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    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.

    Riverfest History
    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 that 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.

    In the early 2000s, the focus of the festival shifted from the river to building a massive food court, adding annual activities to the schedule and booking top-name musical acts. Organizers and volunteers have refocused the festival around the river running through Wichita while continuing the traditions that have made Riverfest the city’s biggest community party for more than four decades. With a mix of local performers and national artists, music continues to be the lifeblood of the festival each year.

    Annual Events

    • Safelite AutoGlass Sundown Parade – Every year the Riverfest Parade gets bigger and better with more floats, more candy and more interaction with the crowd.
    • Eagle Medallion Hunt – Get your friends together and go off on the most popular scavenger hunt of the summer. Look for clues in the Wichita Eagle newspaper every day to try to track down that ever-coveted medallion.
    • Riverfest photography contest – Compete for cash by submitting your best Wichita or Kansas photographs for judging. Prizes are awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.
    • Admirals Breakfast – Past Admirals Windwagon Smith host every year to celebrate the new Admiral Windwagon Smith. This kick-off event raises money for the organization.
    • King of the Ring – Are you tough enough to be crowned King of the Ring? Challenge your friends and foes to this non-elimination game and see if you have what it takes to take home the $500 prize.
    • Hot Air Balloons Launch – Every year as a start to the festival, balloons are launched to kick off the opening weekend of Riverfest and its evening activities.
    • Textron Aviation Opening Night Fireworks – It isn’t officially Riverfest time until the first round of fireworks goes off opening night. Enjoy the show and exploding colors over downtown Wichita, choreographed to a unique musical arrangement.
    • Cardboard Regatta – Contestants have 90 minutes to build a boat out of cardboard and make sure it is sturdy enough to float on the Arkansas River. At least one team member over the age of 12 must ride in the vessel. There are prizes for fastest time, best design and most spectacular sinking.
    • Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Hole in One Shootout – Bring some cash and try your luck at a hole-in-one. You could win up to $10,000.
    • Riverfest Paddleboat Races – Paddle your way to victory as teams of two take on each other for prizes and glory.
    • KAKEland Touch A Truck – Sponsored by local news station, KAKE-TV, this annual event gives kids the chance to climb up into their favorite trucks, big rigs and emergency vehicles, and meet the personnel who protect and serve Wichita.
    • BlackTop Nationals – One of the largest car shows in Wichita, BlackTop Nationals comes to Riverfest to celebrate muscle, custom and creative hot rods, motorcycles and other vehicles inside the air-conditioned comfort of Century II Expo Hall.
    • Funnel Cake Eating Contest – Don’t miss out on the hilarious Funnel Cake Eating Contest, brought to you by AM 1410 KGSO and 1480 KQAM The Big Talker. Contestants have 10 minutes to eat as much funnel cake as possible.
    • Starlight Flotilla – It’s a festival of lights adorning boats on the Arkansas River. If you enter your own boat, you can watch the fireworks with a front-row seat.
    • Capitol Federal Fireworks Finale – Another great year of Wichita Riverfest comes and goes with the closing fireworks ceremony presented by Capitol Federal.

    Looking for a schedule tailored to your needs? Check out a list of possible itineraries based on common events here.

    Concerts/Live Entertainment

    The music of Wichita Riverfest ranks supreme as one of the most popular events of the festival. With up-and-coming and well-known acts, dozens of bands come to ICT to perform in downtown Wichita. From bands like OK Go, Less Than Jake, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, to Common, The Flaming Lips, Randy Newman and The Roots, many incredible acts have graced Riverfest stages with unforgettable performances.

    There is music for every generation, every interest and every age, from the classical sounds of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra to the down-and-dirty punk/ska mixings of Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake; Riverfest organizers make sure to include a variety of music for all tastes.

    Take a look at some of the other bands that have made an appearance at Riverfest here

    Food Court
    The Riverfest Food Court is the king of all food courts where festival-goers can try typical fair food and oddball creations. Whether it’s chicken-on-a-stick, an ice-cold, giant lemonade, funnel cake or deep-fried anything, visitors will not go hungry.

    Be sure to bookmark this page for info on next year's Riverfest happening June 1-9, 2018.