37th Jam Kicks Off 47th River Festival

A large crowd gathered in Salina’s Oakdale Park Thursday to be a part of the official opening event of the 2023 Smoky Hill River Festival. The 37th SM Hanson Festival Jam officially started the 47th annual party in the park.

It was a hot afternoon leading up to the event, but about an hour before showtime a shower rolled through the park and cooled things off.

The Jam is the brainchild of Steve Hanson.

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.

Friday highlights of the Festival include 120 exhibiting artists from 19 states, including 64 first-time artists. 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.

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.

Sunday is the most chill day at the Smoky Hill River Festival. Enjoy no lines at the food vendors or kid’s activities, make your final art purchases, and celebrate Salina’s music scene with local bands.

Salina Arts & Humanities staff have prepared one last scavenger hunt for Festival goers to participate in. Kansas City Artist Evan Brown, AKA Doodle Dood, hand-painted 120 metal dragonflies that will be hidden throughout the park during the Festival, ten on Friday, June 9, ten on Saturday, June 10, and one hundred on Sunday, June 11.

Each dragonfly is a unique design with its own distinct pattern. Some will be easy to find, and some will take more work. They will not be hidden in the formal garden area of the park or inside artists’ booths and displays or on stages.

Once found, come to the “Flight of Dragonflies” mural located on the tennis court fence across from the permanent restrooms and celebrate your discovery. Sign the mural, take a selfie in front of the display, and celebrate your discovery with others. Festival Sponsor BE Wealth invites the dragonfly finders to a special client night party at Kenwood Cove on Sunday night after the Festival.

Music lovers will enjoy local area performers such as Everyday Lights, Taylor Kline featuring Mandy Kary, Thad Beach and The Randy Baldwin Band, who will be performing their original song about Salina during their set. Several musicians originating from the community will be returning during the Festival, including The Gravy Ladles and Dunebuggy, a band made up of members from local favorite Joe’s Pet Project. Howard Mahan & Friends close the Festival at the Eric Stein Stage at 3:30 pm.

Admission to the River Festival is by weekend wristband ($20 at the gate) or daily wristband ($10, sold only at the gate). Children 11 and under get in free. 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. Visit the Festival website for more information, https://www.riverfestival.com/.