News Releases

8/2/2016 - Salina Celebrates River Festival 2016 Hot Highlights

Brad Anderson or Kay Quinn
(785) 309-5770 or


(Salina, KS 08-16) Warmer temps, new Art Installations and vibrant stage acts were among the “hot” highlights of the Smoky Hill River Festival, held June 9-12 in Oakdale Park. Here’s a recap of what was new and popular:

KID FUN: Children came to cavort and create in Artyopolis - the kid-sized metropolis with tons of colorful things to do. New crafts included spray-bottle watercolor painting, scratch art and sandpaper art. The StoryCatchers booth also was a popular first-time addition.

: Festival visitors discovered eight brand-new works among the 21 outdoor Art Installations commissioned just for the Festival and its beautiful setting. “Engagement was the goal this year and it was gratifying to see so many people from all walks of life taking part in the creative process,” says Visual Arts Coordinator Grace Peterson. “Neil Goss involved guests in weaving nature-based totems to connect the Festival to the river. The colorful “Reach for the Skies” work above Main Stage celebrated the Festival’s anniversary and its legacy as a recognized arts celebration.”Among the new Art Installations was Salina artist Steve Britt’s wall mural near the tennis courts entitled “Into Orbit – Eyes Turned Skyward,” inspired by retro comics and childhood memories of space-themed movies and serial TV programs.

Art lovers perused and shopped original work from the Fine Art and Four Rivers Craft Shows and the Artist Demonstration area. Combined show and demo sales were $391,718. Festival Director Brad Anderson says, “Having 18 first-time Festival artists, including four Demonstration exhibitors working in watercolor, quilting, fiber felting and ceramics, shows that the Festival intentionally brings new work and exhibitors to town each year.”

GET THE BEAT: A wide range of musical and roving entertainers delighted Festival-goers young and old. On-stage acts were outlaw country, alto rock, Afro Electro and hip-hop, among other genres. A new menu of talent on the Bravo Salina! Stage included spoken word, indie rock and folk. Arty’s Stage favorites included kid-rock group Big Bang Boom, juggler Jason Divad and returning crowd-pleasers Drum Safari and balloon artists Up, Up & Away. “Special efforts were made to introduce younger sounds along with the overall quality that music- lovers have come to expect at the Festival,” says Festival music coordinator Stacy Ash.

ORDER IN: Festival fans enjoyed Food Row favorites plus five brand-new treats in 2016. Hot-selling items included Fried Oysters, Turkey Strawberry Sliders and Chicken & Waffles, not to mention plenty of cold drinks and cool desserts to help Festival-goers beat the heat. Temps during Festival week were the highest in six years.

OVER THE BRIDGE: The Festival 2016 gate count was 56,351, compared to 61,439 for 2015. Guests, vendors and exhibitors came from roughly 35 states, pumping more than $3 million into the local economy over three weeks.

WHO’S GOT A BUTTON? Admission button sales accounted for $195, 231 or just under 40 percent of Festival revenue, compared to $203,090 in 2015. Regional button sales increased by 21 percent, nearly doubling in five cities. The Button Retailer network this year was comprised of 29 outlets in 19 communities, not counting Salina’s 43 button locations. New Button Retailer cities for 2016 were Colby, Minneapolis and Overland Park/Leawood in Kansas City.

As part of Festival admission button sales and distribution, select foundations and businesses underwrite several hundred buttons each year through the Festival Families First program. Thanks to these entities, local social-service agencies provided 810 complimentary admission buttons in 2016 to children and families who otherwise could not have participated.

MAKING IT HAPPEN:  Three hundred and sixteen business or personal Festival sponsors contributed $294,543 in cash or in-kind services to support the River Festival. It takes about $500,000 to stage the Festival. Sixty-five to 70 percent of the Festival’s annual income comes from sponsor contributions and admission button sales. The remaining annual revenue comes from fees and commissions. Festival income typically exceeds expenses, with $40,000 going back to local cultural agencies each year to supplement their budgets.

Overall, Festival staff and volunteers say Festival 2016 was enjoyable and memorable. “The Festival’s longtime tradition of being an exceptional celebration of community and the arts was evidenced by the tens of thousands who attended and the hundreds who planned, donated, and volunteered to make our 40th-anniversary Festival very special,” says Anderson. For information on how to support or get involved in the Smoky Hill River Festival, Friday Night Live or other Salina Arts & Humanities programs, call 785-309-5770, visit or, or e-mail

For needed accommodations, please call Amanda Morris at Salina Arts & Humanities at 785-309-5770 between 8:00 a.m. - Noon and 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.  Every effort will be made to accommodate known disabilities. For material or speech access, please call at least five working days prior to the event.

 Salina Arts & Humanities, a department of the City of Salina, has served a unique role in arts advocacy and support since 1966. The Smoky Hill River Festival, Horizons Grants Program, Smoky Hill Museum, Arts Infusion Program in schools, Community Art & Design, Cultural Connections, and Friday Night Live performance series are among the programs of Salina Arts & Humanities, located at 211 W. Iron Avenue in Salina.