WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The winning entry artwork for the 50th Wichita Riverfest includes a lot of imagery that festival-goers have seen in past years.
Wichita Festivals, Inc. (WFI) and Emprise Bank asked artists to reimagine one or more designs from past festivals when creating entries for this year’s contest. This year’s winner, Joe Worley, had a bit of a head start because he has won before. The freelance artist and designer previously won for creating the artwork “Admiral’s Jacket” for Riverfest 2018.
But Worley said he wanted to include as many past designs as possible in his new creation.
“I went back and looked at all the past designs and started to notice how many of the characters were playing musical instruments which gave me the idea, ‘What if they all came together and formed a band?'” he said.
His combination of previous characters and instruments was exactly what contest organizers wanted.
“I used a more graphic, hand-drawn style to bring the variety of characters and art styles together to give the whole thing a sense of unity,” Worley said. “On drawing the characters themselves, I tried to stay pretty true to the original designs with a few notable exceptions.”
Past festival-goers will notice that the character Ray the Wave from the 1990 winning poster is playing the saxophone. In the original design, he was just holding it.
Also, Ollie the Octopus from the 2013 poster is playing the drums in Worley’s version. In the original poster, he was holding a saxophone and a guitar, as well as other fun Riverfest items.
“We needed a drummer, and it kind of seemed to fit to me,” Worley said.
He said the main, wholly original element of the new poster is the type he used for the words “50 Years at the Fest.” He wanted it to stand out like a marquee because of how special the 50th year is.
“Joe’s high-energy design gives fans a chance to stroll down Riverfest Memory Lane as they identify poster elements from festivals past,” Teri Mott, WFI director of marketing and communication, said. “What a wonderful tribute to 50 years of community celebration!”
“I had a lot of fun creating this design and am super glad for the opportunity to share it with everyone,” Worley said.
Emprise Bank, the artwork contest sponsor, presented Worley with a check for $4,000. Emprise has been sponsoring the art contest for 15 years.
“We recognize the enormous talent in our local art community and believe it has a tremendous impact on our quality of life,” Paul Owens, community engagement specialist at Emprise Bank, said. “Each year this contest gives all of us another iconic image to enjoy, while recognizing and celebrating the work of a homegrown artist.”
Worley’s poster will serve as an invitation to the 50th anniversary of the largest community celebration in Kansas. The festival will run for nine days, from June 3-11. It will be the first nine-day, in-person Riverfest since 2019. The coronavirus pandemic forced changes to the 2020 and 2021 festivals.
“We’ve all been waiting a long time, two years actually, to host a normal Riverfest and our team is raring to go,” Mott said.
Worley’s design also graces the admission buttons for Riverfest. The adult buttons are for ages 13 and up. The children’s buttons are for kids ages 6-12. They will be available at area QuikTrip locations starting May 6. Kids five years old and younger get in free.
Mott said WFI is planning a full festival this year with all the traditional festival favorites. She said it will include the Capitol Federal Fireworks Finale, Fidelity Bank River Run, CNH Industrial Buckaroo/Buckarette Rodeo, Quantum Credit Union Food Court, Hiland Dairy Ice Cream Social, Textron Aviation Opening Night Fireworks, the Sundown Parade, Kids Corner, and Twilight Pops featuring the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
Popular river events will also be back, including the Cowboy Bathtub Races and Cardboard Regatta.
Mott expects to announce the headliner concert acts in the spring. The acts are still being booked.
Discounted early-bird registration for Fidelity Bank River Run races has already started and will continue through Feb. 28.