Readying for the River Festival

Wednesday was another quiet day in Oakdale Park–mostly. With the exception of machinery and hammering around the park, Wednesday was the last day of quiet before thousands of people from around the county, state, and even some areas of around the world descend upon Salina for another edition of the Smoky Hill River Festival beginning Thursday night.

2023 is the 47th year of the Smoky Hill River Festival that features live music, hundreds of food vendors, and numerous arts and activities stands for people of all ages. Hundreds of workers with the city of Salina and volunteers poured in hours of work putting on the finishing touches for the Festival on Wednesday.

Thursday evening the 37th SM Hanson Music Festival Jam will kick off the 47th Smoky Hill River Festival.  This year’s Jam lineup includes:

  • 5:45 Downtown Funk  – Young musicians from Salina Central High School
  • 6:00 Keep the Change –  This band opened the show last year. A project of Steve Hanson – Abilene high school
    students of Steve Hanson and Dean Kranzler, this 6pc band will play Rock to start our show.
  • 6:15 FedUp – 4pc band from Salina playing Rock. This band played the Jam in 2015 and 2022. The Salina based band has been together for 10 years.
  • 6:30 The Radicles – Salina band playing a mix of eclectic rock. 4pc band you will enjoy.
  • 6:45 Don Wagner & Friends – Don and friends have played the Jam previously – always entertaining with a mix of country, rock, blues, and folk music.
  • 7:00 Jon’Nea Soul New to the Jam – this Wichita based 4pc band will play R&B and Soul music. There is a
    local connection to Salina. We are excited to hear them play at the 37th SM Hanson Festival Jam.
  • 7:15 Ghost Town Revival –  1st time at the Jam for this 5pc band. Salina band playing Classic Rock and blues. Some of these guys have done this before.
  • 7:30 Lix – A band from the past – older now and yet…. This original Salina 3pc band has added a bass player – so make that 4pc. These guys will play classic rock and blues.
  • 7:45 The Opinions – Forty years ago (so they say) these guys formed their band in Salina. Now – they have real jobs and live mostly in the Kansas City area. They played last year and we are glad to have them again.
  • 8:00 Soul Preachers – A Salina 3pc band – they have played the Jam previously, but it has been a few years. They play Roger Miller death shred metal – with Eric Copeland on drums.
  • 8:15 Hey Radio – Wichita based band – these guys lit it up in 2019 and 2022. We look forward to their mix of Skate Punk and Pop (with a little energy).
  • 8:30 Starslinger – New to the Festival Jam. This 3pc band from Hays America has been playing dates around the Midwest for 7 years. Get ready for Alternative/Psych/Space Rock – that’s right!
  • 8:45 Dune Buggy – These guys have played before. This Pet Project consists of 5 members playing together for several years. Their quick set will include Rock & Pop.
  • 9:00 Northcutt – A crowd favorite – 5pc Salina band playing Red-Dirt Country/Rock/Blues.
  • 9:15 Bootleg Mercy This 4pc band rocks! One magazine said “Kick-A__-Rock” from Kansas. These guys have
    multiple Rock Music award nominations. Revamped lineup since their last Jam in 2016 – something to see!
  • 9:30 Steve Hanson & Co. –  The founder – this is their 37 th time at the Jam. Always a variety – always great.
  • 9:45 The Blades – This band has SO MANY great players – it is really hard to count all of the people on stage! We hope to have enough room on stage.

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,

For more information and details or to see volunteer opportunities, visit or call 785-309-5770.