Ranchmart to mark 60 years with country fair-themed extravaganza, refurbished Ranchmart Express train

The fully refurbished Ranchmart Express train is giving free rides for the 60th anniversary extravaganza of the Ranchmart shopping centers.

All aboard the Ranchmart Express, a surefire trip down memory lane for longtime Johnson County resident.

To mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of Ranchmart South and North, respectively, the centers this coming weekend will host an extravaganza celebrating the shopping centers’ history, bringing not only nostalgia but also new a new tradition that celebrates Overland Park’s Country Fair.

The extravaganza takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28 and includes a free matinee of “The Love Bug” at 10 a.m. at the Glenwood Arts Theater.

A walkthrough exhibit Friday evening of Ranchmart history preludes the extravaganza. Visitors can view a photo and memorabilia exhibit of the shopping centers’ inception and growth over the past 60 years. The exhibit, including a free wine and cheese reception, takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Glenwood Arts Theater, 3707 W. 95th St., Overland Park.

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Events at Ranch Mart North

• Petting Zoo by Thorni Ridge Exotics
• Inflatable Obstacle Course and Giant Slide
• Beer Garden with food and beer for sale by Price Chopper, Dewey’s Pizza, O’Neill’s, Meat Mitch, Foo’s Fabulous, Duck Donuts
• Giant Yard Games, Jenga, Connect Four, etc.
12pm-3pm – DJ Stann will play the hits and MC event for part of day
2-3:30pm – KC Wolf
3:30-5p – Live Music in the beer garden

Events at Ranch Mart South

• Free Special Matinee (10 a.m.) screening of the original Love Bug at Glenwood Arts
• Ranch Mart History Art Exhibit in Lower Level
• 12-1:30 p.m. Kansas City Aerial Arts Performance
• 1:45-3:30 p.m. Quite Frankly – School of Rock Live Band Performance
• Carnival Games & Prizes
• Sister Act Face Painting (free to guests)
• Cotton Tale Cotton Candy
• Price Chopper Food

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Leonard Corsi, who took over as president of Johnson County Management in January, said he noticed “a lot of nostalgia” for Ranchmart and the Country Fair, which, historically, had included the Ranchmart Express, a train that carried passengers from between Ranch Mart’s north and south locations.

Johnson County Management has rehabilitated the vintage train, which is ready once more to give free rides to passengers for the anniversary extravaganza.

Bob, Vick and Cathy Regnier, who own Johnson County Management and the Ranchmart shopping centers, have overseen redevelopment of Ranchmart South and have plans this year to fully redevelop Ranchmart North. Their father, Vick Regnier, had developed the two shopping centers in 1958 and 1968, Corsi said.

The 50th and 60th anniversaries of the shopping centers is Johnson County Management’s “opportunity to reconstitute these great community events,” he said.

The last country fair took place in the 1990s, Corsi said, adding that “this is a party to bring back the country fair,” although not quite in the traditional sense.

“Back in 1958 and 1968, you could easily call it a country fair because there was nothing out there,” Corsi said. “Back then, some of the events they had, you couldn’t do today.”

Fairgoers back then would chase a greased pig or try to climb a greased pole for cash prizes. And there was trout fishing, frog jumping and turtle races, among other fun events.

“What I found out is there is all kinds of nostalgia for the centers and for the time they grew up because they spent so much time there,” he said of fairgoers who reminisce about their memories.

This year’s extravaganza brings back many traditional fair events, including carnival games, a bouncy slide, obstacle courses, a petting zoo and live music.

“I don’t think we can model the country fair too much,” Corsi said, “but really, what we’re doing is bringing back the train, and we’re bringing back the entertainment that I think in today’s world people and their kids will appreciate…We’re really glad to be able to reconstitute the event, and we look forward to having it every year.”