Ellis Riverfest runs rampant with fun
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Son of Dell Kenwright
ELLIS -- The elements tested the 22nd annual Ellis Riverfest on Saturday, but the recent rain helped the festival live up to its name.
Dena Patee, director of the Ellis Chamber of Commerce, said wind gusts canceled the sky diving and rocket launch events. Activities were planned to take place in the dry creek bed, but the rain and fast-moving current scuttled the plans.
Despite the last-minute changes, many in attendance appreciated the river's restoration.
"The rain has been wonderful because we now have a river so that we actually have the river with the Riverfest," Patee said.
The family-oriented program provided an opportunity for the community to celebrate summer together.
"I think it's one of the things that brings people together," she said. "We all have our own lives and we're going a million different directions everyday. I think Riverfest kind of lets people slow down for just a minute and come out and hang out with their friends."
Lyle Johnston, Ellis mayor, said yesterday's festivities were a welcome break from following water restrictions prompted by the drought.
"Just thanking everybody about their sacrifices that they've done with their water conservation because people have watched their lawns -- with money invested -- wither away and die," Johnston said. "You've seen the gardeners that really love their produce. I do too; I miss my cherry tomatoes."
Although children have asked why they cannot have such water activities as a Slip 'n Slide, the mayor said the rain has boosted residents' morale.
"Everybody seems to have a smile on their face this time," Johnston said.
He said he recently spoke with children who were at the dam, and most of them said it was their first time seeing so much rushing water.
One of the most popular events was the Cowboy Quick Draw competition. Organized by the Deer Creek Regulators, participants faced off against an opponent as they were timed shooting a target with a stock 45 Colt handgun. The modified firearm used wax bullets and did not have a kick.
Debbie Hadley, a Phillipsburg volunteer with the group, said her alias is "Kansas Belle" because members take nicknames as tradition. The romanticized idea of shootouts is popular with participants, she said.
The target's light would turn off to indicate when the shooter made contact, and a machine calculated the time.
"It's that ideal of being back in the Old West and testing your time, seeing how you would have fared," Hadley said. "Here our partner is a light, and he's not firing back at you, but you can see if you would have been fast enough to have outgunned Marshal Dillon."
The Hotter than Blazes Pasta Pig-out eating competition also was a hit. Four men and two women consumed a plate of spicy pasta from Arthur's Pizza & Mexican Food, and Jeremy McGuire emerged the victor.
With marinara sauce caked in his goatee, the winner from Hays said he did not know the contest was hands-free until he signed up. McGuire realized a winning strategy as he struggled to down the food.
"I learned that I was going to have to tilt the plate and kind of use my top teeth to pull the pasta down, and then there was one point where I bit off a chunk of the plate, so I had to spit that sucker out," McGuire said.
Other events included horse riding, throwing horse shoes, a fun run/walk, crafting, hitting golf balls over the creek and an evening concert.