City names new Windwagon Smith

The 39th Admiral Windwagon Smith is Joe Johnson, a longtime volunteer with a long resume of local board service who works as a partner at Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architects.

Johnson was named Friday afternoon at a news conference at Wichita Downtown Development Corp., where he was handed the ceremonial sword by outgoing admiral Chris Goebel.

Admiral Windwagon Smith wears a red uniform and serves as the mascot of the Wichita River Festival. Each year, past admirals choose a new admiral from the ranks of longtime volunteers.

Johnson, who’s kept the secret from everyone but his girlfriend and children for months, remembered the day he walked into a room filled with past admirals, thinking he was going to some other type of meeting.

“There was no way to say no, even if someone wanted to,” he said with a laugh. “And I certainly didn’t want to.”

Johnson has been a Wichita River Festival volunteer for a decade and served two terms on the board of directors, including a stint as chairman of the board in 2007-2008.

He’s also served on the boards of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, Downtown Rotary, Goodwill Industries and Habitat for Humanity.

Johnson has three grown children and four grandchildren.

After being introduced Friday afternoon, Johnson entered the room, filled with his family members, friends and supporters, to a standing ovation.

Janet Wright, the festival’s president and chief executive, said Johnson was an obvious and popular choice.

“He has a real passion for downtown and for the River Festival,” she said. “He believes it’s an important part of our city.”

The festival is scheduled for June 1-9 in downtown Wichita.