One hundred and fifteen years is a long time for a festival, which makes for a whole lot of funnel cake and grange pups.
Just ask the organizers of Johnson County Old Settlers Days in Olathe. The festival celebrates the history of all those years, the joys of present-day community life and the effort to make more good memories.
“I do believe that a lot of folks see it like more of a reunion,” said A.J. Lang, one of the festival’s 50 committee members. “If you were an Olathe or regional native and stood (in the middle of the festival), you’d see a lot of people you’d recognize. A lot of people go down there to see the people.”
The festival, Thursday through Saturday, includes live music, arts and crafts, an auto show, a carnival, horseshoe pitching, an ice cream social, a parade and a flower show, according to the event’s website,johnsoncountyoldsettlers.com
. It’s held on the grounds of the Johnson County Courthouse in downtown Olathe. The festival and parking are free, though some events have a fee.
The music includes:
• 6 p.m. Thursday: Olathe North and South high school bands.
• 6 p.m. Friday: Olathe Community Orchestra; 6:30 p.m.: Poison Overdose, a tribute to Poison; 8 p.m.: Almost KISS, a tribute to KISS.
• 6:30 p.m. Saturday: Joe Tinoco with special guest artists Tamra and Talya Tinoco; 8 p.m.: Parmalee.
The festival has been the biggest in Kansas for at least the past seven or eight years, he said.
That’s quite a change from its humble roots. The first official event was on Sept. 17, 1898, and was created by the then-county attorney and others, committee member and local historian Ivan Wicke said.
Before then, the festival was held on several farms north of Olathe between Woodland and Strang Line Park. It was an occasion for friends to gather and enjoy picnics, he said.
Back in 1898, the one-day festival featured a speaker who touched on history, especially the Civil War. Gen. Zachary Taylor’s son, Dick Taylor, had his house near the first official festival, which also was near where the courthouse now sits, Wicke said.