Arts and music festival draws thousands to central Kansas town

Sunday, June 2, 2002

— Blame it on the Smoky Hill River Festival. Hotels in Salina, Lindsborg and Abilene are already booked for next weekend.

The festival, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday at Oakdale Park, typically draws 85,000 visitors, according to festival coordinator Sharon Benson.

"There's not a spare couch in Salina," she said.

Benson said the festival has been successful for 26 years because of the dedication of 2,000 volunteers and the organizers' adherence to the founders' original goals: to build community and to be reflective of Salina and the arts.

Special events include "Trinity," a series of vertical murals made of terra cotta and porcelain tiles with impressions of items found in people's pockets; "Ninety-seven Degrees of Cultural Diversity," a mural that explores the countries on the 97-degree longitude of the globe; Pink Inc., full-body puppetry; The Smoky River Outpost, a multiple-level fort; a storytelling stage; and Word-Jammin' at the Wall, a poetry-making session with the Prairie Poets.

Music includes the Festival Jam, 6 p.m. Friday; Jack Knife and the Sharps, 8:30 p.m. Friday; a big-band dance with Bobby Layne and His Orchestra, 7 p.m. Friday; and Goose Creek Symphony, 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Visual art events include the Fine Art Show, which features Lawrence artist Barbara Jarvis; Four Rivers Craft Market; and art and craft demonstrations.

"The arts and crafts and fine arts shows represent (artists from) 27 to 30 states," Benson said.

Several children's activities and a variety of food vendors also are available.

"Forty percent of the festival's income comes from the buttons," Benson said. "That really allows us to plan for the next festival."