Smoky Hill River Festival: My Favorite Festival

By Larry Billinger

Every year, Salina, Kansas, transforms into a hub of music, art, and fun at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Oakdale Park. As someone who has attended this festival since childhood, I can confidently say it’s a highlight of the year for many residents and visitors alike. It’s a time to reconnect with friends, enjoy live music, and let the kids roam free in an entertaining environment. The festival offers endless entertainment with stages featuring different bands, making it the best deal in town. If you’re looking for a relaxing weekend filled with music, art, and good times, this is the place to be. I’d love to see you there!

The Rich History of the River Festival

During Salina’s Bicentennial celebration, the Smoky Hill River Festival started in 1976 as a downtown Street Fair. Its success led to the first official festival in Oakdale Park in June 1977. Over the years, the festival has evolved, adding various attractions such as the Fun Run, children’s Art Participation area, park-and-ride shuttle service, and the popular Festival Jam concert. Notable milestones include the addition of the Big Band Dance in 1987 and the construction of the Oakdale Stage.

The festival’s second decade saw the expansion of the Fine Arts Show and Four Rivers Craft Market, the introduction of large-scale sand sculptures, and the creation of Artists In Action installations. The 1990s brought the Storytelling Stage, the First Treasures program for young art collectors, and the establishment of the Eric Stein Stage in 2006.

Since 2010, the festival has continued to grow, combining art shows and re-envisioning its art-patron programs. Noteworthy acts over the years have included Steep Canyon Rangers, That1Guy, Jakubi, and Larkin Poe. The Smoky Hill River Festival remains a beloved event, welcoming thousands of locals and guests each year.

Festival Overview and Activities

The Smoky Hill River Festival spans four days, filled with activities for all ages. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect:

Festival Dates: June 13-16, 2024 Gate Hours:

  • Thursday: 4 pm – 10 pm
  • Friday: 10 am – 10 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am – 10 pm
  • Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm


  • Advance price (May 1 – June 11): $15 for a 4-day wristband (Children 11 and under get in free)
  • At the gate (after June 11): $20 for a 4-day wristband, $10 for a daily wristband (Children 11 and under get in free)

Good Neighbor Park Policy:

  • Blankets and chairs cannot be left overnight.
  • No one is allowed on the steps of the Eric Stein Stage except for festival staff and crew.
  • Please place trash or recycling in marked receptacles.

Music Highlights

The festival features countless musical experiences, with notable performers such as Monophonics, William Beckmann, and Papa Green Shoes. Here’s the detailed band schedule:

Thursday – Festival Jam

TimeEric Stein Stage
5:45 PMSalina South Jazz Band
6:00 PMVisual Lies
6:15 PMDowntown Funk
6:30 PMDon Wagner & Friends
6:45 PMLix
7:00 PMKing Tones
7:15 PMFed Up
7:30 PMHey Radio (YouTube)
7:45 PMSoul Preachers (YouTube)
8:00 PMDrop Everything (YouTube)
8:15 PMKyndred (YouTube)
8:30 PMHyWay 14 (YouTube)
8:45 PMBootleg Mercy (YouTube)
9:00 PMDunebuggy (YouTube)
9:15 PMLove Like War (YouTube)
9:30 PMSM Hanson Band
9:45 PMThe Blades (YouTube)


TimeEric Stein StageStage IIArty’s Stage
11:00 AMSalina Municipal BandTaylor Kline and Mandy KaryThad Beach
12:00 PMPretend FriendBarnaby BrightDuke Otherwise
1:00 PMCordovasWildermissHappy Faces Entertainment
2:00 PMScott MulvahillLewis-Nall Jazz QuintetFlint Hills Fairies
3:00 PMSuperfónicosThe Freedom AffairJason D’Vaude
4:00 PMBarnaby BrightPretend FriendDrum Safari
5:00 PMWildermissScott MulvahillRichard Renner
6:00 PMDraper Family BandSuperfónicosDuke Otherwise
7:00 PMThe Freedom AffairCordovas
8:30 PMMonophonics


TimeEric Stein StageStage IIArty’s Stage
11:00 AMSalina Municipal BandJohn DepewDuke Otherwise
12:00 PMThe Freedom AffairZach MeadowsHappy Faces Entertainment
1:00 PMBarnaby BrightScott MulvahillFlint Hills Fairies
2:00 PMThe BladesCordovasRichard Renner
3:00 PMWildermissSuperfónicosDuke Otherwise
4:00 PMZach MeadowsHouse of ArtifactsDrum Safari
5:00 PMCordovasThe Freedom AffairHappy Faces Entertainment
6:00 PMScott MulvahillBarnaby BrightJason D’Vaude
7:00 PMSuperfónicosWildermiss
8:30pmWilliam Beckmann


TimeEric Stein StageStage IIArty’s Stage
11:00 AMSalina Youth Choir with Special Guests Don Wagner Trio80 Proof AliceDuke Otherwise
12:00 PMZach MeadowsJosué Estrada BandJason D’Vaude
1:00 PMCordovasEveryday LightsFlint Hills Fairies
2:00 PMRandy Baldwin BandCash Hollistah & FriendsHappy Faces Entertainment
3:30 PMPapa Green ShoesZach MeadowsDrum Safari Presents: Arty’s BIG Party

Art and Craft Show

The Fine Art and Craft Show is a must-see, with nationally known artists offering affordable, high-quality original artwork. This relaxed, shaded venue is perfect for browsing and purchasing art.

Food and Drinks

With over 30 food vendors, the festival offers a wide array of delicious options. Here’s the complete list of food vendors and their type of cuisine:

Vendor NameFood Type
Dennis ConcessionsCorn Dogs
BBQ’s Roll n SmokeBBQ
Big G’sBourbon Chicken, Rice & Beans
Bongo Fruit SmoothiesSmoothies
Brazita Bites Taste of BrazilCoxinha
Bucket List BBQBBQ
Cactus JacksVarious
Cappuccino ConnectionsCoffee
Chapmans Take AwayVarious
Chubbs & SpuddsDeep-Fried Pickles
Dippin’ DotsIce Cream
Dusek Funnel CakesFunnel Cakes
Fargo FilliesVarious
Fresh Wisconsin Cheese CurdsCheese Curds
German KitchenBrautwurst
Honey & Rue’sFruit Pizza
Hot off the PressVarious
Indian TacoTacos
King’s Candy ShopCotton Candy Cake
Ma-Ma C’s Meat and Sweet PiesPies
Mac Daddy’sMac & Cheese
Makin’ Sweet DoughApple Pie Mini Donuts
Midstate CookersPulled Pork Nachos
MMM RootbeerRoot Beer
Okoboji Soda CompanySoda
Old Time Ice CreamIce Cream
Pacific Rim NoodlesNoodles
Pop’s Kettle CornKettle Corn
Roasted Corn StandRoasted Corn
Russ & Annie’sLoaded Fries
Sam & Louie’s Mobile PizzeriaPizza
Seafood MarketSeafood
SnoasisDole Whip
Snowie BusSnow Cones
Tacos Food TruckTacos
Tad’s Bodacious BurritosBurritos
Texas Twister DrinkTwister Drink
The Parthenon / Papa’s Greek FoodGreek Food

Kids’ Activities

Artyopolis is a magical area for kids, featuring Creation Crossing, Game Street, Button Boulevard, Paintchoo Plaza, Lego Lane, and more. Here’s a list of all the kids’ activities:

  • Creation Crossing: Free take-and-make art projects
  • Paintchoo Plaza: Colorful airbrushed tattoos
  • Button Boulevard: Create a one-of-a-kind wearable button
  • Construction Junction: Child-directed play area with recyclables
  • Arty’s Stage: Performing arts for the young and young-at-heart
  • Game Street: Family-friendly activities that are physically engaging
  • Lego Lane: Endless build-and-play fun with Legos
  • First Treasures: Artwork for children ages 4-13, priced at $5 or less
  • Ident-A-Kid: Free child’s I.D. bracelet for safety
  • Sound Garden: Musical sculptures for kids to experiment with music and rhythm
  • Baby Station: A spot to change a diaper, feed your baby, or give your little ones a break from the sun and heat

Artyopolis Operating Hours:

  • Friday: 10 am – 6 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm (First Treasures 10:30 am – 2:30 pm)
  • Sunday: Noon – 4 pm

Visitor Information

Parking and Shuttles: Parking is available near Tony’s Pizza Events Center and the festival’s general vicinity. Free shuttle services are provided from the Tony’s Pizza Events Center parking lot to the festival grounds.


  • EMS First Aid Center
  • Baby Station
  • Lost & Found / Lost Children
  • Information Booths
  • Public Restrooms
  • ATMs

Pre-Festival Activities

Festival Medallion Quest: Starting on May 15th, the Festival Medallion Quest is a treasure hunt where a hand-crafted medallion is hidden somewhere in Salina. Clues are released until the medallion is found.

Festival Jam: On Thursday, June 13, from 6 pm to 10 pm at the Eric Stein Stage, the Festival Jam features 16 bands of various musical styles, each performing for 15 minutes.

Art Patron Premiere Party: On Thursday, June 13, from 7 pm to 9 pm, the party features live jazz music, food, and beverages. Art patrons can buy artwork before the public Fine Art Show & Four Rivers Craft Show opening.


The Smoky Hill River Festival is more than just an event; it’s a beloved tradition that brings people together to celebrate art, music, and community. Whether you’re a long-time attendee like me or a first-time visitor, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From the diverse musical acts and mouth-watering food options to the engaging kids’ activities and stunning art displays, the festival offers a rich experience that captures the spirit of Salina. So, grab your wristbands, pack a blanket, and come join the fun. You won’t want to miss it!

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