Cajun Food Fest, Wichita River Festival parting ways

The Cajun Food Fest that’s been a part of the Wichita River Festival for 26 years will probably happen this year — but it won’t be during the River Festival, which opens in a little more than a week.

Goodwill Industries, the group that always has put on the fundraising event, is planning to stage it on its own, sometime before the end of the year.

The group decided to leave the River Festival after learning that it would no longer be able to stage the event at its traditional spot on Kennedy Plaza. The River Festival is moving the main food court to an area on Douglas, just in front of Kennedy Plaza, and felt the two sets of food vendors would compete with each other too much, said Riverfest President Janet Wright. The festival offered Goodwill Industries the chance to move the Cajun Food Fest to the Waterwalk Pavilion area.

“We didn’t think it would work there,” said Goodwill’s Gayle Goetz. The Waterwalk Pavilion area is targeted at an after-work crowd, Goetz said, and the Cajun Food Fest is targeted at families.

Attendance at the Cajun Food Fest has fallen over the past several years, she said. Last year was fairly disastrous for the event. Just as it was about to begin, tornado sirens sounded in downtown Wichita, sending Cajun Food Fest-goers scrambling for cover. Goodwill donated much of the food to The Lord’s Diner the next day.

Goetz said that the group is about two weeks away from announcing a different date for the Cajun Food Fest, which always features red beans and sausage as well as other Cajun favorites. She couldn’t say yet whether it’d be staged on Kennedy Plaza or elsewhere.

Cajun food lovers still can find a fix at the festival this year, though. The Waterwalk Pavilion will feature a concert by The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band and catered food by Da Cajun Shak, including fried catfish, hushpuppies, gator bites, red beans and rice and bread pudding. That event will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 7.

The Wichita River Festival is scheduled for June 1-9.