Sunday, August 12, 2012


     Being a 4th generation rural Sedgwick County Kansas resident I spent most of my life there.  Until we made the move away from the madness of city sprawl and city people moving to the real rural area.  We came to our long time love, the Gypsum Hills, in Barber County and regained the sense of what living is.  Living on this hill gives a perspective that being too close to issues seem to cloud.
     The Wichita River Festival started out as the Wichita Book and Art Fair around Century II 41 years ago.  It was really an entertainment affair that people from all over the state could come to and enjoy.  At the time I was doing several festivals a year with woodcarving with my cousin who did stain glass.
      Back then the River Festival was about having a good time.  Merchants, most notably Star Lumber, donated materials to build this grand West Bank Stage in an area that was not being utilized for anything but weeds.  Then there was a grand earth moving project that put a raised ampi-theater type area for seating.  KFDI radio would promote some great country shows and other acts would provide music in a setting that we would take our blankets and coolers and enjoy the evenings.
    Then the festival got organized and incorporated and making money was the big thing.  A fence went up around the West Bank area and you could no longer bring your cooler.  You were forced to eat vendor food in food courts and buy your beer at triple prices in the beer garden.
     As the event grew and the revenues grew it became a mass of people and enjoyment went out of the picture.  Country music went to other places and the aura of a simple festival went the way of the Dodo bird.  Which is the direction we took.
     Somehow the thought of being with 250,000 of your closest friends and being held up for seemingly everything made us lose interest.  I really love the symphony and the 1812 Overture but two hours of traffic to get out of a 30 minute town was just too much.
     I know that many have good times but when they tore down the West Bank Stage it was just too much.  We listened to Martina McBride there when she was just starting out and being herded into fence like prison inmates did not make any sense.
     Some volunteers that sell the revenue producing buttons were not allowed to have one even though they would have contributed anyway.  The hot attitude of making money got in the way of a good time.
     Maybe this sounds like an old fogies fond memories of when things were better, but, if it is why are they losing money.  Maybe the new director should go get the opinions of those who quit going too town for the fun?  Most times by getting a few blunt opinions is worth more than a thousand hand wringings and going "what will we do"?
     Maybe returning to having fun is an answer.

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