With weather that mostly could have been made to order, the 2015 Wichita River Festival proved a crowd-pleaser, spirit raiser and community builder.
The doubled button price for adults, to $10, didn’t seem to keep people away. On Monday, Wichita Festivals president and CEO Mary Beth Jarvis said attendance inside the festival footprint was 410,000, up from last year’s 380,000.
Though total button sales won’t be known for weeks, nearly 30,000 buttons were sold between February and early May at the old $5 price and 4,000 were sold on site Saturday. Jarvis also said food court sales were up 5 or 6 percent this year.
The diversity of the best-attended main-stage concerts – Easton Corbin, the Village People and Flogging Molly – says a lot about the festival’s broad appeal. The organizers also succeeded in adding more art and culture to the schedule – with artist-in-residence Wayne White and the return of Music Theatre Wichita and other local theater groups – and in partnering with other nonprofit groups through what Jarvis called “pocket fundraisers.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The number of participatory events was another plus. So “you don’t just go see. You can go do,” Jarvis said.
If there is still something off-putting about the fencing and bag checks that come with an event open only to button buyers, the step also fosters a sense of security. With just seven arrests in nine days – down from about 40 a few years ago, Jarvis said – no wonder even the officers were smiling for Saturday’s closing night.
After so much music and sometimes silly fun down by the river, it was bittersweet to see the last bombs burst in air on what was a perfect night for fireworks. Congratulations are due Wichita Festivals, sponsors, volunteers and participants for another memorable Riverfest.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman