Riverfest kicks off Friday, but it will look different

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An annual celebration, interrupted last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, returns to Wichita this weekend, June 4-6. While there’s excitement with the return of Riverfest, Wichita’s biggest party comes with changes this year that are creating confusion with a split schedule.

Riverfest organizers are fielding more questions than ever as the festival deviates from the way it has been done for nearly 50 years. Some of the events that crowds look forward to the most are postponed until October. This includes concerts and the food court. Teri Mott, Director of Marketing and Communication for Wichita Festivals, Inc., said organizers have heard from many people by phone or through social media, asking questions about concerts and whether the parade will happen this weekend.

“And the answer is ‘no, they will not take place this weekend. Those will happen this fall, Sept. 30 through Oct. 3,’” said Mott.

The Riverfest is divided into two weekends for the first time, one weekend in June and one in early October. This weekend will include events like the River Run, a porch parade and a variety of fitness classes. Events for which you don’t have to pre-register include the paddle boats, sunset yoga and a “tot trot” for kids. With the exception of paddle boats, this weekend’s events do not require buttons.

“I’ll tell you, it takes months and months and months to plan Riverfest,” Mott said. “And because of that, as you know, nine months ago, a year ago, we really didn’t know what to expect in terms of vaccination, in terms of testing and what things would look like when it comes to the pandemic. Now, fortunately, things are looking great now, but we have to plan well in advance, so we decided to go ahead and go with two sections.”

While the Wichita tradition won’t look traditional this year, Riverfest organizers said they made the changes for public safety.

“We, the staff at Wichita Festivals, miss our audience so much and we cannot wait to see everybody, we’ve heard from so many people,” Mott said. “We know people are disappointed. They really want to see this event take off and happen right now and we get it, but we love our audience and I want to make sure they are safe. And we are so excited to see everyone in the fall. So, we hope they will all come down.”

Another change at this year’s celebration is that people will have the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Riverfest. The Sedgwick County Health Department is expanding its hours this weekend for guests to get the vaccine.

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