River Festival 2023 Highlights Announced

River Festival 2023 Highlights Announced

Salina Arts & Humanities unveiled highlights for the 47th Smoky Hill River Festival, scheduled for June 8-11 in Oakdale Park.

Festival staff reported that an energetic and epic arts party will be held in less than 60 days. The event will include many changes in food offerings, activities for kids, new roving and mainstage entertainers, and the arts show.

The ever-popular Festival Medallion Quest will kick off at 4 pm on Wednesday, May 17, on the front steps of the Smoky Hill Museum. Arts commissioners will reveal the first clue for the $3,000 prize package. Twice daily, clues will be released at 7:30 am and 4:30 pm until the Medallion is found.

Festival gates will open at 4 pm on Thursday, June 8, with 35 food booths, an art patron party, and the Festival Jam produced by S.M. Hanson Music. Music starts at 6 pm and includes 20 bands playing during the four hours.

Friday highlights of the Festival include 120 exhibiting artists from 19 states, including 64 first-time artists. Visual arts coordinator Crystal Hammerschmidt reported that there are affordable items to purchase ranging from $5 to $10,000. She also reported that more than 20 site-specific art installations will provide inspiration and surprises throughout the park all weekend long.

A few new art installations include “Wind-O-River,” installed on the Mulberry Bridge, by Salina artist Rich Bergen. His kinetic sculpture will provide dazzling color as patrons enter the park. Steller Dodecahedron, by Lawrence, KS artist Alicia Kelly will install a large-scale inflatable sculpture near the poetry wall. New murals will also take place, including Hutchinson artist Brady Scott painting “Robins In Bloom.” After the Festival, his finished work will be installed around a downtown trash corral.

Entertainment coordinator Sarah Keck said there will be 56 hours of musical performances on three stages on Friday and Saturday, including many new bands making their first appearance at the Festival. This year’s sounds include country, rock, soul, indie folk, and innovative fusion groups.

Artyopolis, an interactive children’s area full of arts, crafts, face painting, and games, will also feature a new area called Construction Junction, a maker’s place for kids. Susan Eberwein reported that kids can work with unique materials as they create large-scale art. Creation Crossing will feature free arts and crafts, and Festival favorites Lego Lane and Button Boulevard will also return.

Friday night concludes with Paramount taking the Eric Stein Stage. In addition to the performance, there will be giveaways and a balloon artist, and patrons are encouraged to dress in 80’s attire.

Saturday begins early as Salina Regional Health Center volunteers prepare for the 42nd Smoky Hill River Run. The event includes a two-mile walk, children’s races, and a two-mile and five-mile electronically timed race. Salina Regional staff have rebranded the race this year and will utilize more than 100 volunteers throughout the morning.

Kids and families rush into the park when the gates open to get a spot at First Treasures on Saturday, a special patron tent for kids 4-13 years old. Participants can select hundreds of items priced from $1 to $5, provided by exhibiting artists. “This program helps kids learn the power of patronage,” said Hammerschmidt. “Some kids who have aged out of the program are now regular patrons in the art show.” She also stated that sales are among the most important factors in artists choosing to come to the Festival.

Saturday Night features the alternative rock band Welshly Arms playing diverse music with rock, gospel, and blues influences. The Cleveland, OH group has been used by major brands, including ESPN, MLB, NFL, NASCAR, and films such as Underground 6.

Festival staff announced a variety of changes for Sunday, including a strong local flavor in music, a less hectic environment, and a unique scavenger hunt featuring 100 hand-painted dragonflies that will be hidden throughout the park. Kansas City - based painter and illustrator Evan “Doodle Dood” Brown is painting a flight of colorful metal dragonflies. Additionally, ten dragonflies will be hidden in the park on Friday and Saturday, giving attendees a sneak peek at the creations.

Food Row will feature ten new food vendors and some returning favorites throughout the weekend. Unique fares include Moink Balls, a Fried Lasagna Sandwich, Cotton Candy, and Picklepenos.

The Festival’s new brand, designed by Salina graphic artist Eric Montoy, is featured on this year’s Festival t-shirt. The gradient-colored shirts are available in the Salina Arts & Humanities offices, online, or at the Festival.

In addition to art, food, music, and activities for kids, the Smoky Hill River Festival relies on approximately 2,000 volunteers each year. “Volunteers are the backbone of the Festival,” commented Executive Director Brad Anderson. “We need help with hospitality, in Artyopolis, in technical areas, and at the gates. It’s a great way for people to help the community and keep costs down,” he said.

Other highlights include mobility scooters available to rent, a courtesy golf cart shuttle service around the park by Presbyterian Manor,

*Admission to the River Festival is by weekend wristband ($15 in advance, $20 at the gate) available in many local locations and regional cities starting Monday, May 1, or by daily wristband ($10, sold only at the gate). Children 11 and under get in free. See a list of all local or regional wristband retailers at: https://www.riverfestival.com/participating-retailers/. General Festival hours are Thursday, June 9, from 4 pm to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday, from 10 am to 10 pm, and Sunday, June 12, from 10 am to 5 pm.

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