35th Jam Kicks Off 45th River Festival

A large crowd gathered in Salina’s Oakdale Park Thursday to be a part of the official opening event of the 2021 Smoky Hill River Festival. Though it got cut short, the Festival Jam officially started the annual party in the park.

The Jam wasn’t scheduled to start until 6:00. But there were fans waiting when the gates opened at 4:00. Within a matter of minutes, many people were already claiming their favorite spots. The crowd braved a wet evening.

Salina Arts and Humanities Executive Director Brad Anderson tells KSAL News the weather obviously was a factor at the event in which 3,426 people attended. Thunderstorms threatened all evening, and by around 8:00 with rain moving in and lightning in the area, out of an abundance of caution organizers pulled the plug and sent everyone home.

The headliner acts on the Eric Steins Stage for this the 45th-anniversary River Festival are:

  • Friday night: Cowboy Mouth, a rowdy alternative-rock band from New Orleans that last mesmerized audiences at the 2001 River Festival. Cowboy Mouth is back with their high-energy performance and unique blend of pop, big-easy blues, soul, punk, and redemptive rock ‘n’ roll. The band takes the stage on Friday, September 3 at 8:30 p.m.  https://www.cowboymouth.com/
  • Saturday night: Phantom Blues Band, an internationally renowned, two-time Grammy Award-winning group. This Los Angeles-based band explores everything from Texas blues to Memphis soul, with an injection of reggae for good measure. Phantom Blues Band will headline on Saturday, September 4 at 8:30 p.m. https://www.thephantombluesband.com/
  • Sunday afternoon: Sunset Sinners, a collection of four of the region’s finest musicians, playing whisky-barrel rock and a fusion of Southern and ‘70’s rock with red dirt country. The Sinners have a high-energy show, performing originals along with Sinnerized classics. They will perform on Sunday, September 5 at 3:30 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/Sunsetsinnerssalina/

River Festival, 45th-anniversary style, features four live stages, 150 visual artists, 30-plus Food Row vendors, a vibrant Artyopolis kid’s area and more. With more than 300 sponsoring families and businesses and 2,000 volunteers, the Smoky Hill River Festival is a success story in partnerships that produce an award-winning arts celebration each year, for thousands to enjoy.

With the current resurgence of COVID, safety changes have been identified and will be implemented for Festival 2021. Among other things, masks will be required in some areas, and strongly encouraged in areas where they are not required.


Photos by Tanner Colvin