KEARNY — The second annual Gila River Music Festival runs this weekend, and this year, attendees will notice some changes.
“This festival is bigger and better than last year,” said Jamie Ramsey, mayor of Kearny and one of the organizers of the event. “This festival is something that I am really passionate about. Getting people to Kearny to see this beautiful little town is very important for our community. Small towns are rare gems.”
Kearny worked with the nonprofit Arizona Rural Arts Foundation to create the event last year as a way of promoting the town and highlighting its beauty and history.
In its first year, so many people attended that the General Kearny Inn was sold out for the weekend.
“Local businesses benefited from increased sales and the town saw increased tax revenue. We expect the same impact locally this year,” Ramsey said.
This year, the two-day music festival will take place at the private Frances and Buddy Blake Arena (also known as the Sheriff’s Posse Arena), 1545 Veterans Way in Kearny.
“It’s still within Kearny, but it’s just on the edge,” Ramsey said.
The new, larger location will allow the festival to spread out and offer more of everything festival attendees expect.
“There will be more vendors, food trucks and information booths,” Ramsey said.
Among the mobile eateries offering food, beverages and treats are One Hot Mess, Dayeli’s Mexican Food, El Pastorcito Tacos and Maui Wow.
Some of the vendors signed on to offer a unique shopping experience to festival attendees are CactusDaisy Creations, spinners from American Windspinners, JMKJ’s Cool Stuff, Bela Flores Designs, Ranch Girl Gear and others.
While several new artists join the musical lineup this year, some of last year’s popular musicians will return to entertain crowds again this year, including Sydney Swanson, Traveler, Reckless Envy, Tequila Moon and Jahlos.
Music begins at 11 a.m. Friday with performers:
- Alex Hernandez, Elvis impersonator, at 11 a.m.
- Sydney Swanson, noon
- Blues guitarist Aaron McCall, at 1 p.m.
- Mar, Dee and The Buzz, at 5 p.m.
- Tequila Moon, 6 p.m.
- Reckless Envy, from Reno, Nevada, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, music also begins at 11 a.m. with the following acts set to perform:
- Eddie Gutierrez, 11 a.m.
- Traveler, the world fusion group, featuring the fiddling front man Scott Jeffers, at 2 p.m.
- Latin sensation Powerdrive, at 4 p.m. with cumbias
- Nashville recording artist Matt Farris, 6 p.m.
- Ashley Wineland, 8 p.m.
- Jahlos and the Rebels, 10 p.m.
“This is going to be the biggest party that the rodeo arena has seen in a very long time,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey suggests attendees bring a chair and enjoy the music and the beautiful setting.
“The Gila River Music Festival features a diverse lineup of musical talent, food trucks, vendors and artists,” Ramsey said. “Sit outdoors and enjoy the atmosphere or take a dip in the Gila River.”
The event is open to all ages.
Camping is also available. Because the event is on private property this year, alcohol will be allowed although it will not be sold at the festival. Attendees may bring their own alcoholic beverages that are not in glass bottles.
Supporters of the event are Pinal County Tourism, Arizona Commission for the Arts and Resolution Copper.
“The town sits in a valley at the base of the majestic Pinal Mountain range and the Gila River runs along the edge of the town,” a press release from festival organizers said. “Enjoy tree-lined streets, mountain views, a lake, parks, several restaurants, hiking and OHV trails.”
Tickets may be purchased online at www.gilarivermusicfestival.com.
“This year we are allowing local band students from the school free entry so that they can enjoy the diverse musical experience. Like last year, it is for all ages. The focus is on musical entertainment, diversity, culture and the arts,” Ramsey said.