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