Pizza Fest a hit despite dreary weather

The ICT Pizza Fest at Wichita Area Technical College had decent crowds through the afternoon Saturday.
The ICT Pizza Fest at Wichita Area Technical College had decent crowds through the afternoon Saturday. The Wichita Eagle

Plenty of clouds hovered over the ICT Pizza Fest on Saturday.

There were the low-hanging, gray clouds that brought a chill and a light, steady drizzle early in the event at the Wichita Area Technical College in northeast Wichita. And there was the memory of the Wichita Taco Fest this summer, which drew such a huge crowd that waits were long and food ran out.

But Wichitans love pizza, so they descended on Pizza Fest anyway. An estimated 1,500 had come by mid-afternoon Saturday, organizers estimated.

The crowd flow was heavy early, and stayed steady throughout, said Debbie Botefur, director of social media and public relations for Festive ICT, which organized the festival.

“It’s been amazing,” Botefur said. “We thought the weather was going to turn people away, but obviously it hasn’t.”

Some people came, tried a few slices and left. Others stayed for hours, sampling as many different kinds of pizza as they could.

“You usually get in really quickly, get a slice and get out,” said Dustin Reynolds of Wichita. “It’s a good deal.”

Many of the people who came to Pizza Fest had also attended Taco Fest in June.

“This is so much better,” said Kristin Casebolt of Wichita, who came with friends to sample pizza for a few hours.

There was more space and less wait time at Pizza Fest, said her friend, Kaitlin Powell.

About a dozen pizza makers took part, from chains such as Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Papa Murphy’s to small eateries such as LMNO Pizza and Kolace.

“We liked it better than Taco Fest,” said Austin Trumpp of Wichita, who was attending with Cassandra Smith of Valley Center.

That’s some accomplishment, since Trumpp freely admits to liking tacos more than pizza.

“But we couldn’t get any tacos (at Taco Fest) because the lines were too long and they all ran out,” Smith said.

If they could make one change, Chuck and Melesa Coffey of Wichita said, they would have more local pizzerias such as Picasso’s and Ziggy’s and Piatto’s. But they were still happy they brought their three young children.

Scarlett, 5, and Frank, 3, were busy stuffing their faces with cheese pizza and Josie, who’s eight months old, was all smiles.

“Next year, she’ll be running circles around everybody” at Pizza Fest, Melesa Coffey said as Jose grinned.

There were games for young children and airplanes on display.

“That’s a nice little touch, the airplanes,” Chuck Coffey said.

LMNO was chosen best pizza by a panel of judges and The Rail won the dough tossing competition.

Kolace owner Mike Watkins said the event was everything he hoped it would be.

“We’re getting great response and a great turnout,” Watkins said. “We’d love to come back next year — absolutely. There’s no doubt it’ll get bigger and better.”

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger