From its humble beginnings as a downtown street fair in 1976, the Smoky Hill River Festival has evolved into one of the Midwest’s most recognized celebrations. The Smoky Hill River Festival Legacy Fund at the Greater Salina Community Foundation began in 2013 and will provide resources to guarantee that the River Festival remains affordable and accessible for years to come. The Fund also will help the Festival become financially self-sufficient, to in turn provide funds to area cultural providers so that the spirit of the Festival may be shared throughout the year.
2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2021 | 2022
The Smoky Hill River Festival wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and support of many individuals, businesses, and organizations. While it isn’t possible to adequately thank the thousands of volunteers, service providers, and donors who support the Festival, the Salina Arts & Humanities Commission recognizes a few each year who have contributed their time, talent, and treasure to the event.
The Family of Tony Buccigrossi
Loreen Buccigrossi and daughters Angela Buccigrossi Schafer and Michelle Buccigrossi Neuschafer, remember their husband and father, Tony, with the first gift to the new Festival Legacy Fund, at the Greater Salina Community Foundation. The Buccigrossi’s were involved in creating and managing the Festival’s first children’s activity area in the mid-’80s and have helped in many other significant ways over the years. Their legacy gift to the Festival helps honor Tony’s life in a very special way and honors their family’s cherished memories. In addition, their Legacy Fund gift opens the door for many others to do the same.
For more than three decades of the Smoky Hill River Festival, Marie has drawn detailed maps to organize the layout of the Festival, including applying the spray paint you see each year marking artist tents and parking, pedestrian walkways, and many other important areas of the Festival. She also provided countless hours of technical support. Marie’s planning and execution were one of many examples of the excellent work done by our volunteers every year. You will be missed, Marie- Happy Retirement!
TIME: Dale Cole & Nancy Scanlan – Gates Committee
Dale Cole has served on the Gates Committee for 37 years, and Nancy Scanlan has served since 1978. They each spend many hours securing 200+ volunteers to welcome guests, sell buttons and distribute Programs throughout Festival weekend. Dale, Nancy, and their committee also provide drinks, assistance to Festival attendees, and coordination of volunteers over four days. Commitment like this is increasingly rare, highly valued, and greatly appreciated.
TALENT: City of Salina Departments
The Smoky Hill River Festival benefits from countless hours of professional service by every department within the City of Salina. The Parks and Recreation staff commit hundreds of hours to groom Festival grounds and provide important support services all weekend long. The Public Works Department ensures that streets are ready for thousands of guests and is responsible for a tremendous amount of heavy lifting, fence barricades and sign installation, and other important services that are often taken for granted. A successful Festival is only possible with the support of so many talented and dedicated City of Salina employees.
TREASURE: Smoky Hill River Festival Legacy Fund
The Smoky Hill River Festival Legacy Fund was recently established to allow everyone to make contributions to help sustain the Festival for future generations. Remembering the River Festival as you plan your estate is a special way to ensure that the excitement, beauty, fun, and celebration of community generated by the Festival lasts for decades to come. Contributions to this fund remain forever protected. Please contact Salina Arts & Humanities with any questions about the Legacy Fund and the many ways to contribute.
TIME: Sharon Benson*
Sharon Benson worked for Salina Arts & Humanities and the Smoky Hill River Festival for twenty years. During that time, she touched thousands of lives as she helped shape entertainment, arts education, and many other areas of the Festival. Staff and volunteers have worked hard to fill the gap left since her passing and deeply value the years of service she provided.
TALENT: Steve Hanson
The Eric Stein Stage features two very talented individuals who have helped shape the Smoky Hill River Festival. They deserve our sincere thanks. This is the 30th year of the Festival Jam sponsored by Steve Hanson and Salina Media Group. What was once an ancillary event has now become inseparable from the Festival and is a wonderful kickoff to the event.
TALENT: Loren Banninger
Loren Banninger has served as the emcee for the main stage for more than thirty-five years. During that time, he helped influence many positive changes to the stage and the Festival. He has the support of his immediate and extended family in the many hours of work involved with managing the stage.
TREASURE: John Gunn of ISG Technologies
John Gunn of ISG Technologies has been an important partner with the Smoky Hill River Festival for many years in various ways. During that time, the company has provided web hosting and design services for the Festival’s web page. He has also been an individual supporter for many years as well.
TIME: Bob Ash
Bob Ash has worked in the Parks Department for the City of Salina for 31 years, 27 of those as Parks Superintendent. He’s overseen numerous improvements and made great efforts to ensure that Salina’s parks are in the best possible condition. During the Festival, his “other duties as assigned” have ranged from retrieving a roving performer’s nervous pigeon high in a tree to thwarting the theft of a vendor’s cash box. Bob will retire at the conclusion of this year’s Festival. His vision, service, and leadership will be greatly missed.
TIME: Mary Lou Schneider
Mary Lou Schneider began delivering Festival admission buttons in 1977 when she worked for Salina Downtown Inc. In 1986, she volunteered to deliver buttons throughout Salina. In the last 39 years, she has delivered more than 700,000 buttons! This year, Mary Lou made sure that 42 local venues had buttons to sell. She has generously donated her time for four decades in service to the community and the Smoky Hill River Festival. Her work is greatly appreciated!
TALENT: Paul Morgan*
Paul Morgan was a Salina-area musician and sound engineer for many years and provided sound for the Art a la Carte program for 25 years. Additionally, he and his sons helped provide sound for Arty’s and Bravo Salina! Stages at the Smoky Hill River Festival. Paul also was a recipient of a Salina Arts & Humanities Horizons Grant that provided equipment that helped him grow professionally. Paul passed away on March 1st of this year. His patience, professionalism, and artistry will be missed.
TREASURE: Jeri Sparks*
Numerous donors have contributed to the Smoky Hill River Festival Legacy Fund held at the Greater Salina Community Foundation through memorial and Match Madness events since its founding in 2014. This year, a special bequest will be received from the Trust of Jeri Sparks, who passed away in March. After moving here in 1986, the River Festival quickly became her favorite event. She expressed appreciation and gratitude for the Festival’s strong sense of community as well as the variety and quality of arts and entertainment. Jeri’s contribution helps ensure that the Festival will continue for generations to come.
TIME: Ron Dankenbring
Ron Dankenbring has been an employee of the Parks Department for more than 30 years and has been an important asset to his department and the Smoky Hill River Festival. Ron’s technical expertise, patience, and strong work ethic have been an important part of the success of the Festival. Over the years, Ron has provided important guidance during the technical planning and assessment after each Festival. Ron’s desire to help the Festival and Salina’s parks be the best possible is greatly appreciated.
TALENT: Dean Kranzler
Dean Kranzler has been involved in every River Festival since 1977. Whether playing with a featured band (or six bands in one year), providing backline instruments to guest musicians, or welcoming visitors with the Acme Fife and Drum group since the early 1980s, Dean brings his positive attitude and wonderful energy to the Festival. “If it’s good for the Festival, then I’m in!” is a Dean Klenda quote that exemplifies the great spirit he brings to the Festival. Thanks, Dean
TREASURE: Salina Regional Health Center
Ever since St. John’s and Asbury hospitals merged, Salina Regional Health Center has provided important human and financial resources for the Smoky Hill River Festival. The Salina Regional Health Foundation has provided important Festival Families First underwriting for many years, to help underserved kids and their families attend the Festival. More than 100 employees donate their time in Artyopolis and the Baby Station all weekend long. ComCare, a division of SRHC, also provides more than 100 volunteers to manage the Festival Fitness Five each year. Thanks to the employees and management of SRHC for supporting the River Festival in so many significant ways.
TIME: Salina Amateur Radio Club and Saline County Emergency Management
The Salina Amateur Radio Club and Saline County Emergency Management have provided important Lost & Found services to the Festival for more than three decades. These well-trained volunteers help find lost items or parents who have wandered away from their children. They also provide important and up-to-date weather information to staff, artists, vendors, and the public throughout Festival week. They operate in organized and efficient ways and are a tremendous asset to the smooth operation of the Festival.
TALENT: Jamie Hall
The Salina Amateur Radio Club and Saline County Emergency Management have provided important Lost & Found services to the Festival for more than three decades. These well-trained volunteers help find lost items or parents who have wandered away from their children. They also provide important and up-to-date weather information to staff, artists, vendors and the public throughout Festival week. They operate in organized and efficient ways and are a tremendous asset to the smooth operation of the Festival.
TREASURE: Earl Bane Foundation
The Earl Bane Foundation has contributed more than $200,000 in financial support for Festival improvements and park enhancements over the last 17 years. This has included ramps, decorations, stages, electrical improvements, and many other amenities that make the River Festival special and Oakdale Park more functional all year long.
TIME: Salina Iron & Metal
KSAL has been providing news, public service announcements, live broadcasts, and in-kind commercial air time for all 43 years of the Smoky Hill River Festival. In addition to KSAL, the Rocking M family of stations and their professional staff are an important resource in sharing the news, stories, and events surrounding each year’s Festival. Their contributions are greatly appreciated.
TREASURE: Danny Huehl, Kansas Homes & Movers
Danny Huehl, owner of Kansas Homes and Movers has provided the Festival headquarters every year of the Smoky Hill River Festival. The homes he brings serve as an office, dressing room, technical and hospitality service, and an important place for volunteers, staff, and committees to find a little relief during Festival week. Renting, shipping, and setting up such a facility can cost in excess of $10,000 each year from other commercial providers, making this a very important contribution.
TIME: Exline, Inc. and the Exline Family
Exline Inc. and the Exline families have supported the Festival for all of its 45 years. They have donated, volunteered, served as an important technical resource, and shared their manufacturing space for Festival storage. The family also has collaborated to create the installation Reinventing the Wheel, designed by David Exline and manufactured at their Salina facility. Thanks to the Exline family and Exline, Inc. team for supporting the Festival and community in such generous ways.
Not pictured: Jerry and Carol Exline, Doug and Anita Exline and their families.
TALENT: Ruby Tilton
Ruby Tilton has been the stage manager of Arty’s Stage for 25 years. During this time, she has shared her talents as a musician, served as a warm and welcoming host to kids and their families, and has been an excellent ambassador to the hundreds of performers who have been on stage. She has provided important insight to Festival staff and committees and helps ensure that the Arty’s Stage is a wonderful place to be.
TREASURE: Kent Fellers
Kent Fellers has been involved in every Smoky Hill River Festival since it began. He volunteered for the setup crew in the early years, assisted with the Festival Fitness Five race when it started and has provided in-kind and financial support through his business, Arrow Printing and Stationery Company. Kent’s dedication and commitment to the River Festival is greatly appreciated.
Ken Jennison spent more than 70 years working in various capacities at KSAL radio, including general manager, until his full retirement in 2020. He was an avid supporter of the greater community during this time, especially the Smoky Hill River Festival. Ken has made a personal donation to the Festival every year since its beginning in 1977 and has a collection of every River Festival commemorative print since 1982.
Ken and his wife June, who died in 2019, donated their collection of Festival prints to Presbyterian Manor in 2014, and he continues to add to the collection every year. Ken’s long legacy of giving and his passion for the Smoky Hill River Festival are greatly appreciated.
First Bank Kansas
Since its first year, First Bank Kansas has supported the Smoky Hill River Festival. Over the last 46 years, First Bank has contributed financially, sponsored the popular sand sculpture, funded and staffed Ident-A-Kid in Artyopolis, and has served as an important button and wristband retailer in Salina and their regional branches throughout Kansas. They also purchase wristbands for their employees who volunteer for the Festival. This level of dedication and support is commendable!
Arts Ever After
The positive spirit of the Smoky Hill River Festival is only possible through the generous support of the community. Ensure the Festival for generations by making a donation or estate gift to the Smoky Hill River Festival Legacy Fund at the Greater Salina Community Foundation. Contact Salina Arts & Humanities to request a copy of Arts Ever After, a special endowment catalog that illustrates the power of your gift.
*denotes a posthumous recognition