On July 6, two evenings after skies around the region had brightened with colors, nearly 1,000 guests from across the United States celebrated an 1860s-style American Independence Day at Olathe’s Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm. Attendees — which included visitors from Australia, India, Germany, Columbia, Brazil and Serbia — took part in many activities included in Mahaffie’s original 19th century Fourth festivities.
According to event director Alexis Woodall, Independence Day was the biggest holiday of the year during the1800s.
“As a nation, we were coming out of the Civil War. This event helped to reconcile some of the tension and bring people together,” Woodall said.
Carrying with tradition, the eighth annual event included a red, white and blue children’s parade led by Woodall and a stagecoach drawn by a team of towering Percheron horses. At the blacksmith barn, sparks flew as young “apprentices” suited up in leather aprons and safety equipment to learn the fine art of forging, hammering and finishing iron S-hooks.
In the field behind the farmhouse, kids enjoyed games of “hoop and sticks” and “hoop rolling” — the same games played by attendees at this event more than 150 years ago. Angela Garcia-Perez, 11, took a minute from finessing her hoop-rolling skills to share some thoughts about the event. “It teaches the story of our history here and it shows how happy they were then.”
While people picnicked, played games, fed goats, and enjoyed generous helpings of apple pie and ice cream, the Olathe Civic band entertained the audience with a concert of patriotic favorites.
The evening ended with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Civil War re-enactor, Aaron Racine, which was followed by a 19th century-style fireworks display.
“When people hear the Declaration of Independence and then see the fireworks, it connects them to the holiday, to Olathe’s rich history, and to our nation,” Woodall said.