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Riverfest celebrates major milestone with its first in-person festival since the pandemic

Hugo Phan

Riverfest marks its 50th year with major musical acts like Willie Nelson, War and The Family Stone.

Riverfestis celebrating its 50th anniversary with its first nine-day, in-person festival since 2019.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the festival tried ahybrid model in 2021 after canceling the event in 2020.

Nancy Duling is the new president and CEO of Wichita Festivals. She said many sponsors were eager to get back to a normal festival this year, which kicks off Friday with the Sundown Parade.

"When we told them we could do all nine days, you should have seen their enthusiasm," Duling said. "Everyone is very excited."

Concert acts this yearinclude country legend Willie Nelson, funk bands War and The Family Stone and more.

The festival will see the return of some staples like the Riverfest Classic Car show and the Fidelity Bank River Run.

One of the newer events is a block party called "The Downtown Get Down," which is scheduled for Sunday. Activities include a celebrity egg toss, food eating contests, trike races, tug of war and a variety of yard games. Members of Wichita State's men's basketball team will make a special appearance at the event.

Activities on the river include Cowboy Bathtub Races and Cardboard Regatta — where participants must build a river-worthy vessel in 90 minutes or less with cardboard, duct tape, pool noodles and a box cutter.

Fireworks will also be back this to open and close the festival.

Hugo Phan is a Digital News Reporter at KMUW, and founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. After years of being a loyal listener, he signed up to be a KMUW volunteer and joined the station's college student group before becoming a digital assistant in 2013.