Changes in food inspections coming to Riverfest

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WICHITA -- Riverfest is just hours away.

Yet, some worry what one change to the food court could mean for this year's attendees.

In April, the State of Kansas took over health inspections for Sedgwick County. Up until that point, it had been done by the City of Wichita. The work has been contracted to them by the state.

However, in January, the state announced plans to take over that responsibility as it has for every county in Kansas -- minus Sedgwick County. Some worried the state won't be able to give as much attention to Riverfest as the city had in years past.

"One thing that has been great is working with the actual festival organizers," said Steve Moris, program manager for the Division of Food Safety and Lodging for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. "We have been working with them for the last few months, working on getting game plans and maps sent to us that way we can start working on our game plan as well."

Moris assures that the state inspections will be thorough. Vendors will be checked continuously throughout the nine-day event.

"Starting tomorrow morning, we will be bringing in a crew of inspectors, and they will start doing all of their inspections," he said. "We will have 16 inspections here starting tomorrow. They will break up in teams and roughly hit 30 vendors."

The City of Wichita did nothing wrong, said Chad Bontrager, assistant secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The decision was financially driven.

"We'll have some costs to get our folks up and running, but we project savings in the first year to be $125,000 and in the years after, starting at $190,000 and only increasing from that point," said back in January.

Thursday morning, nearly 30 vendors were setting up their stands for this year's event. Sally Briviesca and her husband Matt, of Holcomb, are among the vendors this year. They've been in the food service business for 23 years, including 5 at Riverfest. She says everyone has to take classes and get approved before the event.

"We have them come out and inspect us and then every day they come out and make sure that we have the proper sanitation, our temperatures are at the correct temp for the food that we are cooking," Briviesca said.

With the warmer temperatures, Sally is anxious to see what this year's event brings. She said Riverfest is the start to their summer tour, and it is a thrill to participate each year.

"We're so excited. We're at a new location so we're really excited to see how we do," she said. "We love music, the entertainment. It's all about families and kids. We really cater to kids and big kids."

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