Don’t miss out on a jam-packed, fun-filled nine days of excitement at the largest and longest-running festival in Kansas. Riverfest started nearly 50 years ago as a way to celebrate and unify the community during Wichita’s Centennial. What began as the “Wichitennial River Festival and Trader’s Day” soon evolved into more than a week’s worth of interactive and competitive activities.
In 1974, a group of young business professionals formed what would become the “Wichita Wagonmasters.” From there, a lesser-known Disney cartoon of an admiral steering his wind wagon would berth Wichita Riverfest’s own mascot – Admiral Windwagon Smith.
Some of the festival’s current traditions were also born in 1974, including the Sundown Parade, Twilight Pops Concert and fireworks on opening night. However, it was not until 1979 Wichita Riverfest became known as the event we still celebrate today.
Though support for the event was evident, the need to fund the venture was met by company sponsorship and the creation of the Riverfest button. Sold for only $1 apiece, 2,000 buttons were purchased in 1972. But, as interest grew, so did costs, and a complete overhaul of the funding responsibility led to “community ownership,” meaning attendees had a stake in making sure the festival was successful. By the 1980s, statistics showed more than half of Wichita’s population had attended at least one full day of the festival.
In the 1990s, both attendance and corporate sponsorship allowed Riverfest to flourish. Button prices were raised to $2 each and more people attended than ever before.
Despite some difficulty with conditions of the Arkansas River in the early 2000s, a massive food court, annual activities and top-name musical acts drove the festival’s popularity. Tradition has kept Riverfest alive now 47 years later. With a mix of local performers and national artists, music continues to be the lifeblood of the festival each year.
Be sure to bookmark this page for info on next year's Riverfest happening June 1-9, 2018!