Anyone can attend Wichita Riverfest events.
But its organizers this year are encouraging people to become part of the events.
When the festival opens on Friday for its annual nine-day run, the schedule will be packed with more participatory, hands-on events than in the past, said Ann Keefer, the festival’s vice president of program development.
“I think people are tired of being spectators,” Keefer said. “They want to be part of the action now. People are looking for those experiences rather than just being bystanders.”
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To that end, the festival this year is offering several new events. Some are attempts to revive old favorites, and some capitalize on extreme-sports trends. Some will allow attendees to get a little culture. Others offer just plain silly fun.
This year, the raft races are back (see story, Page 11). Here’s a look at some of the other new or returning events at Riverfest that people can attend – or jump right into.
1. Over the Edge: The festival is partnering with Boy Scouts of America Quivira Council for this event, which will allow 73 people to rappel 14 stories off the top of downtown’s Ambassador Hotel. The event lasts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6.
Although Keefer said she’s not feeling brave enough to try the new event, she knows someone who is.
“I wouldn’t do it, but it’s a cool event,” she said. “The admiral is real excited about doing it.”
For information about registering, visit www.overtheedgekansas.com.
2. Riverfest horseshoes: Another once-loved event that the festival is reviving this year is horseshoes, which will be played in six horseshoe pits from 2 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday at the Cox Kids Corner at the Hyatt Lawn.
“It has been years since we’ve had these guys, but we’ve actually had a lot of requests for it,” Keefer said. “When we reached out to them, they were excited to hear from us and were ready.”
Though some players have already pre-registered, walk-up horseshoe players also will be welcomed. It costs $1 a person to participate, and instructors will be there for quick lessons.
3. River vault: This exhibition of local, state and national athletes also is an event from the past that is making a return. It’s been about five years since spectators have been able to watch pole-vaulting athletes fly through the air, but they’ll be able to again from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 6. The event, put on by the Shocker Track Club, will be at Waterman and Water streets.
4. Festival of Broadway: This once-favorite event has been missing from the lineup since the festival was moved from May to June, causing a conflict with Music Theatre Wichita’s season. But this year, the festival and Music Theatre Wichita’s Wayne Bryan came up with a plan that would make the event, which features snippets of songs from local music productions, happen again. Local theater groups Mosley Street Melodrama and Roxy’s Downtown will join Music Theatre Wichita for the event, and each will present musical selections from shows they’ve performed or are preparing to perform.
“That event had been very popular,” Keefer said. “There’s something about seeing them live on that big stage outside that makes all the difference in the world.”
Festival of Broadway will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on the Kennedy Plaza stage.
5. Human foosball: A Riverfest attendee sent organizers a video link of this unusual event, which puts people inside a giant foosball game, and they loved it.
“We said, ‘Oh my gosh. This is hilarious. Let’s do it,’” Keefer said.
A group of volunteers put the life-size mock table together, using PVC pipe and plywood, and six-man teams will compete. The deadline to register was May 27, and the winning team gets $600.
Festival attendees can watch the action, which will happen at Ackerman’s Backyard in A. Price Woodard Park. The preliminaries are Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The finals are from 5 to 7 p.m. June 6.
6. Duck deployment: Kansas Honor Flight will drop 10,000 rubber ducks in the river and watch them race down a course. People who have “adopted” ducks in advance and paid the $5 adoption fee will win a prize if their rubber ducky finishes in the top 10. (First-place prize is $1,000.) Ducks are available for adoption at www.duckrace.com/wichita. The race happens at the Douglas Avenue Bridge at noon on the final day of the festival, June 6. All proceeds will go to help Kansas veterans fly to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.
7. Bubble ball sports: Festivalgoers also will notice people bouncing around the festival in a couple of new events that utilize inflatable, wearable orbs. One is bubble soccer, which is being offered by the Wichita Sports Center from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in a field at Waterman and Water. Pre-registered teams of eight will play four-on-four games, and all the players will be encased in inflated bubbles from their knees to the tops of their heads. King of the Ring is the other bubble event and happens from 6 to 9:30 p.m. weekdays, 3 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Kennedy Plaza Tripodal Area. It features competitors battling in bubble suits. The entry fee is $5.