If you’ve lived in Wichita or if you’ve attended some of our city’s major events, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the Wagonmasters. But what, exactly, is a Wagonmaster? Let’s take a look.
The Wichita Wagonmasters own and operate the windwagon. Yes, the very same windwagon you see in the Sundown Parade at Riverfest each year. In addition, the wagon has sailed at the Special Olympics each year, and has travelled to other cities in the Wichita area like Arkansas City, Derby, Halstead, Hutchinson, Kingman, Sedgwick, Valley Center and Oxford. The wagon even sailed in the New York Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1975! How cool is that?
Though the wagon makes a lot of appearances, the wagonmasters do more than accompany it from place to place. The Wagonmasters, comprised of civic-minded business executives, also work hard for to benefit the community.
When the group was officially founded in the 1970’s, the Wichita Wagonmasters set out with one goal: to promote and sell the good life in Wichita, and that’s exactly what they’re doing today.
What do the Wagonmasters do?
You’ll find the Wagonmasters volunteering at a variety of events around town. Of course, they’re very involved with Riverfest, as they have a longstanding relationship with Wichita Festivals, and they honor Admiral Windwagon Smith. They run the windwagon tours on the river as well as the Riverfest Ice Cream social. During the rest of the year, the Wagonmasters participate in several dozen cooking events, like the Heartspring Peadalfest, the Wichita Art Museum Ice Cream Social, and more.
Becoming A Wagonmaster
According to current Wagonmaster Kevin Steckley, becoming a wagonmaster is no simple task. Candidates must be nominated by at least two active members of the Wichita Wagonmasters who are in good standing. A group vote determines who will be formally invited to join the group. Those invited achieve “Greenhorn” status, and their participation is monitored for a two year period. Over those two years, the greenhorns who have met the standards of the group and put in the work required, they become a “Top Hand,” or a full member of the group. Since its inception, the group has continued to grow.
The Wichita Wagonmasters
“The Wagonmaster organization is made up of 100 business and professional men - 76 Top Hands (in honor of the Bicentennial), 24 Greenhorns, and various assorted Old Hands (too old to work, but plenty of life left to party),” Steckley said of the current organization.
Donn't miss the 2016 Wagonmasters' Downtown Chili Cookoff!