With less than a week remaining until the start of the 38th annual Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival, Independence Chamber of Commerce staff and fair board members say they are at 98 percent occupancy among the festival’s market vendors and commercial spaces.

They’re ready to go.

With less than a week remaining until the start of the 38th annual Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival, Independence Chamber of Commerce staff and fair board members say they are at 98 percent occupancy among the festival’s market vendors and commercial spaces.

Market vendors – both indoor and outdoor spaces – sold out five months ago. Commercial spaces, which include food, nonprofit organizations and businesses, have about 30 spaces remaining among the more than 720 total spaces available throughout Santa-Cali-Gon Days. The festival starts Thursday night, with the carnival only, and runs through Monday on the Independence Square.

“It’s the big baby of the year,” says Terri Steele, the fair board chairwoman and co-owner of Evans and Steele Financial. Steele is entering her 14th year of volunteering on the fair board. “Everyone you haven’t seen for a year, they’re here.”

Among the 2010 festival changes is the relocation of the Community Stage to the corner of Truman and Main streets. The change took place to allow for higher visibility and more foot traffic “in the middle of the action,” Steele says.

A Karaoke Idol competition also is new this year. Featuring the “Junk in My Trunk” KCXL 1140 AM radio personalities Darrin Smith and John Todd, the singing contest will take place from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, on the Community Stage. The participation fee is $20, cash only, though admission for the viewing audience is free for all Community Stage events.

Participants in the 17 years old and younger category will receive non-cash prizes for first and second place. Participants in the 18 years old and older category will receive $125 for first place and $100 for second place. Wednesday is the registration deadline, and registration must take place in person at the chamber office, 210 W. Truman Road in Independence. Call 816-252-4745 for more information.   

“We’ve been talking about this for years and just finally felt comfortable with the venue being the Community Stage,” Steele says. “We saw how impromptu it was last year, and we had such a turnout – and everybody loves a contest.”

Other Community Stage competitions include the watermelon seed spitting contest Saturday afternoon, the root beer chugging contest Sunday afternoon and the ice cream eating contest on Monday afternoon, all at 1 p.m. Steele says a man even proposed on the Community Stage in 2009 to woman whom he had met at a previous Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival through the ice cream eating contest.

About 225,000 people attend the festival annually, according to the chamber, and Steele says the goal is to attract residents from other areas in addition to maintaining the attendance of regular festival participants .

“Once they’re here, they are always repeat visitors,” she says. “We’re constantly trying to promote it.”  

The chamber prides itself in providing a family-friendly festival where admission to stage events and the festival itself is free. This year, Sunshine Artist, an art and craft show magazine, ranked the Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival market vendors as the 10th best among thousands of U.S. craft shows. Vendor input across the United States determines the selection and ranking, and in 2009, the festival ranked 12th.    

“When people come, mostly we want them to be happy with their experience,” says Teresa Freeland, chamber vice president of special projects. “Even though we’ve got 200,000 or whatever, we want all 200,000 to have a positive experience, if at all possible. That’s more what we want – the quality more than just numbers.”

This Santa-Cali-Gon Days marks the first in more than 25 years without former chamber vice president of special projects Sue McMilian, who had worked on every Santa-Cali-Gon Days festival for 26 years and had served as its coordinator since 1995. The 2010 fair board includes four new members, and the current chamber staff has three new employees, plus two chamber employees who were recently promoted into new positions.

“As a CEO, I am so proud of everybody here who has pitched in and helped through this transition,” Chamber President Rick Hemmingsen says. “We are very excited. It’s been years since I’ve been this excited about Santa-Cali-Gon.”

The opportunity to help organize the festival is a dream come true for Terri Singleton, who was recently promoted as a chamber special projects organizer.

“That’s the reason I came to work at the chamber,” says Singleton, who is entering her seventh year with the chamber. “I wanted to be a part of Santa-Cali-Gon Days. Now that I’m a part of it, I still love it.”

Festival hours

Friday, Sept. 3, noon to 11 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 4, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 5, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Carnival hours

Thursday, Sept. 2 6 p.m. to midnight
Friday, Sept. 3 noon to midnight
Saturday, Sept. 4 10 a.m. to midnight
Sunday, Sept. 5 10 a.m. to midnight
Monday, Sept. 6 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Main Stage headliners

Friday, Sept. 3
6 p.m.: Scott Ford
7:30 p.m.: Seven Bridges Road (an Eagles tribute band)
9 p.m.: John Anderson

Saturday, Sept. 4
5:30 p.m.: Travis Marvin and Hammer Down
7:15 p.m.: Steel Magnolia
9 p.m.: Easton Corbin

Sunday, Sept. 5
5:30 p.m.: Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders
7:15 p.m.: Michael Twitty (tribute to Conway Twitty, Michael’s father)
9 p.m.: Ash Bowers

Monday, Sept. 6
Noon: Rustic Heart
1:15 p.m.: Six Degrees West
2:45 p.m.: LoCash Cowboys  

The Main Stage is just west of City Hall between Lexington and Lynn


Community Stage events

Friday, Sept. 3
5:30 p.m.: Claudia’s School of Gym & Dance Inc.
6:30 p.m.: Ballet Conservatory
8 p.m.: Square and line dancing

Saturday, Sept. 4
10 a.m.: Fairmount Dancing Queens
11 a.m.: Kim’s Dance Co.
Noon: Academy Spotlight
1 p.m.: Watermelon seed spitting contest sponsored by Curt’s Famous Meats
2 p.m.: Martha Smith
3 p.m.: Fictive Kinship
5 p.m.: Cathy’s Creative Dance
6 p.m.: Cowtown Cloggers
7 p.m.: Studio 3V Dance Center
8 p.m.: Karaoke Idol show

Sunday, Sept. 5
Noon: Elvis 2
1 p.m.: Root beer chugging contest sponsored by Little John’s Enterprises
2 p.m.: Sacred Fire Ministries
3 p.m.: Jorrin Tyler   
4 p.m.: Moore Sisters
5 p.m.: Kevin Brashears/Kevin Penrod
6:30 p.m.: MelRoe’s School of Dance
8 p.m.: Square and line dancing

Monday, Sept. 6
11 a.m.: TaJazz School of Dance
Noon: Chamber music  
1 p.m.: Ice cream eating contest sponsored by Mugs-Up Drive-In
2 p.m.: Bella Voce/Coro Misto
3 p.m.: Terri Marcase

The Community Stage this year has moved to Truman Road and Main Street

For more information, visit www.santacalion.com or call 816-252-4745