"Water Monsters" are often used at festivals, marathons and other races, according to its website. They retail for about $1,500 apiece.
Thirsty Wichitans have the NCAA men's basketball tournament to thank for these new water coolers.
Wichita Festivals sponsored a fan party across the street from Intrust Bank Arena during the tournament in March, during which the Wichita Wagonmasters grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.
The Wagonmasters donated proceeds from their hamburger and hotdog sales to Wichita Festivals, and that money was used to buy the new water coolers, Jarvis said.
"The generosity of the Wagonmasters makes it all possible — which shouldn't surprise anyone," Jarvis said.
Riverfest opens Friday.
Buttons, which grant admission to the festival for all nine days, are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 6-12.