May 31 – June 8, 2024Admission May 31 – June 8, 2024Admission

Wichita Festivals, Inc., announced Wednesday afternoon that Lyle Schuette, a longtime ambassador for the annual Riverfest, is Admiral Windwagon Smith L for the 52nd Riverfest celebration, May 31 – June 8, 2024. Along with his announcement, Wichita Festivals highlighted 26 area high school students who are this year’s Prairie Schooner Mates.

“We are honored to select Lyle as Admiral L, for this year’s Riverfest,” said Nancy Duling, President and CEO of Wichita Festivals. “He’s proudly served his country and his community, and his personality brings such energy and enthusiasm.”

The tradition of Admiral Windwagon Smith was established in 1974, when John Bell first wore the red coat during the third Riverfest, then known as Wichitennial River Festival. The Admiral serves as the official ambassador for Riverfest.

As the official ambassador of Riverfest 2024, Schuette will speak to Wichita civic organizations, visit children in local hospitals, and help host dozens of events during the nine days of Riverfest.

“The joy I get at Riverfest is seeing people doing things during the festival like taking a ride down the river in the Wagonmaster’s Water Wagon or racing the tricycles down Douglas Street or just dancing on the street during the concerts,” said Schuette. “Everybody’s doing what makes them feel great, just good old-fashioned fun.”

Schuette’s history with the Riverfest started while he was stationed at McConnell. He tried out for the rowing team that competed annually in the festival’s bathtub boat races. For 11 years, he and his teammates raced their hearts out, eventually setting a world record for the fastest human-powered bathtub boat.

“In the ‘80s and ‘90s, these bathtub races brought crowds of over 100,000 people down to the riverbanks of the Arkansas,” said Duling.

For more than 30 years, he has proudly worn a festival red shirt, making him one of our key volunteers. These volunteers are imperative to helping the festival run smoothly.

“His volunteer experience over the years with the festival has helped us make the annual event special for our community,” said Duling.

Lyle and his wife Debbie have three grown children: a banker, an attorney, and a government defense contractor. Lyle and Debbie recently became grandparents to their first grandchild. He retired early from the Kansas Air National Guard and began his next adventure, founding and running Schuette’s Dirt Works with his wife for 25 years. Although his retirement years are upon him, he still has plenty to give back to the community his family has proudly called home these past 40 years.

2024 Prairie Schooner Mates

Also announced were the Prairie Schooner Mates. These are local high school juniors selected by their schools to be youth ambassadors for the festival. They represent public and private schools in Wichita and the surrounding area.

“I’m so excited to be surrounded by a group of individuals who have the same drive as I do,” said Enoz Tsen, East High Prairie Schooner Mate. “I can’t wait to serve our community and make the Riverfest one to remember!”

The 2024 Prairie Schooner Mates will assist the admiral at public events.

About Wichita Festivals, Inc.

Wichita Festivals, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with the purpose of creating diverse community celebrations within the Wichita community. The primary events produced by Wichita Festivals, Inc. are Riverfest (May 31–June 8, 2024), and Autumn & Art at Bradley Fair (September 13–15, 2024). For more information about Wichita Festivals, Inc. or its events, contact Nancy Duling at (316) 267-2817 or

For Media Inquiries

Nancy Duling, President & CEO

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