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.

Lord’s Diner gets Cajun leftovers

It was 7 p.m. when the tornado sirens sounded at the Wichita River Festival on Thursday, canceling events and sending festival-goers scrambling for shelter. Unfortunately, 7 p.m. is exactly when the annual Cajun Food Fest, which was underway near the Tripodal outside of Century II, traditionally experiences its big rush.

That was bad bad bad for the fundraiser, which each year benefits Goodwill Industries. The event definitely will not make money this year, said Goodwill’s Gayle Goetz. In fact, it most likely will suffer a loss.

The extra food — and there was a lot — was donated to the Lord’s Diner, where clients should be feasting Cajun style all week, Goetz said.

“No one can say anything about the weather,” she said. “That’s the way things go.”

Cajun food, Cajun tunes at tonight’s Riverfest

Food fans enjoy last year's Cajun Food Fest.

Besides the greasy goodness of the food courts, the second most popular food attraction at the Wichita River Festival each year has to be the Cajun Food Fest.

The event, which will go on from 5 to 8:30 tonight near the Tripodal sculpture outside Century II, is now in its 26th year. Chefs will serve red beans and sausage as well as other Cajun favorites. Meals are $7 apeice with a festival button.

Cajun fans can stroll with their food over the WaterWalk Pavilion, where the Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band will perform jambalaya-friendly music from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Over at the Pavilion, which is on the lawn south of the Hyatt, the Harvest Kitchen/Bar will be serving shrimp po’ boys and muffuletta pasta salad.

A good time, as the Cajuns would say, is gar-awn-teed.