Category Archives: Wichita events

Public meeting was constructive, excellent first step

forumCity officials and all who participated in a “community intervention conversation” last Thursday should be congratulated. They dealt openly and honestly with a difficult subject, and did so in a constructive and proactive manner. The meeting was held in response to recent events in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer. Much of the conversation focused on ways to improve policing and bolster community and police relations. One of the most concrete and positive outcomes was Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s commitment to try to find the money “to man-up every officer with a camera.” More discussions and reforms are needed, but the Thursday meeting was a excellent first step.

It’s official: Riverfest was huge success

riverfestfireworks2014The official numbers show what Wichita already knew: The 2014 River Festival was a huge success. About 380,000 people attended the nine-day event (up 5 percent from 2013 and 30 percent from 2012). Also, 111,000 festival buttons were sold (up nearly 7 percent from 2013) and sponsorships increased 15 percent, which helped shore up the festival’s finances. Though the weather was threatening at times, the festival benefited from pleasant temperatures. This year’s concerts were big draws, and there was a good mix of new attractions and old favorites. Congratulations to Riverfest staff and its army of volunteers.

Looming election complicates city’s sales tax discussion

brewer,carlIt would be hard enough in any year to persuade Wichita voters to raise the local sales tax for any reason. But as the City Council sifts through the items that might be funded by such revenue, its deliberations are complicated by the calendar. Mayor Carl Brewer (in photo), who is term-limited, is cast in the role of lame duck. Behind the scenes, as well as on the bench, there is jockeying over who might run next spring to succeed him. Council members surely realize that a united front is their best hope of persuading voters this fall of the necessity of raising the sales tax to address some of the priorities, and that a failed ballot question would have political as well as fiscal consequences.

Support McConnell by attending public hearing

The public needs to show its support for McConnell Air Force Base and the expansion of its refueling tanker fleet by attending a public hearing from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 29th and Oliver. The hearing is hosted by the U.S. Air Force and is part of its final decision process on whether to make McConnell the first main operating base for new tankers. Those who attend the hearing can make a verbal statement, submit written testimony, or just sign-in to show their support for McConnell, which has an estimated annual economic benefit to the Wichita area of $619 million. It is important that as many people as possible attend the hearing.

SMG deal could benefit Orpheum

Once destined for demolition, the Orpheum Theatre is now a valued showplace for an eclectic array of live acts and film showings. The management deal in the works with SMG seems a positive step, given SMG’s booking power and administrative and accounting expertise. Best of all, such an arrangement might enable local Orpheum backers to concentrate on raising money to finish the 91-year-old theater’s long-running restoration. Certainly, Philadelphia-based SMG has proved its professionalism by managing the 3-year-old Intrust Bank Arena, which was about $301,000 in the black through June for the year and has a strong fall schedule. Any Orpheum deal would need to ensure the facility is no less affordable and available to nonprofit organizations and charity events.

2013 may have ended Riverfest’s slump

It was great to learn that button sales for the recent Wichita River Festival were up 38 percent over last year, with the 104,000 total sold the most in five years. Festival revenues were $170,000 more than 2012, too, positioning the festival to turn a profit for the first time since 2008. The positive numbers certainly match the mood of the 2013 festival, which had mostly good weather, smart programming and nice crowds. Mary Beth Jarvis, the CEO of Wichita Festivals since November, still has some challenges to work through, including questions about whether this year’s tight fencing and button policing diminished the festival’s free spirit. But 2013 may have ended Riverfest’s slump.

Wichita attorneys sure can sing and dance

Bravo to the Wichita Bar Association for a very funny Wichita Bar Show last week at the Orpheum Theatre (in photo). The show featured dozens of Wichita-area attorneys singing and dancing (yes, they are quite good) in songs skewering state and national political leaders. Among the highlights was a bit about Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach trying to keep zombies from voting that turned into a spoof of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

Welcome to Wichita

Some top U.S., Mexican and Canadian trade officials are in Wichita for the 37th-annual World Trade Week. Thursday’s conference, organized by the World Trade Council of Wichita, focuses on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the largest free-trade agreement in the world. Mexico and Canada are also the top two export markets for Kansas. Panel discussions include legal and trade regulations, tax policies, transportation and trade strategies. The conference is a good opportunity to network with trade officials and companies.

It will be great to welcome back women bowlers

Congratulations and thanks to the city of Wichita, Go Wichita, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission and the Great Plains USBC Association for landing the 2019 United States Bowling Congress women’s tournament. It will bring more than 30,000 bowlers to Wichita during a three-month period and mean an $14 million economic impact for the city. As the community learned when it hosted their 2004 tournament, the women bowlers are hard to miss and a pleasure to have around – eager to have a good time and, not surprisingly, spend money while finding out what there is to do in Wichita. What’s more, the scheduling coup seems to signal that all is forgiven at the USBC over the 2011 men’s tournament, which Wichita won the right to host but later lost over a contract dispute. Let’s hope the 2019 women’s tournament leads to many more such events for Wichita.

Wichita area handled the snowstorm relatively well

Driving on snow-packed streets and highways Thursday was no one’s idea of fun, but the thunder that accompanied the storm won’t be soon forgotten and the sledding was great. All in all, the system for predicting and coping with more than a foot of snow worked as intended – meteorologists warned the public, crews treated and plowed the roadways, school districts and businesses closed, and many people stayed home and safe. Special thanks are due those who did the work that had to be done to clear streets, respond to emergencies, and tend to the sick and the frail elderly despite the storm.

Hayden’s grim postcard from Wichita

Liberal activist Tom Hayden wrote up his recent visit to Wichita for the Huffington Post, observing that “in Kansas most people do not seem to accept the November election of Barack Obama” and that “as ‘bleeding Kansas’ was pivotal in launching the American Civil War over slavery, this Kansas will be central to the plans of the Christian right and tea party to stop the emerging new majority of people of color and women, which threatens their supremacist dreams.” Hayden concluded: “The activists of Wichita may not be isolated dissidents in a state mired forever in the past, but among the ‘first responders’ against the coming wave of right-wing extremism, in dire need of attention and support from national progressives.” Hayden spoke at the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas’ 20th-anniversary meeting.

Region again steps up for United Way of the Plains

Congratulations to the United Way of the Plains and all those who helped push the fall campaign across the finish line Friday. The $15.6 million raised, which was $1,613 more than the goal, was an amazing display of generosity during a period of uncertainty about the economy. Last year United Way raised $15.2 million, surpassing the goal by more than $120,000. Let there be no doubt about the willingness of south-central Kansans to act on behalf of neighbors in need.

Special screening about more than just watching a movie

Kudos to the Warren Theatres at 21st and Tyler for offering a movie screening for children with autism or severe sensory disorders. The showing, which will be of “Wreck-It Ralph” at 11 a.m. Saturday, was the idea of Bob Nooe, a counselor at Greiffenstein Alternative Elementary in Wichita. “So many of these kids have never watched a movie on a big screen because their parents don’t feel comfortable taking them,” Nooe said. The theater will make some accommodations, such as turning up the lights more than usual and turning down the sound. Having a child with special needs can sometimes be isolating, both for families and the child. As Nooe noted, the screening will allow the children to get “out in public in an environment where they can feel comfortable and be around others.”

New downtown YMCA is already welcome

After 18 months of construction, the new Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA is nearly completed. And it is looking great. The facility, located on North Market between Third and Central, will have a series of pre-opening activities during the next month before its official opening Dec. 10. The new 110,000-square-foot, glass-filled building is designed to be a beacon to the neighborhood and is expected to serve 30,000 people in the area. It is already a welcome addition to downtown.

Bikers recognized what matters most – helping kids

Though some people were disappointed when the Wichita Toy Run decided for safety reasons to no longer host a 15-mile motorcycle parade, it was great that so many bikers turned out for the rally Sunday in Delano. The reformatted event allowed people to park their bikes in a closed section of West Douglas, where they could visit with other bikers, listen to live music and eat chili. What didn’t change was the worthy cause. The bikers and others brought toys and donations that will be distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, the Salvation Army and the Kansas Food Bank. Kudos to area bikers for adapting to the change and recognizing what matters most – helping needy kids and families.

Gates a fine choice to address chamber

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce chose wisely for its Nov. 12 annual meeting, inviting former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to be the featured speaker. Besides his respected record of public service under eight presidents, Gates is a native Wichitan and a 1961 graduate of East High School. The event’s meaning will be all the greater because of its proximity to Veterans Day and theme of honoring the U.S. military. When he addressed East High’s commencement three years ago, Gates said, “I believe a Kansas upbringing imparts qualities that have been a source of strength for me over the years: an enduring optimism and idealism, a love of country, and dedication to citizenship and service.”

Memorial a proud addition to riverfront

Congratulations to the volunteers who worked so hard and for so many years to achieve Saturday’s public dedication of the Vietnamese American Community Memorial along the Arkansas River. The project, a proud addition to the riverfront featuring lead artist Babs Mellor’s vision of an American soldier and a South Vietnamese soldier, had to overcome some hard feelings a few years ago related to its proximity to Veterans Memorial Park. It now stands nearby as a poignant and enduring tribute to the unique partnership of the South Vietnamese military and the U.S. military in fighting the communists during the Vietnam War. It also will stand as evidence of the generosity of the local South Vietnamese community, which has enriched Wichita in the decades since.

911 isn’t for nuisances

The next few days will prove whether Sedgwick County learned from last year’s Fourth of July, when so many people tied up 911 complaining about illegal fireworks that calls reporting a serious motorcycle accident couldn’t get through. In all, there were 1,101 complaint calls about fireworks use over that holiday period. As Randy Bargdill, the county’s director of emergency communications, told The Eagle: “We need to go back to calling 911 for emergency calls only. It’s not a convenience call, it’s a necessary call.” Most of the year, the county advises people to make nuisance complaints using local law enforcement nonemergency lines, such as those for police in small cities or the Wichita Police Department substations. But from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 3 a.m. Thursday, people are asked to make nonemergency calls to 316-290-1011. The county’s message wasn’t entirely out last week: 59 percent of Wichitans polled Wednesday by SurveyUSA for KWCH, Channel 12, said they didn’t know there was a fireworks hotline. In Wichita, it’s legal to shoot fireworks through Thursday. And be careful out there: Wichita can do better than last year’s four fireworks-related fire calls and 70 fireworks-related medical emergencies.

Wichita needs fireworks show on Fourth

The 37-year commitment of KAKE, Channel 10, to give the community a big patriotic celebration and fireworks display has been laudable, and it did so again at the “Salute to America” event connected to Friday’s Wichita Wingnuts game. But that was five days before the Fourth of July. A city of Wichita’s size merits a big public fireworks show on the holiday itself. If not KAKE, is there some other business or perhaps a civic organization that can start working now toward that goal for 2013?

Fitting tribute to Gates

The intelligence complex at McConnell Air Force Base is scheduled to be named this morning in honor of Robert Gates, former defense secretary and CIA director. It’s fitting that a native Wichitan who has played such a crucial role in the nation’s defense and intelligence gathering for four decades will have a permanent tribute to his service in his hometown. It’s what goes on within the complex that will be the real tribute, of course – the handling by the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Intelligence Wing of intelligence collected by manned and unmanned aircraft around the globe.

Garvey family gift boosts Orpheum’s restoration

The 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre received a wonderful gift last week – $1 million from the Willard and Jean Garvey Trust. The donation from a Wichita family renowned for its arts patronage should bolster further fundraising for the theater’s ongoing restoration, as it enables more planning and design. Meanwhile, even with the renovation unfinished, the Orpheum management is proving the venue’s value to the community and especially downtown, by booking big names and then drawing full houses.

More heroes in helping conserve Miró

It’s great news that the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University was awarded two major federal grants totaling $250,000 for the conservation of its mural by modern artist Joan Miró. The grants will support the second year of the five-year project to repair and conserve the 26-by-52-foot glass-and-marble mosaic that was installed on the museum’s facade in 1978. The Ulrich is the only Kansas museum to receive grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, both of which were for the maximum amounts.

Pity the billionaires

Thomas Frank, author of the best-seller “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” will do a reading and book signing a 7 p.m. today at Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas. His latest book, “Pity the Billionaire,” explores how the GOP’s right wing has used the economic downturn to fuel a political comeback. In a commentary at, Frank argues that Mitt Romney may turn out to be the truest to the spirit of the tea party movement of all the GOP presidential candidates.

Southeast Wichita gets its Save-A-Lot after all

Whether or not it needed taxpayer subsidies to happen – and, in the end, it didn’t – the Save-A-Lot grocery is a great addition to the neighborhood at George Washington Boulevard and Pawnee. So are its 30 full- and part-time jobs. The owners’ and manager’s experience, including with the Save-a-Lot store at 13th and Grove, bode well for the new store’s long-term success. It’s great that an ill-fated incentives deal with another developer last year didn’t get in the way of providing the Planeview area with expanded access to fresh produce and affordable food.

Help return Miro’s bird mural to its WSU perch

Spanish surrealist artist Joan Miro, who died in 1983 at age 90, once said of his “Personnages Oiseaux” mural and its more than 1 million pieces of Venetian glass and marble: “They produce a beautiful sparkle, and the colors have a powerful light.” After 33 years, Wichita is going to miss seeing that sparkle and light on the face of Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art. But the vanishing act, which will begin with a kick-off ceremony at 12:15 p.m. today, is for the mural’s own good — a five-year, $3 million restoration. Members of the community should “be a Miro hero,” as the restoration campaign puts it, and help return this iconic campus artwork and its colorful birds to their rightful perch.