We wanted to come back hot…we wanted to make sure we had a really great line-up this year and we came back strong.

Cole Bawek

Director of Public Relations, Ashley For The Arts

On this episode, we chatted with Cole Bawek, Director of Public Relations for Ashley For The Arts, we discussed the music line-up for this family friendly arts festival, we learned about what makes this festival go and how they give back, year after year. We also discuss what else is happening at this year’s festival and where people can find out more.


Amy Gabay 00:09
The River Travel Podcast is about travel stories along America’s rivers and the road trips that will take you there. Come with us as we chat with festivals, attractions, eateries and destinations that call river valleys home. Come for a visit and find out more at rivertravelmagazine.com.

Brent Hanifl 00:31
We’re chatting with Cole from Ashley For The Arts taking place August 12th, 13th and 14th in Arcadia, Wisconsin. It’s basically back after a break in 2020. Cole, how does it feel?

Cole Bawek 00:42
It feels good. I mean, there’s always that concern to make sure that you’re operating safe. But yeah, having a year off, it was certainly different. I mean, we’ve been in this festival for years since 2009. And to take a year off, it was a little bit different. But I suspect it was no different for most people around the world that this past year in 2020 was a little bit different than anybody could have anticipated or planned for. But you just roll with it and, you know, planning ahead for 2021, it feels great. It feels like we’re getting to that, back to that sense of normalcy. And we’re really excited to you know, bring an amazing festival back 2021.

Brent Hanifl 01:22
Yeah, it was like a big intermission for festivals and music events, you know, throughout the world. You’re definitely jumping right back into it. Can you tell us about the lineup that you have this year?

Cole Bawek 01:31
Yeah. So this year, I mean, we want to come back hot, right? You know, Ashley For The Arts, you know, is a nonprofit festival, and we raise funds for more than 60 nonprofit organizations. And, you know, by having this year off, we also realize that, you know, we weren’t able to support those area, you know, community organizations that we typically do. So we wanted to make sure that we had a really great lineup this year, and we came back strong. So, on Friday of Ashley For The Arts our headliner is Toby Keith. Right in front of Toby Keith at the eight o’clock spot is Kip Moore. Then we have Foreigner, Jefferson Starship that’s opening up. And then on Saturday, we’re coming back just as strong as Friday. We have Claire Dunn opening at four o’clock, six o’clock we have Switchfoot, eight o’clock, we have Barenaked Ladies. And closing out at 10 o’clock for a headliner is Little Big Town.

Brent Hanifl 02:25
Yeah, you really packed it in over those, you know, those few days. I can just try to imagine putting a show like this together, especially during a pandemic in 2021. What does it take to put this together? I mean, you talked about the different groups that participate. I mean, you must have an army of volunteers that help with the festival.

Cole Bawek 02:43
And an army that I would say is an understatement, right? So, I mean, we have a team at Ashley Furniture. So, Ashley Furniture Industries is the host sponsor for Ashley For The Arts. So we have a team here that its kind of a side project. But a lot of times when when we get closer to the events, it feels more full time. That really plans this event year round. I mean, we start planning for the next year, while we’re currently still planning for the year at hand, right? Always looking towards the future. And you know, besides the team that puts on Ashley For The Arts, we also have over 4,000 volunteer shifts that makes this event possible. And we’re able to do that through the local organizations that we support. So our area school districts will have a lot of volunteers as well as some of the other area organizations that we support. It’s kind of a all hands on deck. It’s a community event, because it gives back to the community. So they also help give back to us as well by utilizing their services through volunteerism. So we certainly look forward to that and all the volunteers and efforts that come with it.

Brent Hanifl 03:48
That’s amazing. So many people also think of Ashley For The Arts, they might not just think of it, as you know, just music. You know, you also have a lot of a variety of different events that people can participate. I know my favorite is the Artist Market. Is a lot of that coming back this year?

Cole Bawek 04:04
Yeah, I mean, we’re planning 2021 like we had the event back in 2019. I mean, we were making some changes when we’re planning for 2020, until we had to unfortunately cancel the event due to the pandemic. But we constantly strive to make sure that each year we get a little bit better at what we offer and you’re absolutely right. I mean Ashley For The Arts is a music and art festival, and it’s nonprofit as well as we discussed. So one of the parts of that nonprofit is providing affordable access to the arts. And you’ll see that with our very low admission costs that gains you access into the entire festival, the music, the art and crafts. You know, speaking to what you referenced with the art vendors, I mean we have over 100 art and craft vendors at Memorial Park during Ashley For The Arts in August and it’s an arrangement from art to jewelry to crafts. I mean we’ve had wood carving sculptures that were created. We had a blacksmith as well. I mean, you name it, they come out of the woodwork, so to speak. And they come to the festival. And it’s absolutely amazing. And you can kind of walk through the art craft fair vendor and see something new each year. You get those recurring artists that will come back. But it’s truly remarkable to experience what they showcase.

Brent Hanifl 05:21
You know, I really like that affordable access to the arts, it’s just such a great sort of motto. So when people are, you know, preparing to bring their kids, is there anything they should be concerned about? Or just, you know, to have a fun time? Or should they be taking any precautions, are masks mandatory or anything like that?

Cole Bawek 05:37
Yeah, I mean, this is a fluid situation, just like this, this entire past year 2020 has been. Recommendations continuously change. And it’s something that we’re constantly keeping a pulse on, following the CDC guidelines, you know, following your state and your local guidelines as well. There’s different guidelines, you know, throughout the nation, as we see. You know, every area is a little bit different, you know, given what the times and how things are changing. So, we’re constantly monitoring that and assessing, you know, the things that we have to do. But you know, this is a family friendly event, and we want to make sure that it continues on as being family friendly. And that makes, or ensures that, you know, we want to be safe as well. So we’ll be putting out communications as to you know, what to look forward to. But yeah, certainly, as a family, you want to make sure that you’re going into the event well informed and prepared as to what it will be. You know, this is a large outdoor festival, it’s held at Memorial Park, which is a 54 acre park, so it is outdoors. We’re certainly you know, following the guidance from our local area communities and health officials, just to make sure that we have a safe event for 2021.

Brent Hanifl 06:46
So back to the fun stuff. What are you looking forward to most from this festival?

Cole Bawek 06:51
Honestly, it’s kind of just getting it back. Right? It’s getting back to normal in a sense, or as normal as one can be for this year. And one of the things I truly love about this festival, and it’s really that parody component. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the mainstage entertainment that we have at our event. And you don’t typically see that type of entertainment in a small community like Arcadia, Wisconsin. So Arcadia is a population of about 3,000 people. And you’re bringing in these huge headliners that you typically would have to go to the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Madison, you name it, the larger metropolitan areas to see these bands. But the music and the art is absolutely fantastic. I look forward to it every year. But one of the things I really truly look forward to is at the end of it, you know, seeing how many people have come seeing the faces of the families, you know, at the event, having a blast, whether it’s art, or craft or watching the music, and we have different genres going on. So you and your family may like, one of your family members may like rock music, or the other one might like country you get to see both at our events. And then just knowing that the money that’s raised at our event goes towards those more than 60 nonprofits that we support. I mean, back in 2019, we were able to raise over half a million dollars, and being a part of those check presentations. And knowing what that money goes towards those organizations is really heartwarming. And that’s something I truly look forward to.

Brent Hanifl 08:24
Yeah, for people who haven’t been there before. I mean, I have three small children, so I’m not staying too late for all the big national acts. But just walking and spending a couple of hours walking around, checking out different events. So I mean, it’s definitely an experience for everybody to have. You think you’re just going to a rock show, you know you’re going to some major quality entertainment. So if people want to find out more or grab tickets, where should they head?

Cole Bawek 08:46
Yeah, they can find out more information on our website at ashleyforthearts.com. Otherwise they can also follow us on social media. I mean we have you know Facebook or Instagram you name it, can all drive you towards that website as well to learn about the tickets. Knowing that you can get your ticket in advance and knowing that money goes towards a great cause would certainly be a reason for people to go out and get their tickets now and start planning for an awesome festival here in August.

Amy Gabay 09:17
Experience the great American road trip and take a ride on the nation’s scenic byways and backroads that highlight rivers throughout the United States. Explore the people, places and culture of river towns throughout the US. Visit rivertravelmagazine.com you can subscribe to the River Travel Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

River Travel Podcast

The River Travel Podcast is about Travel stories along America’s rivers and the road trips that will take you there. Come with us as we chat with festivals, attractions, eateries, and destinations that call river valleys home, come for a visit and find out more.

Experience the Great American Road Trip and take a ride on the nation’s scenic byways to back roads that highlight rivers throughout the United States! Explore the people, places, and culture of river towns throughout the US.

You can subscribe to the River Travel Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it!