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Prepare to ‘peace out’ at ’60s themed JoCo Old Settlers fest

An icon in the Midwest’s history as bread basket to the nation, John Deere green tractors rallied loud applause from thousands of attendees during Olathe’s 2017 Johnson County Old Settlers parade on Saturday morning.
An icon in the Midwest’s history as bread basket to the nation, John Deere green tractors rallied loud applause from thousands of attendees during Olathe’s 2017 Johnson County Old Settlers parade on Saturday morning. Special to The Olathe News

Johnson County Old Settlers is celebrating its 120-year anniversary with a festival dedicated to love, peace and happiness Sept. 6 through 8.

With a nod to the 1960s, this year’s three-day event will continue its tradition of bringing family and friends together for food, entertainment and fun.

“People are really excited about the ’60s theme this year,” said Sheila Newbanks, secretary of the Old Settlers organization and parade chairwoman.

“There are a lot of things they can do with it (the theme) and our T-shirts this year are tie-dyed.”

For the past year, the theme has been the focus of members from 15 committees, along with several hundred volunteers, as they’ve planned and organized every detail of the festival.

“It all started 120 years ago with a few families who came together for a picnic on the courthouse lawn, which was a park at that time,” Newbanks said. “The families kept coming back every year and Old Settlers just kept growing.”

When Newbanks started as chairwoman 30 years ago, attendance to the parade, which helps kick off the event and is a highlight of the three days, was around 30,000. The last few years, it’s been up to 75,000, with more than 200,000 people attending the three-day festival, she said.

In addition to the parade and dozens of indoor and outdoor activities, hundreds of vendors will also bring their own brand of love, peace and happiness to the festival atmosphere this year with an array of arts and crafts. Carnival rides, a flower show and fair food round out the weekend’s schedule.

“This is the first year we’ve sold out of arts and crafts vendor spaces, and we have a waiting list,” Newbanks said. “If we had room, we’d add more vendor spaces.”

Newbanks attributes an increased interest from a national audience of artists and crafts people to several changes festival organizers made in recent years.

“We’ve changed the criteria and worked to get quality arts and crafts here. Ninety percent of the items are now handmade,” she said. “This word is getting out in the craft fair circuit that our arts and crafts are really high quality, and we’re drawing a huge number of vendors now.”

Some of Newbanks’ festival favorites include the parade and live music.

2018’s Friday evening lineup includes The Rippers, a 1960s band, and The Zeros, a new wave and ’80s tribute group. Saturday night concerts feature Funk Syndicate — an R&B, soul, and disco group — and Exile, nationally renowned country and rock band.

Newbanks is looking especially forward to hearing The Rippers play.

In fact, it was just recently that Newbanks enjoyed a special concert by the group. A newlywed, Newbanks was married in July and The Rippers played at her wedding.

“You’ll find me in the front row this Friday,” she said.

One thing organizers can’t bet on is the weather. However, mother nature has been on their team for decades.

“Old Settlers happens, rain or shine, but it’s never rained on the Old Settlers Parade,” said Newbanks of the event’s kickoff event, which has an average of 160 entries, including 16 area high school and middle school bands, numerous club and organization entries and several commercial floats. “It’s rained before the parade, and after the parade, but it’s never rained on our parade.”

Though Old Settlers has grown exponentially over the years, the heart of the festival has stayed the same.

“What I look forward to the most is seeing families and friends come together. It’s like a reunion,” Newbanks said. “People come from across the country to enjoy food, entertainment — and each other.”

Schedule

▪ Thursday Sept. 6

Noon-10 p.m.: Arts and crafts

5 p.m.-11 p.m.: Carnival

5:30 p.m.: Ice cream social

6 p.m.: Crowning of Miss Sweet Six

7 p.m.: Olathe East and Olathe Northwest High School bands

▪ Friday Sept. 7

10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Arts and crafts

1 p.m.-8 p.m.: Flower show

5 p.m.-11 p.m.: Carnival

5:30 p.m.: Ice cream social

6 p.m.: Olathe Community Orchestra

6:30 p.m.: The Rippers (concert)

8p.m.: The Zeros (concert)

▪ Saturday Sept. 8

9 a.m.-3 p.m.: Antique auto show

9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Registration of “Old Settlers”

9 a.m.- 3 p.m.: Flower show

10 a.m.: Old Settlers Parade

10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Arts and crafts

10 a.m.: Horseshoe pitching

Noon-11 p.m.: Carnival

Noon-4 p.m.: Old Settlers Gabfest

1 p.m.-4 p.m.: Sax Quartet and Flute Quartet

2 p.m.: Slide show: “Olathe — Then and Now”

5 p.m.: Olathe Civic Band

5:30 p.m.: Ice cream social

6:30 p.m.: Funk Syndicate (concert)

8 p.m.: Exile (concert)

For more information, maps, and more, visit Johnson County Old Settlers website, www.johnsoncountyoldsettlers.com/index.php.

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