This weekend marked the 46th annual Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival, resulting in a flurry of carnival rides, vendors and nods to Independence history. The event drew an estimated 300,000 visitors to the Square, according to Lois McDonald, vice president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the event’s chief organizer.
Highlights included headlining performances by hard rock band Black Stone Cherry, Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and country artist Jacob Bryant.
Many Santa-Cali-Gon Days performers expressed appreciation for the event’s enthusiastic audiences and high-level production.
“It has become one of our favorite festivals in America,” said Steve Harris, vocalist for country rock band Hillbilly Vegas, who Friday night took the festival’s Main Stage. “I think our favorite part of the show was all the great people singing our songs. The people in Missouri have been some of our biggest supporters.”
In addition to the free concerts, the use of the new Independence Uptown Market on Truman Road space stood out as a much-anticipated aspect of the festival. The $3.3 million structure – which festivals attendees flocked to for the air-conditioning – hosted a variety of businesses and crafters with goods from leatherwork to bath bombs.
For Julie and Craig Brodersen, owners of Grain Valley business Select Potpourri, the new site proved a welcome addition to the festival. They’ve sold their homemade potpourri at the event for 15 years.
“I like the space, and it made the set-up easier,” Broderson said.
While the Uptown Market introduced a new element to the festival, for many the fair continues to represent a long-standing tradition and memory, despite its changes.
Sam Botwinik, 23, says Santa-Cali-Gon Days reminds her of her childhood.
“My grandparents used to have a booth and sell little trinkets, so that’s why I started going,” Botwinik explained. “Now, I like to go get root beer, find a good spot to sit and people watch.”