Hancock County is well-known for its annual festivals and events, with none as beloved as the Riley Festival. Voted the best local event in the Best of Hancock County 2022 guide, the Riley Festival is Indiana’s largest four-day festival, featuring poetry, arts, food, music and much more. This year’s festivities will be held in downtown Greenfield on Oct. 6-9, and we can’t wait to check out all of the fun contests and activities set to take place.

Origins of the Riley Festival

The annual Riley Festival is hosted in honor of our own “Hoosier Poet” James Whitcomb Riley’s birthday on October 7, 1849. Mr. Riley was born and raised in Greenfield, Indiana, later becoming a best-selling author who wrote approximately 1,000 poems for children and adults, including a number about his hometown and state of origin. The Riley Festival has celebrated our own hometown author’s life for decades, with each year themed around one of his poems. The theme for 2022 is “Little Orphant Annie.”

Float Parade and Parade of Flowers

Two parades take place during the Riley Festival, starting with the Parade of Flowers. This 65-year-old tradition consists of Greenfield-Central elementary students walking to the downtown courthouse to place bouquets in front of Mr. Riley’s statue in his honor. On Saturday at 11 a.m., the float parade will begin at Greenfield-Central High School and travel through downtown to Riley Park. More than 75 floats are expected to participate in the parade, with themed floats eligible for judging to win a monetary award. 

Home Arts and Quilt Show

With entries ranging from quilts, food, paper arts, jewelry and more, the Riley Festival Home Arts and Quilt Show is a great opportunity for amateur and professional crafters alike to show off their skills. Open to those even beyond Hancock County, this show will be hosted at the Courthouse Annex and entries are due by Oct. 5. Amateur crafters are eligible for judging while professional crafts (from anyone who teaches their skill and/or regularly profits from selling them) can be put on display only. 

Fine Arts Show and Photography Contest

This year’s Fine Arts Show at the Riley Festival will have a new home at the Hancock County Arts Council 20 North Gallery, with entries accepted on Oct. 5 from 2-8 p.m. Participants can range in age from children aged 6 up to professional artists, and mediums can include Watercolor/Gouache, Oil/Acrylic, Pastel/Charcoal, Ink/Pencil and Graphics/Prints. Artists are each permitted to enter up to 4 pieces of artwork. The art may depict whatever the artist chooses, but in order to be considered for judging/awards it should somehow incorporate the 2022 theme of “Little Orphant Annie.”

The Riley Festival Photography Contest will take place at the Courthouse Annex with three divisions for children (12 and under), intermediate (age 13-17), adult and professional. An additional entry is available for Hancock County students to compete for the Philip R. Hollenbaugh Memorial Award with the 2022 theme of “Faces.” Entry drop-off will take place on Oct. 5 from 8-6 p.m. The amateur cash prize ranges from $25-$100 and the first-place professional prize will be $100. 

Pumpkin Decorating Contest

Children and adults can get into the spirit of fall with the 2022 Pumpkin Decorating Contest, also following the overall Riley Festival theme. Carved entries will not be allowed, instead participants should decorate their pumpkin, gourd or squash with paper, glue, paint or other craft items. A winner in each category (under 10, 11-17, 18+ and Viewer’s Choice) will be awarded a cash prize of $25. Entries should be brought to the Hancock County Arts Council on Oct. 6 from 3-6 p.m.

Riley Festival Poetry Contest

Children can also get in on the festival activities with the 4th Grade Poetry Contest. Fourth-grade teachers across Hancock County will receive submission forms for their students to write an original poem inspired by Mr. Riley. All poetry participants will receive a participation ribbon at school, and they can see their poems on display at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts during the festival. One winner will be selected to receive a ribbon, a cash prize and a book of James Whitcomb Riley’s poetry. 

Riley Festival Queen and Little Miss and Mr. Pageants

The Riley Festival Queen will be awarded prior to the official event on Sept. 18, so that the winner and her court (aged 17-19) can attend the Opening Night Ceremony, Children’s Parade of Flowers, James Whitcomb Riley Breakfast and Riley Festival Parade. She will also assist with the Little Miss and Little Mr. Riley Festival Pageant on Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. Little Miss and Mr. contestants must be ages 3-6 as of Oct. 1 and current residents of Hancock County. Applications must be received by Sept. 30 and are limited to the first 10 boys and the first 10 girls to register. 

The Riley Festival will take place on Oct. 6 from 5-9 p.m., Oct. 7-8 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Oct. 9 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. All contest/vendor forms, as well as additional information and contact details, are available on the Riley Festival website and Facebook page.