Allie and Matt Majerle recently moved from Prairie Village — but VillageFest was calling their names.
So there they were Wednesday at Prairie Village's Fourth of July celebration with their children, ages 5, 4 and 1.
"We love VillageFest," said Allie Majerle, now of Stilwell. "It's a good time for family."
They were just one family in the crowd at VillageFest, one of many celebrations across the Kansas City area. Some would culminate with fireworks Wednesday night.
Bored kids? Not at VillageFest. Activities included a water slide down a hill, a petting zoo (with a kangaroo and camel), live music, face painting and a climbing wall.
About 11:20 a.m., Kansas City’s Marching Falcons made their way through the parking lot with drums and plenty of applause from the crowd. Audience members even got into the dance at the end, with one little girl, Arabelle Krohn, dancing so hard she fell over — she got up and kept dancing.
Sitting in her stroller, Brooklyn Pacheco said her favorite part of VillageFest was the snow cone she was munching on.
Brooklyn and mom Amy Pacheco, of Overland Park, also made crafts and went fishing for recyclables.
Old fashioned Fourth
Across the state line in Missouri, another July 4 celebration offered an opportunity to go back in time.
At Missouri Town in Fleming Park, near Blue Springs, interpreters in period clothing portrayed life as it would have been in 1855. Activities at the historic site lasted all day and included a watermelon seed spitting contest, folk dancers, a pie eating contest, relay races and patriotic speeches recited by actors.
Jonathan Klusmeyer, superintendent of historic sites for Jackson County, said the annual event is meant to educate younger children about American history.
"A lot of kids today don't get the foundation of why we celebrate today," he said. "They grow up taking freedom for granted. We want to teach them about the framework of our country."
The event typically brings about 600 people to Missouri Town. This year, Patrick Martin and his kids James and Madelynn were some of them.
"It's an awesome way to celebrate the fourth and it kind of connects them to their roots," Martin said. It was the family’s first time attending the event.
Count the candidates
B. J. Taylor, or B.J. the DJ, warmed the crowd up with American history trivia and patriotic jokes as they waited for the parade to start in Lenexa.
Although the Fourth of July parade has been a staple in Old Town Lenexa for over 40 years, Denise Rendina, communications director for Lenexa, said this was one of the longest they've had. More than 90 entries made for a roughly two-hour parade.
Of those entries, many were political. Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Legislature and governor all came out to promote their campaigns to potential voters.
"There's a surprising number of candidates for Kansas governor," said Lee Holtman of Kansas City, who with his wife, Natasha, brought their son, Ethan, to the parade.
Holtman said he knew of some of the candidates but wasn’t expecting so many.
For the Holtmans' young son, however, the highlight was not the politicians but the tractors.
Classic cars, clowns and community businesses also took part in the parade. The route through Old Town Lenexa was lined with community members celebrating the holiday.
"It really shows the family spirit," said Taylor, who has emceed the event for 30 years.
Along a hilly, winding parade route about a half mile long, hundreds of people lined both sides of the street to watch Parkville's parade.
Families set out camping chairs in the shade of tall trees, sat on the curb or gathered on porches to watch the cavalcade. It ended in the town's historic downtown area, where the police chief served as the master of ceremonies.
Parade participants included Parkville's mayor, Nan Johnston, in a blue convertible; a cannon hauled by a white GMC truck; the rotary club; candidates for local elections; Miss Teen Missouri Chloe Bartlett and, most popular with the kids, clowns.
Some young entrepreneurs — such as A.J. Burrows, age 9 — set up lemonade stands in yards along the parade route to capitalize on the crowds and heat. One family gave out free lemonade, asking only for donations to be made to 2nd Chance, a scholarship fund for students who couldn't otherwise afford higher education. This is the fifth year they've done it. They collected $100 last year.
Every July 4th for the past 15 years, local resident Tony Shores goes downtown, gets a cup of coffee and watches the procession.
He's lived the area for more than 40 years, he said, and it has made him happy to see Parkville grow more diverse and embrace different cultures.
The only thing stopping Wednesday from being a perfect day? Shores said it was just a little too hot.