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  • Clint Engel

Thousands expected at Ashley for the Arts

Ashley for the Arts attendeesAshley for the Arts attendees stroll a walkway in Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wis., where featured local art and history is displayed
ARCADIA, Wis. - The fifth annual Ashley for the Arts event here Aug. 9-10 is expected to draw thousands of people with a lineup of entertainment that includes singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson and country music crossover band The Farm.
     The event began in 2009 to help raise awareness for the arts in Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wis. It has blossomed into a two-day arts and music festival that drew an estimated 10,000 people to the park last year and benefits numerous charities.
     "We wanted to do our part to provide an affordable, enjoyable and educational experience for everyone who attends the event," said Todd Wanek, CEO of Ashley Furniture Inds., the headline sponsor since the event's beginning. "In the spirit of improving society, we also felt that it was only natural that we help participating schools and charitable organizations raise funds for their causes."
     This year's event will include musical performances, a fine art exhibit featuring the work of Midwest artists and other events, capped by a closing fireworks show. Admission is $5 for the two days.
     The event will have raised an estimated $400,000 in its five years following this year's festival, said Ashley spokesperson Jason Lockington.
     Among the charities benefitting is the American Cancer Society, local schools, the Arcadia Lions Club and Communities Offn'Funning, which encourages communities to get physically active.
     In addition, the event helps raise money for the all-volunteer nonprofit Ashley's Angels, started in 1997 by now retired Ashley truck driver Larry Ferguson and his wife. Ashley's Angels provides food, clothing, blankets and fulfills gift requests to children in need at Christmas.
     "Last year we were able to help 160 children and 60 families in Trempealeau County (Wis.,) alone and we expect that number to increase this year," said Ashley's Angels President Patrick Myers.
     While Ashley for the Arts was conceptualized and established by Todd Wanek and Ashley Chairman Ron Wanek it has since drawn other sponsors including Pehler & Sons Trucking and industry sources Leggett & Platt, Montclair Wood, Omega Motion, Sealy and Simmons.
     Ashley said the level of interest has prompted the Waneks to convert the event from an Ashley initiative into an official nonprofit, noting that the official status change will occur later this year.
     The Waneks "vow to remain generous supporters of the organization and the event," the release said.

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