News Releases

7/23/2013 - Smoky Hill River Festival Celebrates Strong Year of Growth and Change

Contact:Brad Anderson or Kay Quinn at (785) 309-5770


 (Salina, KS 07-13) Robust attendance combined with ideal weather to set the stage for a strong weekend for the Smoky Hill River Festival and its vendors and Salina-area businesses this year. Some “by the numbers” highlights of River Festival 2013 include:

 Attendance: Gate counts were higher, in particular for Friday (21,841 in 2013 over 21,592 in 2012) and Sunday (8,873 in 2013 over 7,297 in 2012). Saturday was on track to match or exceed the 2012 gate count of 30,224 had thunderstorms not struck around 6 p.m., resulting in the Festival’s early closure at 7:45 p.m. On Thursday night, Festival Jam attendance was slightly lower, at 10,773 compared to 10,805 in 2012.

Since gate counts are an approximation of Festival traffic that can fluctuate depending on various factors, the River Festival team finds that actual Festival Button sales are one of the best indicators of the event’s success.

Button Sales:

Pre-Festival Button sales at Salina’s 48 retail locations were up by more than 500, to 13,802 compared to 13, 253 in 2012. Out-of-town Button sales grew by about 50% (see regional-sales details below). In Salina, retail locations experiencing the largest growth in Button sales since 2012 include the Bank of Tescott, Bennington State Bank, Casey’s (on Magnolia), Dillons Southgate, First Bank Kansas, SIMMONS FIRST Security (Ohio and E. Crawford) and Walgreens.

Additionally, 835 Buttons were underwritten in 2013 for local distribution as part of the Festival Families First program. Organizations that helped Sponsor FFF Buttons in 2013 include Blue Beacon, Crane Rental, Key Rexall HealthMart, Smoky Hill LLC, St. Francis Community Services, Salina Regional Health Foundation, and three other foundations. “The increase of 225 more FFF Buttons from our generous supporters showed us that Salina truly values the Festival and wants to share it with others,” says Brad Anderson, Director of Salina Arts & Humanities and the River Festival.

Salina-area employee Button sales to 62 businesses and agencies totaled 2,401 for 2013, up just over 300 from 2012. Eight local employers were first-time Button purchasers. Also, Schwan Global Supply Chain, Inc, Sunflower Bank, Blue Beacon, COMCARE, P.A., and Kasa Industrial Controls purchased the highest number of admission Buttons for their staff and families, each ordering from 140 to 200.

Throughout the Festival weekend, 3,383 Buttons were purchased at the gate compared to 3,652 in 2012--a decrease of 269.

In 2013, three new regional Button-sales cities were added—Lindsborg, Topeka, and Lawrence, along with second or third locations in Abilene, Ellsworth, and Hays, resulting in higher regional sales of 345 Buttons in 12 cities, compared to about 172 Buttons in 2012. Cities under consideration to add as Button retailers for 2014 include Hutchison and Wichita. Five new outreach events to introduce more families in western Kansas and surrounding communities to Salina and the Festival took place in Garden City, Hays, Great Bend, Ellsworth, and Lindsborg, from late March to late April.

Alongside gate counts and Button sales figures, other numbers show further evidence of the Festival’s growth. Earnings by the seven community organizations that hosted the nine Game Street activities within Artyopolis, including a Bean Bag Toss, a Boat Race, and Dustbowl Days Mini Golf grew 68% to nearly $9,500 in gross ‘earnings’ over three days, shared by the seven groups.

The two strongest days for the Game Street game hosts, which included the First Covenant Youth Ministry, Sacred Heart/St. Mary’s, and the Saline County Young Democrats, were Friday and Sunday, when gross revenues increased by 74% and 120% respectively, over 2012. The organizations use these monies to fund service projects, mission trips, and other activities throughout the year. 

With artist and vendor reconciliation still in progress, sales of Festival food and for the Four Rivers Craft and Fine Art shows look strong. Sales for the eight Craft Demonstration artists are $7,000 higher to date than in 2012. Show and Food sales were particularly stronger for Sunday, when roughly 1,600 more patrons entered Oakdale Park. Sales of Festival Gift Certificates were up by 30 percent.

For 2013, River Festival new partnerships included the popular Mistical Oasis misting tent within Artyopolis and the sound garden permanent installation of 10 accessible outdoor musical instruments. Also debuting in 2013 was the Festival’s first memorial gift, given to celebrate the many contributions by Tony Buccigrossi and his family over the last 30 years. The Buccigrossi family also helped make possible the colorful enhancements to the southern entrance of Artyopolis. “We were honored that Loreen and her family chose to honor Tony in this way,” says Anderson. “Soon, we will have more information available about how other families or individuals can contribute to the long-term sustainability of the Festival in a similar way.”

As the organizers store supplies, complete evaluations, and write thank-you notes, the 2013 event has been considered a solid win-win. “Once again, the River Festival met its budget and earned more than it spent,” says Anderson. “We are immeasurably grateful to the many City and County departments for all they do, along with our committed Festival Sponsors, to help bring the Festival to reality every year.”

Strategic growth and more improvements are on the horizon for Festival 2014, Anderson says, including additional general-infrastructure and Artyopolis enhancements. “Since 43 percent of the River Festival’s funding comes from sales of admission Buttons, there is still work to be done by our team to educate others about why not sharing Buttons or buying resale Buttons online are among the ways to best sustain this great community event,” says Anderson. “As we look forward to the Festival’s 38th year next summer, we are confident that many people appreciate and want to do their part to continue celebrating our community through the River Festival.”

For needed accommodations, please call Kathy Burlew 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, The Horizons Grants Program, the Smoky Hill Museum,  the Arts Infusion Program in schools, Community Art & Design,  the Cultural Connections Calendar and the Art a la Carte concert series are among the programs of Salina Arts & Humanities, located at 211 W. Iron Avenue in Salina.