The city is named for the Wichita people who lived near waterfalls on what is now the Wichita River. In 1882, Fort Worth and Denver Railroad came to the area, establishing the town as an agricultural and trade center. An oil boom in the early 1900s made the city a headquarters for North Texas petroleum production. The city is the seat of Wichita County and a leading gateway to Texas on I-44. It is a major trade and industrial center with an economy based on Sheppard Air Force Base.

Cultural amenities include a symphony orchestra, ballet, theater, museum, an art center and Midwestern State University. The Backdoor Theater, originally the "People's Ice House," is a 1921 venue that offers theater productions and live concerts.

Events include Red River Wine Festival in April; Western Swing Music Festival, Texas Oklahoma Jr. Golf Tournament and Texas-Oklahoma Oil Bowl Game in June; Texas Ranch Round-Up and Festival and Hotter 'N Hell Hundred Bike Race and Festival in August; Downtown City Lights Festival in November; and MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Display in December.


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