Thomas Gregory’s family can mark seven generations of service in American wars. On Saturday at the Harrisonville Log Cabin Festival, the Air Force veteran and Harrisonville resident dressed in Union Blue to represent the first generation of men in his family to stand up and serve.
He was there to help tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the African American units, which first fought in the Civil War.
“Missouri has a great history of the Civil War. They should try to keep it alive,” Gregory said.
The Buffalo Soldier historians told a powerful story through raindrops outside the Sharp-Hooper Cabin on Saturday afternoon. The cabin, which was one of the only surviving structures when guerrilla soldiers burned Harrisonville during the Civil War, was the true guest of honor at the festival for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce restored the festival’s connection to the log cabin this year after a bit of a hiatus. The festival started as the Log Cabin festival in the 1970s. The name changed nine years ago to the Burnt District Festival, which Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce Director Bing Schimmlpfenning says was connected to Jayhawkers burning the town after Order 11 during the Civil War.
The history was sound, but the name did not seem to resonate for many Harrisonville residents.
“People really just didn’t understand what the Burnt District was. People thought it had a negative connotation to it,” Schimmlpfenning said.
After a contest, and a Facebook vote, they changed the name back. To celebrate the return of the “Log Cabin” name for the event, chamber members chose a theme: “The Past is Back.” As a part of that celebration, organizers also brought back the original carnival vendor to the festival. Jones and company from Richmond, Missouri, brought the carnival to the original Log Cabin Festival in 1975. The company came back this year for the first time in several years.
“We’re excited to have them, and they have just been wonderful for us,” Schimmlpfenning said.
Rain started at 11 a.m. Saturday morning right as the parade, with 50 entries, kicked off. The festival had several inside events, like a student art show at the Chamber of Commerce offices, to help festival-goers escape until the bad weather passed.
“The art teachers picked art to put on display for the community. We have had hundreds of people come through to look at it,” Schimmlpfenning said.
The Log Cabin Festival included some new events, as well. The Missouri Extension Service planned a 4-H block party. Festival-goers could also participate in a car-smash and a petting zoo.
Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Wood says they invite local non-profits to set-up fund-raising food tents during the festival. The event becomes one of the biggest fundraisers for those organizations, as well as for the Chamber of Commerce, which usually can raise about $10,000 to $12,000.
“I think the festival is a time for any community to bring folks together and it’s a sense of family. I think it’s turned out great this year. We’ve had a good turnout of folks,” Wood said.
The money from the event goes to support the Chamber of Commerce mission to improve workforce development and bring new businesses to town.