Ashley for the Arts event attracts 50,000 people, raises $700,000

ARCADIA, Wis. – Ashley for the Arts has wrapped up another blockbuster weekend of family fun and live entertainment in Arcadia. The annual, three-day music and arts festival took place Aug. 10-12 and attracted some 50,000 fans who got to experience a world-class lineup of performers, enjoy access to arts and craft vendors, as well as rows of food vendors, an inflatable air park, a lumberjack show, street performers, fireworks and much more.

The annual event, which debuted in 2009 as the brainchild of Ron Wanek, chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries, culturally enriches the community and raises money to support more than 70 nonprofit organizations that participate.

“The arts have the power to enhance society with extraordinary grace and incalculable value,” said Todd Wanek, chief executive officer of Ashley.  “This year’s event raised a record-setting $700,000 and since its inception, I am delighted to report that Ashley for the Arts has raised $3 million to support these deserving groups and organizations.”

“Once again, the stunning 54-acre Memorial Park here was transformed into a premier music and art hot spot. From the second you walked onto the grounds, you were immersed with the fun of entertainment and activities for the whole family,” said Cole Bawek, event director. “We are very thankful to everyone who supported Ashley for the Arts this year and helped us to achieve our goal to have another record-breaking year.” 

The festival kicked off Thursday evening with performances by The Whitesidewalls Rock ‘N’ Roll Revue, Blondie Blue and Restless Road, as well as fireworks and the Pursuit of a Cure Glow Run.

Nearly 300 participants showed up in their neon best, adorned with glow accessories to run for the cause. They were met at the finish line with a pool of yellow glow foam. Proceeds raised from the Glow Run, luminaria sales and the charity raffle support the advancement of medical research and help to offset medical-related costs that families incur during medical emergencies. Guests also joined in the dedication ceremony of a War Dog Memorial monument, the newest installation to Soldiers Walk Memorial Park.

Despite a weather delay on Friday, the weekend brought in steady crowds of excited fans and the show went on. Memorial Park Drive was lined with over 100 craft fair vendors that displayed, sold and demonstrated their skills and unique works of art. The walkway housed Ashley Furniture’s “Ashley Zone,” which highlighted a variety of the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives: Heartworks, City of Hope, Trempealeau Valley Co-op’s Mobile Skills Lab, Ashley’s Angels, conservation efforts, Wreaths Across America, and local middle and high school robotics teams.  

Throughout the course of the festival, children and families were able to enjoy family-friendly entertainment including an inflatable air park, interactive art, a petting zoo, bingo, lawn games and more — all of which was included in the low-cost admission. Friday fans were also treated to a military flyover courtesy of the F-35A Lightning II from the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Weekend festivities continued with entertainment from street performers, balloon artists, an extreme juggling show, Painting in the Park with Cheers Pablo, 10 local school performances and three side stages full of music and family entertainment. Timberwork’s Lumberjack Show performed an art straight out of Wisconsin’s Northwoods’ logging history. Food vendors provided hungry festivalgoers with an abundant choice of tasty snacks and meals.

Main Stage performances included OneRepublic, REO Speedwagon, Jake Owen, Tyler Hubbard, Trace Adkins, Walk the Moon, Raelynn and Sawyer Brown. Festivalgoers jammed out to a variety of classic rock, pop and country shows. OneRepublic wrapped up the festival with a performance of Counting Stars under a beautiful Wisconsin star-filled sky.

While already busy planning for next year’s event, Todd Wanek took a moment to reflect on how dramatically Ashley for the Arts has grown each year.

“In 2009, when we launched Ashley for the Arts, we had 300 people attend. And while it grew each year, in 2014, we decided to pull out all the stops and we brought in the Beach Boys to perform. It was incredibly successful and allowed us to donate some $60,000 in 2014 to the local communities that volunteered.”

Wanek explained that if a school was trying to raise money for new band equipment or gear for any of its sports teams, the students and their parents would volunteer to work at Ashley for the Arts and in return, the event would help raise money for those needs.  “And, as this is nonprofit, the proceeds would go directly to them. So back at our first big event in 2014, we were able to contribute $60,000 back to those local schools,” he said.

Observers agree that Ashley for the Arts represents the ultimate win/win/win/win. The community gets the benefits of an amazing annual event, local artists and craftspeople get to share their work with huge audiences, worthwhile groups, both local and national, reap the benefits of generous donations and contributions from the event, and Ashley, as a brand, benefits as well.

“Ashley for the Arts helps raise the visibility of the company and allows us to help make people more aware of all the facets our company,” Wanek said, adding, “We are well known for being a great employer, but this event has done a lot to show people the true depth and breadth of who we are.”

As a longtime advocate and user of state-of-the-art technology, Ashley also utilizes this event to set up tents and education trailers to highlight and explain its technology, engineering and math learning initiative that exposes thousands of students to technical trades and the associated career opportunities with hands-on classroom projects.

The company said that it was grateful to all the fans who have attended the event and have supported Ashley’s goal of raising generous amounts of money for the community. It also recognized and thanked the corporate sponsors for making this event possible, providing affordable access to music and arts for the entire weekend.

Ashley’s Cole Bawek added, “With the help of volunteers who filled nearly 4,000 shifts as well as the support of emergency service and security personnel, Ashley for the Arts was able to put on this one-of-kind event.”

The company says interested parties should save the date for the 2024 event, set for Aug. 8-10 in Arcadia.

For additional information on Ashley for the Arts, visit

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