Fort Smith’s Friendship Festival returns after five years

After a five-year hiatus, Fort Smith’s South Slave Friendship Festival is returning as a two-day event this weekend.

Organizer Jessica Hval highlighted musicians Critical Mass, Liver Fight, 5/3 Mad, Pat Burke & Friends, and David & Brandee as some of this year’s performers.

On Friday, August 17, and Saturday, August 18, musicians will perform at local bar Dirty O’Fergies, while Saturday afternoon sets will be hosted at Conibear Park between 1pm and 5pm.


The family-friendly Saturday afternoon performances will be free, while cover will be charged at the bar.

Hval posted on Facebook, “We have had some hiccups but are planning on having a grassroots fest to kickstart us back into motion.”

She said this year’s festival will be a mini-festival, while next year the organizing committee hopes the much-loved event will return for its usual full four days – and will finally celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“This is a great community event, that has been at rest for a while, but we are back and happy to showcase our local northern talent once again,” she wrote.

The music festival has not been held since 2012, following a spring 2013 arena fire which left the committee without a venue for their “Super Shaker” party, the profitable event that supported the festival.


This followed another fire at the festival’s headquarters in Conibear Park in 2012, which destroyed the festival’s files, equipment, and performer contact lists.

According to the Northern Journal, the festival was started by George Kurszewski, Pat Burke, and Dennis Bevington, who wanted to host a reunion celebration many years ago. Since then, audiences have enjoyed 24 Friendship Festivals featuring music from across the North.