Say it isn’t so; but it is!  Wichita’s nine-day party on the river has been cancelled.  Instead, the organization is planning a four-day, fall-themed community event in downtown as part of the 150th anniversary of the founding of both Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Ty Tabing, president/CEO of Wichita Festivals, Inc., announced the cancelation today at a joint press conference featuring City of Wichita and Sedgwick County officials.  Tabing said the decision came after communication with the city, county and health officials.

For weeks, festival fans had quietly hoped Riverfest would not fall the way of other iconic American events.  Coachella, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Kentucky Derby, SXSW and Tribeca Film Festival all have announced either a cancellation or postponement. 

“We really appreciate the community’s patience,” said Ty Tabing, president/CEO of WFI, the 501c3 not-for-profit organization that produces Riverfest. “When you’re the biggest event in the state with such a large economic impact on the local community, it takes a little longer to assess and coordinate with local public health officials. This is a matter of public health and safety, and there is no higher priority.”

WFI staff was preparing for the  festival, scheduled for May 29-June 6, and a dynamic lineup of main-stage perfomers had already been announced.  Riverfest, Kansas’ largest community, represents a $30 million annual impact to the Wichita economy.  This is the first time in the event’s 49-year history that is has not taken place as scheduled. 

According to officials, a number of factors make it impossible to reschedule the event.

“Wichita is a vital town with scores of fabulous events, especially clustered in the fall. There is just not a nine-day window that can accommodate Riverfest at another point in the event year,” said Tabing.  “We also have to take into consideration our many partners—local businesses, vendors of all kinds and fellow not-for-profits, for instance—who may be involved with other events already scheduled in the late summer and fall.”

In addition to WFI’s Autumn & Art at Bradley Fair scheduled for Sept. 18-20, WFI staff is currently working on a large-scale, community party—a high-energy salute to the 150th anniversary of the founding of both Wichita and Sedgwick County. The downtown event is scheduled for Nov. 5-8, with St. Francis St. at the heart of the festival. Fidelity Bank River Run is one of a select number of Riverfest 2020 events that will take place during the fall event. KAKE TouchATruck and the Wichita Eagle Medallion Hunt will also take place at the festival, along with a number of new events and activities—some autumn-inspired, some highlighting Wichita’s vibrant arts and music scenes, and all to celebrate the spirit and citizens of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

 “In 1970, Wichita’s 100th birthday party inspired the annual celebration known as Riverfest,” said Vice-Mayor Cindy Claycomb. “Who knows what might grow from this celebration of important city and county milestones—and the powerful resilience of our citizens?”

For the many Riverfest fans (last year 440,000 attended the festival) who will be longing for their favorite festival events May 29-June 6, WFI staff is planning Virtual Riverfest 2020, featuring some nods to your favorite classic events, live fun and entertainment, and chances to share your Riverfest memories, all via Wichita Riverfest’s social media channels. More details about Virtual Riverfest 2020 will be available at May 1.

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