News Releases

8/1/2017 - Highlights of 2017 River Festival

Brad Anderson or Kay Quinn
(785) 309-5770


Increased Attendance and Button Sales
Among the Highlights of 2017 River Festival

(Salina, KS 08-17) Higher gate counts, increased early Button sales, new art elements and great entertainment are among takeaways of the Smoky Hill River Festival, June 8-11 in Oakdale Park. Here’s a recap:

OVER THE BRIDGE: The Festival 2017 confirmed gate count was 67,381, compared to 56,351 for 2016 and 61,439 for 2015. Cooler temperatures, vibrant programming and other factors influence gate numbers, according to Festival staff. Guests, vendors and exhibitors came from roughly 35 states, generating more than $3 million within the local economy over three weeks.

BUTTON UP: Local pre-Festival Button sales increased significantly, up 493 Buttons this year, with 10,517 sold before Festival gates opened, compared to 10,024 in 2016. Regional Button sales held steady at 601, similar to the 603 for  2016. The 2017 Button Retailer network was comprised of 31 outlets in 20 cities, including three new Retailers in Emporia, plus 43 Salina locations. Overall, 19,421 admission Buttons were distributed or sold.

Also, select foundations and businesses underwrite several hundred Buttons yearly in the Festival Families First program. Thanks to this support, social-service agencies were able to distribute 880 complimentary weekend admission Buttons to families in need.

ART NOUVEAU: Fifty first-time or ‘new back’ artists were among the more than 130 exhibitors in the Fine Art and Four Rivers Craft Show and the Art Demonstration area. The enhanced Art Patron Program offered more ways to involve new art enthusiasts, including a hip Thursday-night PREMIERE party attended by more than 300.   Combined sales for the 2017 art show and Art/Craft Demo area grew by $18,628, to $410,346 compared to $391,718 in 2016.

Seven of the 19 on-site Art Installations were new for 2017, including “Henna: Get Your Art On” by The Henna Chicks of Glenpool, OK and “The Legendary Elemental Adventure Depot” by Matt Lord and Kent Smith of Lawrence, KS. The sellout 2017 Festival T-shirt featured a circular mandala by artist Angie Pickman, also a Fine Art exhibitor.

GET THE BEAT: Widely diverse music and entertainment delighted many Festival-goers. From returning Australian headliner Jakubi to The Delta Saints from Nashville, genres included country, blues, hip-hop, alt folk, funk and rock ‘n’ roll. Bravo Stage and Arty’s Stage featured dynamic spoken-word, dance, musical and roving acts, including the Hip-Hop Wagon and the Hybrid Movement Co. from Brooklyn, NY.

PINT-SIZED FUN: Artyopolis welcomed thousands of toddlers to pre-teens and their caregivers to explore the arts under the Creation Crossing tent and in other hands-on activities. Local charitable organizations ran booths on the colorful Game Street, with more than 250 volunteers helping out in Artyopolis. Ninety-five Festival artists donated more than 500 kid-priced works to the popular First Treasures program.

CHOW TIME: Festival fans enjoyed Food Row favorites plus five first-time vendors this year. Hot-selling items included Chip & Dippers, Buffalo Sliders, Grilled Lemonade, Fresh Fruit Skewers and plenty of cold drinks and desserts. Food sales by the 35 vendors were up $3,137 from 2016, totaling $293,547 for 2017.

MAKING IT HAPPEN:  Three hundred forty-seven business or personal Festival sponsors contributed $309,738 in cash or in-kind services to support the River Festival. It takes about $650,000 in cash and in-kind support to stage the Festival each year. Remaining annual revenue comes from fees and commissions. Festival income typically exceeds expenses, with some proceeds going back to local cultural agencies each year, to supplement their annual budgets.

“If I have heard one word over and over to describe this year’s Festival, it was ‘smooth,’ says Festival Director Brad Anderson. “From numerous art-show changes to new musical and roving acts to last-minute food-vendor adjustments, everything just came together, to provide wonderful offerings across the Festival’s 3.5 days. Fellow City departments, an incredible tech staff and many dedicated volunteers played key roles to help create a safe, comfortable and relaxing environment for each of our Festival guests.”

For information on how to get involved in the Smoky Hill River Festival, Community Art & Design, 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 the Friday Night Live performance series are among the programs of Salina Arts & Humanities, located at 211 W. Iron Avenue in Salina.