After a historic year in 2014 and an even larger anticipated attendance in 2015, one of Wisconsin’s largest charitable events has made significant improvements to its guest accommodations. Ashley for the Arts – the popular music and art fest that features two days of world-class art and entertainment and family-friendly activities for only $5 – has seen steady growth in attendance since its inception in 2009. Last year’s event featured “The Beach Boys” and drew a record-setting 20,000 people at Arcadia’s Memorial Park.
Ashley Furniture CEO Todd Wanek said, “Words cannot express our gratitude for the financial support of the event sponsors and the time, energy, and effort that more than 700 volunteers put forth to make this such a special event. Together, they have helped provide families with affordable access to world-class art and entertainment while raising funds for local schools, children’s charities, medical research and area cancer patients who are having trouble paying for their treatments.”
“We feel that we need to show our patrons that we are committed to making their experience a more enjoyable one each and every year,” explained Jason Lockington, event coordinator. “Last year’s event exposed some cracks in our armor and we are implementing improvements to address each of those opportunities this year.”
The event’s self-described “guest-centered focus” includes six key initiatives for 2015.
Its first order of business was to add a new and improved stage for its headline entertainment to accommodate its growing annual attendance. After a six-year run in the magnificent Memorial Park Millennium Amphitheater, the record turnout for last year’s event overwhelmed the facility and warranted a move to Memorial Park’s South Field. Unlike the amphitheater and pavilion facilities (where seating is provided), guests will need to bring lawn chairs if they want to sit while watching the main stage performances. In addition to the “lawn seating” area, there will also be a sizeable “standing stage view” area for fans to get an up close and personal look at this year’s headline entertainment. The Millennium Amphitheater and Pavilion stages will continue to feature entertainment throughout the two-day event, as well.
People will not have far to walk or long to wait to enjoy this year’s event.
Due to the popularity of last year’s event, Ashley for the Arts has doubled the number of food and beverage stands, and picnic tables on the event grounds. Locally raised Gold’n Plump chicken will be grilled and served from North America’s largest chicken pit positioned in the middle of the park along Soldiers Walk. All remaining food vendors will be positioned along South Memorial Park Drive, where they will be allowed more space to provide more efficient service. Only pedestrians will be allowed on this road.
A third priority was to provide additional parking lots and bus shuttle services, with stops every 10-15 minutes at designated locations within Arcadia and every 30 minutes at Trempealeau County’s Pietrek Park.
In conjunction with this effort, Pietrek Park is adding more than 200 sites in response to the large number of requests for RV and tent camping sites the week of the event. The park is just 10 minutes from Arcadia’s Memorial Park. To reserve a site, campers are being directed to call the Trempealeau County Clerk’s office at 715-538-2311, extension 201.
A fifth priority was to move Pursuit of a Cure’s annual 5K run/walk event (along with its basket raffle, and opening and closing ceremonies) to Thursday, August 6, from its traditional Friday date – in order to provide a safer and more enjoyable experience for its participants. The event raises funds for the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Rita Tranberg Memorial and OLPH Mission.
Finally, Ashley for the Arts will be showcasing a larger number of local and nationally-renowned music performers, side attractions (including Wild West-themed entertainers), and art and craft vendors.
Although the headliners for this year’s Ashley for the Arts will not be announced until Saturday, May 9, the event has already announced that it will feature music performances by California folk singer Sean Hayes, Cloud Cult, The Mondays, Them Coulee Boys, Midwest festival favorite Johnny Holm Band, Sidewynder River Rattler Band, nationally recognized four-string quartet Artaria, The Memories, The Riverbenders, Big River Radio Wave, Madi Marie Carlson, Amanda Grace, and Latin Grammy nominee Los Creadorez del Pasito Duranguense. In addition to Arcadia’s Elementary Choir, high school music performances will be provided on Friday and Saturday by Arcadia’s A Cappella Choir and band, Blair-Taylor’s Belltallica, Eleva-Strum’s band and choir, G-E-T’s Vocal Point and band; the Independence music department; Osseo-Fairchild’s jazz band and choir; and Whitehall’s band and choir. Sara Marie Mullen will also perform the harp on Friday and Saturday throughout the grounds, showcasing her beautiful personal and playful style of music and storytelling. A Mexican Dance group dressed in traditional attire will perform two different times on Saturday, as well.
A wide variety of Wild West-themed entertainers will perform and interact with the crowd throughout the two-day event. Featured performers include The Clan Tynker, a five-person act that performs a stunning array of talents in a fanciful “Vaudeville” style of circus. The Clan Tynker’s talents were showcased in Ron Howard’s film “The Missing” as well as the movie “Beer for my Horses” starring Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Toby Keith and Rodney Carrington. Based out of Santa Fe, N.M., they have added their unique talents to festivals throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Additional Wild West entertainment includes a slow motion gun fight, flaming guns, lasso and whip tricks, a living statue, and a Wild West scavenger hunt. Balloon sculptors Jason Love and Lochland Masters, Oh No the Miltown Clown, Pinkerton Xyloma, and old man Wild West trickster Murphy McGuckin will entertain audiences throughout the grounds. Children will be provided with free giveaways and prizes.
In addition to its music and entertainment acts, Ashley for the Arts will also feature its customary art and craft show, a car show, an air park, interactive art activities, a run/walk event, a bike race, a children’s obstacle course, hot air balloons and an unforgettable fireworks show.
Among his many philanthropic contributions, Ron Wanek, Ashley Furniture’s founder and chairman, is the lead benefactor of Memorial Park (www.soldierswalkmemorialpark.com), which serves as the backdrop for the event. The 54-acre park features Soldiers Walk, widely recognized as one of the country’s premier war memorials. Two miles of walkways link different areas of the park, including all event attractions, and food and beverage booths. Featured pieces of local art and history decorate the walkways, showcasing some of the region’s most talented and heroic contributors.
About Ashley for the Arts
Ashley for the Arts provides the entire family with world class entertainment, art, exercise and play; and promotes the works of artists from across the globe. It is a nonprofit organization that is completely dependent on monetary donations, in-kind services and the efforts of its volunteers. Each Ashley for the Arts event serves as a foundation for additional nonprofit organizations, including participating schools, to raise funds in support of humanity. The event was conceptualized and established by Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. (Ashley) in 2009. For more information on Ashley for the Arts, visit www.ashleyforthearts.com. “Like” Ashley for the Arts on Facebook or follow it on Twitter at #AshleyfortheArts.