Ashley Furniture has made a habit of giving back to the communities in which it operates. From supporting local disaster-relief initiatives to ensuring that all children can enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep, the company has drawn on the support and generosity of its employees to make a variety of positive changes in the world.
One of Ashley Furniture’s largest charitable endeavors is Ashley for the Arts. A multiday extravaganza of fun, creativity, and generosity, Ashley for the Arts has quickly become one of the largest charity events in the state of Wisconsin, bringing together tens of thousands of people from across the Midwest for several worthwhile causes.
What is it?
Ashley Furniture established Ashley for the Arts to unlock the powerful potential of the creative community to enrich the wider world. Since 2009, the annual music and arts festival has welcomed as many as 30,000 people to Soldiers Walk Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wisconsin—a small town of just under 3,000 people—for a weekend of art, music, and family fun.
Soldiers Walk Memorial Park, the biggest memorial park outside of the nation’s capital, encompasses 54 sprawling acres of open green spaces and winding pathways. Made possible in large part by the generosity of Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., founder Ron Wanek, it is also the site of the Avenue of Heroes, which features statues honoring America’s veterans and prominent historical figures.
The park’s beautiful and expansive grounds are the perfect setting for all that Ashley for the Arts has to offer. For three days, attendees of all ages flock to the park to view performances by local and nationally renowned artists, peruse arts and crafts, enjoy food and drinks, and take part in fun outdoor activities. Soldiers Walk Memorial Park boasts four performance venues, the largest of which is capable of accommodating over 20,000 people. The park’s Millennium Amphitheater and Pavilion house smaller performances, while two Air Parks feature a number of unique attractions, including inflatable bounce houses and a hot-air balloon launch. There is also a car show and a youth obstacle course, as well as a Saturday-night fireworks display.
Ashley for the Arts is firmly rooted in the principles of family and community; the festival features creative works by students from numerous regional school districts, and events benefiting a variety of charitable causes dot its schedule. Moreover, the festival is extremely affordable. Tickets for the entire three-day event, including access to all performances and activities, are just $10.
Ashley for the Arts is much more than a celebration of art and creativity; it is also a platform through with communities can come together to support one another. In fact, it has grown to become one of the largest charity events in the state, raising over $300,000 each year to benefit more than 25 nonprofit organizations, such as Ashley for the Arts’ partner schools, children’s charities, and community-based organizations. The event also benefits medical-sector nonprofits, including research organizations and groups providing financial assistance to fund treatment for patients with serious diseases.
One of the prominent charity events that takes place during Ashley for the Arts is the Pursuit of a Cure 5K and Miracle Mile Run-Walk. Open to runners in several age divisions for a small fee, the event allows participants to donate 100 percent of their registration costs to the charitable organization of their choice. In 2016, this event raised more than $18,000 for groups like the American Cancer Society, the Arcadia Ambulance Service, and the Rita Tranberg Memorial.
Ashley for the Arts also seeks to support charitable endeavors on the individual level. Through an annual humanitarian award program, the event organizers recognize local heroes from a number of Wisconsin school districts, whose dedication and generosity have made their neighborhoods more enriching places to live, learn, work, and play. Individuals receive this special honor during sporting events at their schools, which also receive monetary awards. Ashley for the Arts’ humanitarian award winners’ represent the diverse ways in which individuals can serve their communities. The honorees of 2016, for example, established community centers and athletic facilities, launched pet therapy programs at their local humane societies, and introduced a generation of students to the joy of reading at the school library, and more.
In recent years, Ashley for the Arts has enjoyed unprecedented growth. The event has consistently seen attendance increase by 50 percent each year since its inception, and it broke new ground in 2016, welcoming 8,000 more attendees than the previous year to reach a total attendance of over 35,000 people. Moreover, this record attendance occurred despite a particularly rainy Friday. Featuring such noteworthy artists as Chicago, American Authors, and Kellie Pickler, the 2016 event raised more than $300,000 for dozens of charitable causes.
Ashley for the Arts 2016 featured a vast array of unique attractions, including traditional Mexican dancers, a scavenger hunt, a wheel of death, and more. Soon, visitors will find out what surprises the 2017 festival will hold. Slated for Thursday through Saturday, August 10-12, Ashley for the Arts 2017 will welcome multiplatinum, Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Grammy-nominated rockers NEEDTOBREATHE; musical legend Three Dog Night; country stars Montgomery Gentry and Neal McCoy, and alternative newcomers Echosmith. With an impressive schedule of performing artists, numerous creative vendors and exhibitors, and a plethora of fun, family activities, it is poised to be another incredible event.