A guide to Riverfest food, 2014 edition

Charlie Powers checks out a display of deep fried shrimp, chicken and  potatoes while having an ice cream cone for an appetizer at the Wichita River  Festival Food Court Friday afternoon.The Wichita River Festival opens tomorrow, and you know what that means. The Wichita River Festival food court also opens tomorrow.

The main food court will be back where it belongs on Century II Drive, and this year, there will be two satellite food courts, too: a sizable one near the Cox Kids Corner at the WaterWalk, and a small one open just in the evenings and on weekends at the Ackerman’s Backyard area near A. Price Woodard Park.

Visitors can find all the traditional foods they’ve come to expect, such as roasted corn, funnel cakes, NuWays and chicken on a stick. And there will also be a few new wacky additions: fied peanut butter and jelly, grilled lemonade, fried cookie dough, chicken and waffles and more.

My story about Riverfest food will be in tomorrow’s Go section, but you can read it now. It includes the whole menu so you can plan your deep fried dining adventure in advance.

For the record, my two absolute favorite things to eat at the River Festival are the shredded beef burrito from Tad’s Bodacious Burrito and the fried pickle spears at Hoopingarner’s Philly Steak, both of which are on the main food court.

What’s the festival fare you must have each year?

River Festival makes national food magazine

Funnel cake fryers: Be on alert.

My friend Liz recently made me aware that a national publication had recognized the Wichita River Festival’s funnel cake-eating contest, a disturbingly fascinating festival attraction that’s scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday on the main food court stage.

Food Network Magazine’s June 2013 issue includes an article about eating competitions going on across the country this summer. The article recognizes face-stuffing-fests such as the brat eating contest in Sheboygan, Wisc.;  a mashed potato eating contest in Barnesville, Minn.; and a lobster-eating competition in Portland, Maine. (That one I’d consider.)

James Bradley Price II, the very first winner of the very first Wichita River Festival funnel cake eating contest, back in 2009

The funnel cake eating contest, a River Festival tradition since 2009, is hard to watch and even harder to win. The winner has consumed the most funnel cakes in a 10-minute period. I watched once, and that was enough. On the inaugural year, winner James Bradley Price II managed to consume only three and a half of the deep-fried delicacies.

Wanna participate? You can sign up at the festival at the KGSO booth from 5 to 7 p.m. today (Monday) and from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

For more information, call the festival at 316-267-2817.

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.”

Pulled pork sliders tonight, carnitas tacos tomorrow

Shrimp po' boy with muffaletta pasta salad.

Attention: This will be my last 2011 post about Wichita River Festival food. (I hope. )

Last night, before terrifying tornado sirens sent me screaming into the wall-clouded night, I finally got over to the new WaterWalk Pavilion, where the festival is serving food from local restaurants from under a giant tent filled with lots of tables.

Festivalgoers also can hear music from local bands (my friend Jaime’s band The Mudbugs were playing last night until terrifying tornado sirens sent them screaming into the wall-clouded night), and they also can buy adult beverages, including beer, wine and mixed drinks.

I was happy with the shrimp po’boy I had. The Hyatt’s head chef Paul Freimuth was under the tent, frying up the shrimp and squirting on the zesty Cajun sauce himself. The whole plate of food you see above cost me $8, and it was filling. I thought that was a good deal considering that my favorite burrito over at the main food court also costs $8.

You have two more nights to check out the WaterWalk Pavilion. I can personally vouch for the quality of both restaurants and for the quality of all the bands. My friend, Adam, plans in Mumblin’ Jones, and Mudbugs lead singer Carter Green pulls double duty in very fun cover band Smugglin’ Yo Yo’s.

See you there?

TONIGHT

Mumblin’ Jones, 6 to 9:30
Food from Toni D’s,
served 6 to 8 p.m.
Beef and pulled pork sliders, $10
Vegetarian sliders, $10
Both served with potato chips, choice of potato salad or
Italian pasta salad & homemade cookie

SATURDAY

Smugglin’ Yo-Yo’s. 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Ten Day Wish, 7 to 9:45 p.m.
Food from Abuelo’s, served 6 to 8 p.m.
Bacon wrapped shrimp with chile con queso $9
Carnitas tacos  $6
Steak fajita taco  $6
Chicken fajita taco $5
Chile con Queso, chips and salsa $5
Fresh guacamole, chips and salsa $6
Chips and salsa $3

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.

Wanted: Your food court reviews

The remains of a deep friend cinnamon sugar pretzel, demolished by my assistant reviewers in the newsroom.

One of my many jobs as Chief Wichita River Festival Reporter for the last 13 years (that’s not my official title, by the way, but it’s accurate) has been to sample and write about delicacies from the food court.

The job has been… greasy. And fattening. But also fun and educational. Through my reviewing, I’ve discovered some of my favorite River Festival treats, including deep fried pickle spears.

So far this year, I’ve reviewed the deep fried mozzarella stick, the nacholupa and one of the most obscene things I’ve ever purchased — a breaded, deep-fried footlong bratwurst.  Today, I ventured back over to the sweaty food court to retrieve tomorrow’s subject, a deep fried cinnamon sugar pretzel (pictured above.) I asked my newsroom buddies to help me taste it, and, well, that’s all that’s left.

I’d love to have your help reviewing River Festival fare. If you had something you liked this weekend (or even something you didn’t like) share your review with me. Maybe I’ll even publish it in the paper. Follow the link to my mozzarella stick or nacholupa review above and copy the format. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the price. I have a guide at my desk and I can figure it out.

Either post your review below or send it to me here. Be sure to include your first and last name.

Riverfest changes, adds food options

The River Festival food tents are up and ready to get cooking in the main food court's new location, just west of Century II bordering A. Price Woodard Park.

For your funnel cake ingesting convenience, I have put together this little story that will guide you through all the additions and changes the Wichita River Festival has made this year.

The highlights? A new location for the main food court. More vendors at the West Bank Stage food court. A corndog utopia for kids at Exploration Place. And the addition of the WaterWalk Pavilion, which will feature higher-end food on the Hyatt Lawn.

I dropped by the new location for the main food court yesterday, and the tents were up. I like the idea of sitting closer to the river in A. Price Woodard Park, eating my Bodacious burrito and watching the bands on the new floating stage.

You also can see a list of everything that’s being served at the food courts this year by clicking this link. I have to choose seven items to review. What should I pick? I’m thinking breaded bratwurst on a stuck for sure.

Question of the week: Favorite festival food

I can already taste the deep fried pickle spears. And that the shredded beef burrito served by Tad’s Bodacious Burrito is one of my favorite foods of all time.

The Wichita River Festival might not serve food that’s very good for you, but it sure is good. This week’s question: Which Wichita River Festival food is your must-have? Don’t be snobby. Tell the truth!

Answer in the comments section below.