Parkville Days, now in its 48th year, begins Thursday night in downtown Parkville and runs through Sunday ].
The annual event draws upwards of 25,000 people to enjoy entertainment, a carnival, food, a parade and a 5K run.
There was a time, however, when the aftermath of the floods of 1993 threatened the continuation of the Platte County celebration.
Tom Hutsler was living in St. Louis at the time and came home to Parkville to help sandbag the downtown. After the water receded, Hutsler decided to stay. When there was talk of doing away with Parkville Days, Hutsler stepped up to the plate and kept it going.
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“We said, we can’t let that happen, so Dave Williams and I kept it alive and kept it going,” Hutsler said. “It was the first year we brought a carnival in and now we have over 200 arts, crafts and commercial food vendors.”
Hutsler has been the chairman of Parkville Days for 22 years now. This year he shares co-chair honors with Alisha Blackwelder, manager of special events at Park University.
Hutsler is also the promotions chairman for Main Street Parkville Association, which sponsors the festival. He has great praise for the association and its impact on Parkville after the floods.
“After the flood, only 30 percent of the buildings in downtown Parkville were useable, so for the next five years we renovated buildings; attracted new business to come in. I’d say within five to eight years, the entire downtown was renovated and everything was full again,” said Hutsler, who as a contractor has been involved in the renovation efforts.
“When I got involved in Main Street Parkville, I believed in its mission. I’ve always believed in Parkville first. If you bring people they are going to spend money and it’s good for the economy, it’s good for business, it’s good for the community.”
Parkville Days is more of helping businesses and helping the community, he said.
“Parkville Days has always been the event that is for the entire family. A wonderful parade with the high school bands—Park Hill, Park Hill South; the Shriners, and all the arts and crafts vendors and food vendors. But what’s really kind of special is the live entertainment,” he said.
“It’s always a way for community organizations like nonprofits to help raise money for their organizations.”
This year Friday night entertainment will feature country bands like Jason Craig and the Wingmen, and Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders. On Saturday jazz and blues musicians take stage with Eddie Moore & The Outer Circle, Ryan J. Lee, and Skip Hawkins Orchestra.
And then there’s the carnival.
“I’m proud to say that 22 years ago we secured John Evans Midlands Empire carnival,” Hutsler said. “John and I met 22 years ago. It’s really one of the finest, most up-to date, well-run carnivals that you’ll ever see.”
One of his favorite memories of Parkville Days was the exotic animal petting zoo.
“They had a bear cub and a wolf cub. And they had them in the same fenced area, and they played together the whole time. It was the darnest thing you’ve ever seen.”
Fortunately, the A to Z Exotic Animals Petting Zoo will return to Parkville Days this year, after a bit of sleuthing on Hutsler’s part to locate them online. It will feature a zebra, parrots and other birds, monkeys, llamas and a goat.
This year’s grand marshal honors are shared by Mike and Susan Newburger.
Mike is a director in the Southern Platte Fire Protection District where he first began as a volunteer firefighter in 1970; and he serves as president of the Bell Road Barn Players.
Susan is a retired Park Hill and Park Hill South teacher who is a seven year member of the Park Hill School Board.
Besides their community service, the couple formed the Michael & Susan Newburger Foundation which “helps the Northland and Kansas City not-for-profits with funding. We focus on classical music, Nelson-Atkins art gallery, People to People and various groups like that,” Michael Newburger said.
As a member of the volunteer fire department Newburger often rides a fire truck in the parade; however, this year he and his wife will be riding at the front of the parade in his Volvo.
“I’ll be in the back seat doing my regal wave,” he said. And of the honor of being a parade marshal?
“I’m not sure I deserve it, but I’m flattered. I just try to help out people in Parkville.”
If you go
Admission to the Parkville Days at English Landing Park in downtown Parkville is free. The official festival dates are Friday to Sunday, though the carnival opens Thursday night.
The Evans Midland Empire Carnival opens Thursday night 6-10 p.m. with a community appreciation night.
On Friday gates open at 6 p.m. Country music will take stage, 6-7 p.m. with Jason Craig and the Wingmen; followed by Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders 8-10 p.m. Carnival and vendors will open 6-10 p.m.
Saturday events begin with a $6 pancake breakfast 7-11 a.m. and the parade at 10 a.m. Group entertainment begins at 11 a.m. Then at 4 p.m. jazz bands take over McKeon Stage. The Skip Hawkins Orchestra closes the evening’s entertainment with music 8:30-10 p.m.
Sunday morning is the Parkville Days Run By the River 5K/10K at 7 a.m. At 9 a.m. Yoga in the Park will be hosted by Om Prana Yoga. Group entertainment starts at 11 a.m. Vendors and the carnival are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
Free parking is available at Park University and English Landing Center.
Alcohol will be available for purchase at the festival but cannot be taken out of the festival grounds nor brought into the grounds.
For a complete schedule go to: http://www.parkvillemo.org/upcoming-events/parkville-days/.