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Two years after its debut, Halfway to Everywhere Fest returns to Emporia Saturday with more bands, more vendors and a number of other exciting modifications and enhancements.

The event will bring 35 bands to five stages set up in downtown Emporia starting at noon, Saturday, Sept. 4.

“I’m really excited about the lineup this year,” said event organizer Hank Osterhout. “We have a lot more regional bands than we had in 2019, so more from Kansas City, Wichita, Lawrence and Manhattan and a handful of Emporians.”

The headliner this year is Making Movies, a Kansas City, Mo.-based band whose music incorporates elements of rock, cumbia, psychedelia, American roots, son cubano and spoken word. Originally booked for the canceled 2020 event, Osterhout said he’s been listening to the group regularly since adding them to the lineup.

“Making Movies is probably what I’m most excited for,” he said. “They are quite an ensemble that are very steeped in Latin culture. The frontman and his brother are immigrants from Panama and everybody in the band is from an immigrant family. They sing in Spanish and English and it’s more progressive rock with a very Afro-Latino kind of vibe.”

Osterhout said he had sought out more Latin-based bands for the 2020 event because of Emporia’s large Latino community. While some of the groups dropped from the 2021 event, he said there are still “quite a few” appearing this year.

Other acts include Dale Watson, Possessed by Paul James, Carrie Nation and the Speak Easy, Recycle Funk, Ladee J, Mountain Deer Revival, The Dewayn Brothers, Godzillionaire and many more.

Osterhout said people who came out to the inaugural event in 2019 might notice some changes to stage set-ups this year. The sitemap overall is larger.

“We moved a stage, replaced it with a bigger one and then moved that stage to another spot,” he said. “The stage we moved was in the Farmers Market parking lot [at Seventh Avenue and Merchant Street] and now that’s going to be in the Radius and Bourbon Cowboy parking lot [at Sixth Avenue and Merchant Street] this year. In place in the Farmers Market parking lot, we’re adding a much bigger stage.”

Three stages are located outside and two are indoors, just like in 2019. But one major change is the lineup at each stage fits a theme in some way. With country bands, rock bands, Americana, one-man bands and everything in between taking the stage, Osterhout said people will be hard-pressed to not find something they like.

“You’d have to go over there with a really bad attitude and be really, really looking to find something,” he said. “And if you have that kind of attitude, what in the world are you going to an event for?”

Another new feature this year is the ability to carry alcoholic beverages anywhere within the fenced event area, thanks to a new city ordinance.

General admission tickets are free to the public and Osterhout said ticket holders can hang out pretty much anywhere on site. VIP tickets are $150 each and come with a gift bag that includes a T-shirt, sunglasses and other swag. It also gets you drink tokens, catering from Bobby D’s and access to the VIP lounge located at the Trusler Business Center.

“Next to each stage we’re doing this VIP/artist green room so it’s a relaxed way to meet the band,” Osterhout said.

The entertainment isn’t the only side of the event that’s gotten an upgrade. Emporia First Friday co-founder Kaila Mock has taken over the H2E vendor market this year and Osterhout said at least 25 artists will be setting up in the Farmers Market lot Saturday.

Emporia First Friday will happen as usual this week from 5 - 8 p.m., with Kansas Free For Arts serving as the Presenting Venue in the Farmers Market parking lot for a Halfway to Everywhere pre-party. Osterhout said a community mural painting session will be onsite along with a DJ.

Saturday, along with the vendors, there will be food trucks set up in the lot as well.

Tickets are available online at http://www.ksfreeforarts.org/halfway-to-everywhere. If you claim your free GA ticket by Wednesday, Osterhout said you will get an event program.

Planning is also already underway for the 2022 event. Anyone interested in volunteering or wanting to be involved with the planning process can reach out now.

While organizers are not mandating any COVID safety precautions, Osterhout said they are “strongly suggesting” anyone who plans on attending or performing be fully vaccinated and where masks when needed.

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