By 3 p.m. Friday, Bob McKedy was there, in his usual spot on North Main Street in front of Intrust Bank.
He has not missed the Riverfest Sundown Parade once since 1975, he said, and he was not going to miss it on the festival’s 40th anniversary.
“Everybody knows that the River Festival parade is probably the best parade in the state of Kansas,” McKedy said. “If you’re only going to do one thing a year in Wichita, this is what you need to do right here.”
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McKedy, 59, describes himself as a “parade veteran,” as well as a veteran by military service. He retired recently, so it’s time to “put my name in the hat for Windwagon Smith,” he said.
He and his family have had the same view of the parade for 35 years, he said. His daughter, who was sitting next to him waving at cars as they passed on Main, said they’ve been in that spot ever since she was little.
When the sun goes down, the Intrust Bank building creates shade for his little campsite, he said.
The result: A perfect parade-viewing experience.
Cloudy skies did not give way to rain Friday evening, but McKedy said he prepared for the worst.
“That’s one thing about a parade – you can’t pick the weather,” he said. “You’ve just got to come out and believe. It don’t matter – if it rains, we ain’t leaving. We’ll just get our ponchos and umbrellas out and just go with it.”
The rain never came during Friday’s parade, which had 110 entries and lasted nearly 90 minutes.
Some entries drew laughter, such as the 10-foot-tall Carry Nation puppet constructed by the festival’s artist-in-residence, Wayne White.
Others did not go over as well with the crowd.
Instead of the traditional candy toss, the Midian Shrine’s Keystone Kops float instead tossed water onto parade spectators, whose shrieks were not from the joy of catching a Dum-Dum, but rather from the cold water.
McKedy said he “got back” at the Shriners who squirted water on him by chucking his cup of beer at the Shriner in return.
“He didn’t like it,” he said. “We had a good time.”
The highlight of the parade was White’s cardboard-constructed puppets, McKedy said.
“They had some real original art,” he said.
The following floats won awards:
▪ Via Christi Pediatrics, for the Lt. Jack Galvin Award — People’s Choice
▪ Jardine STEM and Career Exploration Academy, for Best Use of Theme
▪ USD 259 Marching Band, for Best Band Performance
▪ The Medicine Lodge Night Show, for Most Creative
▪ Buttons On, Rocked Fueled, Let the Countdown Begin by Nora Rayl and Friends, for Admiral’s Trophy — Best of Show
Teri Mott, a spokeswoman for the Riverfest, said the festival’s first day was going smoothly so far.
On a scale of one to 10, McKedy said he would rate this year’s Sundown Parade at a seven.
“This gets the party started,” he said.