River Festival

First he kept the Riverfest safe. Now, a retired police captain is its 46th Admiral

Sights and sounds of the 2018 Wichita River Festival

2018 Wichita River Festival - Includes everything from the Sundown Parade to Wednesday's Cypress Hill concert.
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2018 Wichita River Festival - Includes everything from the Sundown Parade to Wednesday's Cypress Hill concert.

The newest Admiral Windwagon Smith is a retired Wichita Police captain who first was introduced to the Wichita Riverfest when he was assigned to work there as an officer.

Ken Atnip, who has been a member of the “Red Shirts” festival operations committee since the early 2000s, will serve as the festival’s 46th Admiral — the ceremonial head of Riverfest activities who works as an ambassador and makes appearances at almost every event. This year’s festival is scheduled for May 31-June 18 in downtown Wichita.

The newest admiral’s identity was revealed at a gathering on Wednesday afternoon at the old Wichita Public Library, where Atnip emerged from an elevator on the main level along with the police department’s Eagle mascot, Justice, to applause from the gathered crowd.

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Ken Atnip was named the 36th Admiral Windwagon Smith. Courtesy photo Wichita Riverfest

The identity of the newest Windwagon Smith is kept secret for weeks every year after he or she is chosen by past admirals. Wednesday’s reveal ceremony was followed by a $25-a-head barbecue with live music.

Atnip joined the Wichita Police Department at age 21 and worked mostly in investigations. He worked 15 years on the department’s Special Community Action Team to fight drug and gang crime, and he also was a Captain in the Property Crimes Bureau before retiring in 2011 after 33 years.

He liked what he saw working at the festival as a young officer and joined the Red Shirts. Since then, he has volunteered for a long list of jobs, from set up to tear down, and he served as the festival’s General Chair in 2013.

He has been a member of the Wichita Wagonmasters since 2009 and also serves on the board of the Wichita Metro Crime Commission. He is a past president and current board member of Crime Stoppers Wichita/Sedgwick County.

He’s been married to Mylene for 30 years and has an adult son, Chase.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.