Open Streets ICT growing and helping grow Wichita

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"It's just amazing," said Yvette Tulk.  "We wanted to be out here!"

Thousands of Wichitans took to the streets Sunday afternoon to enjoy downtown at the city's second annual Open Streets ICT.  It's an event that celebrates its success not in how much money it brings in but in how much community it builds.  No matter the means of measuring success, this year was bigger than last year.

"Just to be a part of the community," Yvette said about why she chose to come out Sunday.  "We love this event."

Yvette and her bicycling group, Los Muertos, are regulars along Douglas. 

"Sometimes we'll start clear in Clifton Square and ride all the way down to Delano," Yvette said.  "Just hang out, stop at the local eateries, breweries, and just have a good time."

This week she and her friends have a few thousand extra companions.

"It's awesome!  It's getting big!" cheered Matt Martinez, one of the Open Streets ICT organizers.  He's cheering because the event returned to Douglas Avenue with twice the vendors and thousands more guests than last year.

"I'm thinking we're going to probably hit 20 to 30,000," he said, referring to expected attendance Sunday.  "So we're excited and this is obviously a big turnout. and Wichitans really love this event.  This is great."

That's good news for a city trying to build a new reputation that will draw not only weekend crowds but permanent ones, Kansans and out-of-staters willing to move to town and move the town forward.  The goal is to attract folks like Shawn Gordon who brought his Hawaiian BBQ food truck to Open Streets ICT this year.

"We are part of this community. We are by way of Hawaii, but we love Wichita so we wanted to be a part of this," Gordon said.  

While all the money changing hands at local businesses like Gordon's is good for the city local leaders hope it will also help build closer ties between individuals.

"This is also a chance for all of the different community partners to come together and introduce themselves to the community," said Jeff Longwell, Mayor of Wichita.

"We always say Wichita looks great when you're in your car," added Becky Tuttle, an Open Streets ICT organizer.  "But Wichita looks even better at 10 miles an hour when you're on your bike."

That sort of advertising doesn't come with a set price tag but it can be priceless for a city trying to outgrow a dated reputation.  Yvette has already seen that power with her friends.

"Last year I posted about it on Facebook," Yvette said.  "All of my friends back home were like, 'Wow!  That is so amazing!'"

This event has grown so popular so quickly that organizers are meeting on Friday to discuss doing two events next year instead of one.