WICHITA, Kan. (KSN News) — Riverfest 2019 was marked by a river closure and midweek storms, but organizers say the event was still a success after an estimated 440,000 people passed through the gates.
Wichita Festivals Inc., the non-profit responsible for Riverfest, said the nine day festival drew about 75,000 people each day. The highest attended event was the closing fireworks show June 8, which attracted 60,000 spectators and led to the festival’s highest food and drink sales in 13 years.
Attendance overall was down about 4 percent, the organization said. Food court ticket sales were also down. The group attributed this drop to storms on two days of the festival. Another factor of concern was the Arkansas River — the namesake of the festival.
“A rushing river and some storm clouds can’t keep Wichitans from having a great time…”Mary Beth Jarvis, President & CEO Wichita Festivals Inc.
After nearly an entire month of rain in May, widespread flooding, and high river elevation and flow rate, the city closed access to the river, prompting Riverfest to cancel all river-bound activities. The National Weather Service in Wichita said May 2019 registered as the second wettest month in the city’s recorded history.
Despite conditions, Mary Beth Jarvis, the organization’s president, said in a statement the visitors’ attention was redirected from the river to other events.
“A rushing river and some storm clouds can’t keep Wichitans from having a great time and supporting their community celebration,” Jarvis said. “Without events like paddle-boats and jet-ski races, folks just turned their attention to our wonderful concert line-up and diverse events. We’re so grateful to the generous sponsors and hard-working volunteers who power this event to success decade after decade, no matter what.”
Some earthbound events did grow in attendance as river-bound options were restricted. River Run participation rose 25 percent, and visitors to several car shows and the lumberjack show were more numerous than normal as well.
Wichita Festivals Inc. received more than $1.9 million from 300 partner sponsors for Riverfest 2019. The event itself was supported by 9,000 volunteers.
As the official weather forecasting partner for Riverfest 2019, the KSN Storm Track 3 Weather Team was able to provide frequent and reliable forecasts for each day of the festival. A few stormy days led to some event cancellations or delays.
Ten people had to be transported to local hospitals for treatment, out of 48 total EMS calls. Nearly 90 percent of those EMS calls occurred in the first and last weekends of the festival, which were the most attended days.
Over the course of Riverfest 2019, Wichita police investigated 13 cases on-site and made 6 arrests. Wichita Festivals Inc. says most of those arrests were for marijuana related suspicions and outstanding warrants.