Wichita’s community tradition goes all-digital due to concerns about COVID-19

Wichita Festivals officials today announced that Virtual Riverfest 2020, an online alternative to this year’s festival which was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19, will begin Friday, May 29 with a nod to traditional opening day events and continue through June 6 with Riverfest-themed galleries, activities and entertainment.

“This is the first time in history Riverfest has had to cancel, and we know that’s tough on our loyal fans,” said Ty Tabing, president/CEO of WFI. “An online festival will allow us to come together to share the spirit, fun and happy memories of Riverfest, even if we can’t celebrate our city together in person right now.”

With governmental bans on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, events across the nation similar in size to Riverfest, which welcomed 440,000 attendees in 2019, have been called off or postponed to 2021. What would have been the 49th celebration of Wichita and the Arkansas River has been canceled in its standard form, which would normally include headliner concerts, art and cultural events, athletic competitions and long-standing traditions.

While fireworks and big outdoor concerts aren’t on the schedule this year, a variety of fun for all ages and interests is still the focus of the virtual version of Kansas’ largest community celebration. There is no charge to participate.

Here are some of the events that are planned, which you can enjoy on the Wichita River Festival Facebook page and @WichitaRiverFestival on Instagram:

Riverfest Twilight Pops Concert at Home: Radio Kansas will broadcast a program by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, including Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” (a Riverfest tradition) and a memorial tribute to Don Hall, longtime Wichita radio personality and co-host of Twilight Pops. Preprogram video begins at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook, with the WSO broadcast starting at 7 p.m.

Sundown Parade Shoebox Challenge: Riverfest’s traditional kick-off parade reimagined as shoebox floats created by Riverfest fans and the Prairie Schooner Mates. The video “parade” is emceed by Greg “Hitman” Williams and Carla Ayala of POWER 93.5 and will be posted at 6 p.m. Fans can vote for their favorite float with a thumbs up in the gallery which will be posted on Facebook.

Meet Admiral Windwagon Smith XLVII & the 2020 Prairie Schooner Mates: The iconic intro that begins every headliner concert at Riverfest will be posted on May 29.

Where’s Windwagon?: a daily game where players identify the location of Admiral WWS.

Kids Corner Classic Performers: daily videos featuring a variety of favorite Kids Corner performers

Riverfest Poster Coloring Pages: Coloring pages of the past five Official Riverfest Posters will be published in the Wichita Eagle and available at WichitaRiverfest.com starting May 29.

Virtual POPcon 2020: an online version of the combination anime fest, comicon and esports event, with online gaming, cosplay showcases and an online community gathering, all presented by Unified eSports Association. Events will be listed daily on Facebook with a majority of activities on June 5-6.

Storytime with the Admiral: WWS reads three of his favorite children’s books for kids and kids-at-heart.

Riverfest BuzzFeed Quiz: daily BuzzFeed quizzes to test your Riverfest knowledge.

Bigfoot Brian Tours: Downtown Wichita hosts a series of tours hosted by their Sasquatch ambassador, Bigfoot Brian.

Quarantine Style: a beauty competition for those who don’t live with a stylist. Competitors must share photos of their shelter-at-home bad hair by June 1 at WichitaRiverfest.com.

Riverfest Virtual Car Show: Photos of more than 100 classic and custom cars, shared in two different galleries, posted at 11 a.m. Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6. Admiral's Choice, Schoonies’ Choice and People’s Choice

Awards will be announced on Saturday evening. Photos can be submitted through June 1 at WichitaRiverfest.com.

Musician Spotlight with Jedd Beaudoin: featuring KMUW’s Strange Currency host in conversation with Dustin Arbuckle, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, June 6.

The Hay-nations Live: Facebook live streaming concert featuring a roots rock super group combination of locally grown, nationally known bands Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations and Haymakers. 7 p.m., Saturday, June 6.

Virtual Riverfest will also celebrate its impressive volunteer base with videos and photos throughout the nine days, highlight the Schooner Mates with social distanced and online activities, and more. Daily schedules for Virtual Riverfest 2020 are available at WichitaRiverfest.com.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted a challenge like this,” said Teri Mott, director of Marketing and Communication for Wichita Festivals. “New opportunities pop up each day, and more info is added regularly to our website, so I encourage fans to check back daily for new developments.”

Virtual Riverfest tees designed by Wade Hampton can be preordered, and Riverfest 2020 buttons and official tees by Meghan and Juanta Wolfe are available for a limited time, both at WichitaFestivalsShop.com. The buttons will allow admission to Riverfest 2021.

Riverfest 2020 Official Sponsors include: Bud Light, Decker Electric, Metro Courier, PrairieLand Partners, Spot’s Party Bus, Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, Spectrum Promotional, Sure Sound & Lighting and Visit Wichita.

The WFI team is planning a new fall event, Wonderfall, Nov. 5-8 in downtown Wichita, which will include celebrations of the 150th birthdays of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Wichita Festivals, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with the purpose of creating diverse community celebrations within the Wichita community. The primary events produced by Wichita Festivals, Inc. are Riverfest (May 29-June 6, 2020), Bob Struble Memorial Golf Tournament (September 12, 2020), Autumn & Art at Bradley Fair (September 18-20, 2020) and Wonderfall (November 5-8, 2020).

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