Sunday, December 21, 2014

Organizer aims for new family friendly community event

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 5/2/2014

Shawn Dickinson wants to start a new tradition in Ottawa — one that builds on the success of the popular tractor and car shows in the fall, but also offers something new.

The community is ripe, he said Friday, for a family friendly festival focused on the arts.

Shawn Dickinson wants to start a new tradition in Ottawa — one that builds on the success of the popular tractor and car shows in the fall, but also offers something new.

The community is ripe, he said Friday, for a family friendly festival focused on the arts.

Dickinson, the featured speaker at First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa, is organizing the Swan Arts Festival, a free summertime event slated for June 20-22 at Ottawa’s City Park, Fifth and Main streets.

“We [already] have some great events here,” Dickinson, who also serves as an Ottawa city commissioner, said. “I don’t think they are considered community events in the same way that you have people coming out in that community aspect. So that’s something we wanted to take on.”

The festival was named after the large white bird because the image of swans is commonly used throughout Ottawa, Franklin County and even areas outside the county, Dickinson said. Because the Marais des Cygnes River, which translates to English as “Marsh of the Swans,” runs through Ottawa, swans are a symbol for the region, he said.

“If you look around town we have swans in a lot of logos,” Dickinson said. “The swan is really an imagery that has been a part of our community and our area for a long time. The swan doesn’t just represent Ottawa, it’s a regional thing. We really want this festival to grow to a regional thing that is not just Ottawa and not just Franklin County, but can grow into something that is bigger as well.”

The festival is planned at City Park so attendees will be close to downtown, which is a prized jewel of the city, Dickinson said, and that could translate to increased sales for downtown merchants.

The arts festival has three main goals for 2014: to highlight regional art and artists, raise awareness of art and culture in the area and establish a family friendly summer festival for the area to build and grow for the future, Dickinson said.

Dickinson hopes to develop the Swan Art Festival to the size of the Smoky Hills River Festival, which has grown over the past 40 years in Salina, he said. Salina officials estimate $3.5 million is spent by visitors during the festival, Dickinson said, with $20 million going into the Salina community through art institutions.

“This shows that a festival can be very meaningful,” he said.

Dickinson showed images from the Smoky Hills River Festival, which featured large art structures and people congregating together to view musical acts. Through the years, he said, although people might not consider Salina as an artistic community, the city has been able to sustain many art institutions throughout town.

“That’s not all going to happen this year,” Dickinson said of the Swan festival and its relation to Ottawa. “Don’t expect to see all those installations and all of those things. We know it’s not going to happen in the first two years, five years or even 10 years. They’re 40 years in, they know how to do this. They’ve created a great system. We have to figure out how this works for us.”

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