I remember walking through the food court and on to Kennedy Plaza during River Festival a few years ago and wondering why there wasn’t more to do. If you weren’t interested in the concert lineup of the night, beyond filling up on tasty delicacies at the food court, there wasn’t much else to do. That was a true statement a few years ago, but not anymore. Wichita’s River Festival has shaped up to become a full-entertainment event with a plethora of ways to engage if you want to, and this year, I’m going to.

I’ve checked out my handy River Festival guide and here are a few of the things I’ve checked to give a try.

There are a number of “constants,” events that occur every day that I want to check out. The plan is to either work them in during one of the evenings I plan to watch a concert or possibly add an evening to just checkout some of these cool things.

Ackerman’s Backyard This area along the river and just west of Century II is a great place for a drink (alcholic one’s are sold there too) take a photo with some of the props — including the giant admirals chair, watch activities along the river, or enjoy some of the cool performers scheduled to appear in the area. During the week, Ackerman’s opens at 5 p.m., but it opens at 11 a.m. on the second Friday of Festival and both Saturdays and Sundays.

The Last Carnival, a circus troupe from Lawrence, KS, is one of the interesting acts you can catch at Ackerman’s Backyard. They perform daily from 7-8 p.m. They’ll “amaze and delight you with feats of strength, agility and skill,” reads the RF Guide.

Phlox Kansas is a group of fire performers that will appear nightly at Ackerman’s Backyard from 9-9:45 p.m. The act include fire dancers, fire eaters, and other “fire” performers.

Paddle Boats Here’s a confession: I go to River Festival every year, but I’ve never been on the Arkansas River. This year, I’m in. You catch the paddle boats in the Cox Kids Corner at the Hyatt Lawn. The hours are pretty strange. They close early most nights (8:30 p.m.) but even earlier the nights of fireworks.

Wagonmasters River Tours For those who don’t think they’re up for paddling the river, these free boat rides happen daily and close most days at 8 p.m. but earlier on fireworks nights. Load these cruises under the Douglas Street Bridge.

Cox Virtual Reality Experience I’ve never experienced virtual reality, so I’m off to give this a try. New this year, this a try. This new event occurs in a 30’ x 30’ virtual reality trailer and allows you to experience a variety of 360 degree virtual reality environments and games. This event begins weekdays at 5:30 p.m. but at 11 a.m. on weekends. You’ll find it at the Red Guard Stage Area, that’s southeast of the Hyatt.

The Crate Escape: An Escape Room Experience Why not? I’m going to figure out how to escape this room before time runs out. Look for this event in the Kennedy Plaza Tripodal Area.

Limited run events

Hot air balloons I love hot air balloons. Never been in one, but I want to. Well you can’t ride in these at River Festival, but you can enjoy the beauty of them. The balloons launch on Sat., June 2 at 7 a.m. from the Red Guard Stage area. Can’t get up early? They launch again on Sat., and Sun., June 2 & 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Riverfest Marketplace I’m not much of a shopper, but I’m a fan of original art and unique art pieces you can’t often find in stores, that’s why I’m definitely going to check out the Marketplace. It’s along Douglas on Sat., June 2 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

XPogo Stunt Team These professional athletes will defy gravity flying 10 ft in the air on extreme pogo sticks, throwing down flips and incredible tricks. Check them out at the RedGuard Stage Area on Thurs., 5 and 7:30 p.m., and on Fri., June 8 and Sat., June 9 at 1:30, 2:30 and 6 p.m.

When Nature Sings After several years absent, a Gospel play returns to River Festival on Sunday evening, June 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Century II’s Mary Jane Tealle Theater.

Avatar photo

Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *