Salina moves Smoky Hill River Festival to September

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SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — Mark your calendars for a new month for the popular Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina. It will now be Thursday to Sunday, September 2-5, Labor Day weekend.

The Salina Arts and Humanities consulted with City of Salina staff and officials before making the change. It was originally scheduled for June 10-13.

Uncertainty about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccinations played a part in deciding to move the festival to September. The concern was that public-health conditions might still be in flux in June.

“In these challenging times, with utmost regard for health and safety, we felt this was the most reasonable solution,” says SAH and Festival Executive Director Brad Anderson in a news release. “We had to consider our many Festival attendees and volunteers of all ages, as well as the more than 250 artists, performers and vendors who come from outside Salina. The safety and health of these constituents is important, so we made this decision with them in mind.”

He says having the festival in June might have required more restrictions on activities.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the festival. Visit the Smoky Hill River Festival website or the festival’s Facebook page to learn more about it.

Q&A provided by SAH:

What will be different by September? Festival leadership will work with City and County officials, including the Saline County Health Department and Emergency Management, to prepare a detailed safety plan. Health officials have indicated that mask wearing may still be likely by early fall, but that strict social-distancing guidelines could be lessened for outdoor events. Festival staff and committee leaders will team up to create an event filled with the excitement and anticipation that defines Salina when it’s time each year for the River Festival – a community celebration many know and love.

How does the Festival strengthen Salina? The Smoky Hill River Festival has a national reputation for hospitality and attention to detail. “Holding a well-organized, responsible event three months later will allow staff, volunteers, and guests time to plan for and experience the Festival’s 45th anniversary with the excellence and energy it has demonstrated for years,” says Brad Anderson. “Amenities that Festival-goers are accustomed to, including the shuttle service, can once again be available.” The Festival generates roughly $3.5 million on-site and around town, drawing up to 60,000 attendees from across Kansas and more than 30 states, while boosting local morale and spending.

What’s ahead? Planning for music acts, artists, kid’s activities, food vendors, and more is in full swing. Clear announcements about Festival public-health guidelines will be made prior to Monday, July 26, when weekend-admission wristbands go On Sale statewide. Festival fans will have ample time to schedule vacation days and invite their family and friends, as they look forward to enjoying themselves at the River Festival over Labor Day weekend.

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