Monday, June 6, 2016

Riverfest History

It’s Riverfest this week here in Wichita! Riverfest started last Friday, June 3rd, with the annual kick-off parade and fireworks. The festival concludes this year on Saturday, June 11th. As always, there’s no shortage of fun activities for festival attendees of all ages! For the adults, this week they have the Blacktop Nationals car show, a kickball tournament, cake eating contest, and an incredible festival finale concert featuring The Roots, the Grammy winning house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. A few of the standout activities for children are the Cox Kids Corner, Touch a Truck, Fireshark gaming center, and paddle boats.
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Did you know? Your Riverfest button gets you $2 off admission to the Museum of World Treasures!
According to the Riverfest website, in 1970 at the City’s Centennial celebration, the goal was to bring the entire community together, to build community pride, and focus on Wichita’s beautiful natural resource, the Arkansas River. In 1971, board members selected May 27, 1972, to hold the Wichitennial River Festival. Activities included a bathtub race, maypole winding, and an antique auto parade. Around 2,000 buttons were sold at the festival for $1 each. The Coleman Company and KG&E were a couple of the early corporate supporters in 1973. 1974 was an important year for the festival because a group of leaders had the idea of establishing an organization for the festival made up of young business leaders. This same year, the Festival was extended to 10 days and featured the Sundown Parade, the Twilight Pops Concert, and fireworks. The festival officially became the Wichita River Festival in 1979. 

In response to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, a moment of silence was taken, lit by candles along the river bank. The moment of silence was held the final Saturday evening of the 2002 festival and the Bank of America River Run featured red, white, and blue shirts worn by runners to form a United States flag.

After 2002, events moved back to the core area of downtown with the west bank stage and Kennedy Plaza becoming the focal points for concerts. The quality of the water in the Arkansas River became an issue as City officials began closely monitoring the levels of bacteria. Stinky the Fish became a well-known icon from the 2004 poster, appearing in the media and on TV.
Last year during Riverfest 2015, the total attendance was 410,000, an 8% increase from 2014. Also, more than 40,000 people gathered on Kennedy Plaza and the river banks to enjoy the huge Capitol Federal Fireworks Finale.

For more information, please visit the Riverfest's website.

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