10 Facts Every Wichitan Must Know
Whether you were born and raised here, or you just moved to town, if you live in Wichita, there are a few things you should know about our fair city:
1. There’s a troll chained up next to the Arkansas River.
This one isn’t just a must-know, it’s a must-see. Wichita’s Troll lurks in an outflow area next to the Westar Energy building along the Arkansas River. The 200-pound, 5-foot tall sculpture was made by Connie Ernatt and installed in May of 2007. If you haven’t already seen it, we don’t want to make it TOO easy: To find the Wichita Troll, look for a big grate in the sidewalk on the east side of the river, just south of the Keeper of the Plains. (Hint: If you go at night, you can see its eerie green glow as it peers up at you.)
2. It’s pronounced, “Are-KANsas” River.
Not “ARE-kan-saw”. (Mispronouncing it is a dead giveaway that you’re not from Wichita.)
3. The Keeper of the Plains is the 12th tallest statue in the U.S.
At 44 feet tall, Wichita’s largest statue is eclipsed by only a few, including the Statue of Liberty and a Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota. By the way, if you live in Wichita and haven’t been to see The Keeper at night when the Ring of Fire is on, you’re missing out. Find out more about The Keeper of the Plains.
4. There used to be an amusement park on an island in the Arkansas River.
5. Joyland wasn’t Wichita’s first amusement park.
This is really two facts in one. The “island” was actually a sandbar, but it was named Ackerman Island. It split the Arkansas River between Douglas and Second Street. The island was big – it held a baseball stadium and Wonderland Amusement Park, which operated from 1905 to 1918. Joyland Amusement Park didn’t open until 1949. Read more about Ackerman Island and Wonderland Park.
6. Prohibitionist Carrie Nation smashed up the Eaton Hotel Bar.
Carrie Nation was notorious for her violent attacks on Kansas saloons to protest the evils of alcohol (“demon rum”) in the early 1900s. On December 27, 1900, the hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation paid a visit to the bar in Wichita’s Carey House Hotel (which later became the Eaton Hotel) at 517 E. Douglas. John Nobel’s painting, “Cleopatra at the Bath”, apparently set her off even more: She smashed the mirror behind the bar and tried to destroy the painting. Nation was later arrested and served a few days in jail.
7. There’s a Carrie Nation memorial fountain in Naftzger Memorial Park.
According to the engraving on the water fountain, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Kansas put up the fountain in her memory in 1918. The fountain was previously located at Union Station and Old Cowtown Museum. There is a story that a beer truck hit the fountain in 1945 and damaged it, but the story has never been substantiated. Naftzger Memorial Park is located at Douglas & St. Francis, just down the street from Intrust Bank Arena.
8. Wyatt Earp got fired from the Wichita PD.
Before he became Marshal in Dodge City, Wyatt Earp worked as a police officer in Wichita. (There are reports that he also helped his brother Virgil run a brothel in town.) In April 1876, after only a year of service, Wyatt lost his job with the police force because he beat up city Marshal candidate William Smith. The reason? Smith made derogatory remarks about Wyatt’s boss, incumbent Marshal Michael Meagher, while campaigning. If you want to get a taste of what life was like back when Earp was in town, check out Old Cowtown Museum.
9. Billy the Kid’s mom signed the Wichita town charter.
Before he became known as Billy the Kid, Henry McCarty lived in Wichita with his mother and brother for about a year in 1870. On July 21, 1870, 124 people signed a petition to incorporate Wichita. There was only one female on that list: Henry’s mother, Catherine McCarty.
10. WuShock isn’t a pencil. Or a french fry.
Even if you don’t follow Wichita State Men’s Basketball, you’ll probably get asked what WuShock is if you travel outside the Wichita metro area. Especially during basketball season. Over the years, journalists and fans of opposing teams have made a lot of entertaining guesses, but the WSU mascot is actually a shock of wheat. Why? In the early 1900s, many players shocked, or harvested, wheat during the summers to earn tuition money. So, Wichita State came to be known as the “Wheat Shockers”. And “Wu” comes from the abbreviation for Wichita University, as the school was known at one point.