Smoky Hill River Festival Receives Largest Gift Ever

Salina Arts & Humanities announced that the Smoky Hill River Festival has received a bequest of $321,975 from the Trust of Jeri Sparks, designated for the River Festival Legacy Fund held at the Greater Salina Community Foundation.

Family members presented the check to Salina Arts & Humanities Director Brad Anderson at the GSCF offices on Thursday, December 29. “We are honored and humbled that Jeri would remember the Festival in such a special and generous way,” says Anderson. It is the single largest gift of any kind received by Salina Arts & Humanities since the agency’s founding in 1966.

Sparks moved to Salina in 1986 and discovered the River Festival shortly after arriving. She said it was her favorite community event. Sparks lived just a few blocks north of Oakdale Park, and after a full day in front of one of the stages, she would sometimes go home and enjoy the Festival’s live music from her front porch. When she called SA&H in spring 2014, shortly after the River Festival’s Legacy Fund was established, she told Anderson that she felt it was a wonderful celebration of community ┬áthat she wanted to support for the future. Sparks said the River Festival helped connect her to Salina and was something she looked forward to every year.

“Jeri asked good questions about the endowment and shared her love and appreciation of the Festival during our conversations,” says Anderson, “Her gift helps ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beautiful spirit of the community that is reflected through the arts at the Smoky Hill River Festival.”

Sparks grew up on a farm south of Minneola, KS. After graduating from Brown Mackie College in 1988, she worked at Brown Welding Supply purchased by Airgas USA, LLC she continued in a variety of administrative capacities for the company. Sparks died in March 2016.

“Having a strong endowment helps ensure that the quality and affordability of the Festival is maintained,” said Anderson. In honor of Sparks and her contribution to the River Festival Legacy Fund, a bench will be placed in Oakdale Park near the Eric Stein Stage in time for the 2017 Smoky Hill River Festival in June.