Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival this weekend offers living history, live music, food trucks and crafters

Leah Wankum - October 10, 2019 2:00 pm
Historical re-enactors are part of the attractions at the Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival, to be held this weekend.

This weekend, the grounds of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway will transform back to their formative days, when re-enactors, local crafters and artisans as well as folk musicians relive a part of northeast Johnson County history.

The 33rd annual Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival takes place Oct. 11-13 at the mission, located at 3403 W. 53rd St.

Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival
Native American men’s grass dance competitions are part of the festival activities. Photo courtesy Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation

Kathy Hamilton-Dix, event planner for the festival and a member of the advisory board for the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation, said the festival not only gives the community an opportunity to reflect on local history, but also brings the present-day community together.

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“All of northeast Johnson County should feel like this is theirs,” she said. “It’s not just Fairway, even though Fairway is the one that stepped up and helped us. Roeland Park is right across the street. Mission, Prairie Village, Westwood. This is really a unity of all of northeast Johnson County.”

The crux of the festival comprises of living history demonstrations and re-enactments of forgotten skills — butter churning, paper making, rope weaving, spinning and wood-crafting — that people generally don’t do today.

“It’s really well received and people really enjoy seeing it,” Hamilton-Dix said, adding that they will also have old-fashioned children’s games like stuffing mattresses and carrying pails of water with a yoke across their shoulders. “One of the games, believe it or not, that they love, is they wash clothes on a washboard and then hang them up to dry, and they think that’s a lot of fun. We call it a game. It’s really cute.”

Kids can check out a covered wagon at the Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival

Also part of the festival are tours of the mission as well as presentations on Civil War history, courtesy of the Sons of Confederate and Sons of Union re-enactors.

Last year, the foundation had about 4,000 people attend, even with rainy and cold weather, Hamilton-Dix said, adding that they had double the attendance the year before.

The festival is also a fundraiser for the foundation. While attendance is free, the foundation suggests a $2 entry donation. All proceeds go back to the foundation, which uses the funds for operations for the mission, as well as longer-term projects to grow the mission’s programming.

Hamilton-Dix said it’s important to the foundation to keep hosting the festival each year because every donation helps keep the doors open to the site and museum.

“Three years ago, the state of Kansas closed it because their funds had been cut and they just basically didn’t have staffing and they weren’t really doing much to keep it going,” she said. “So the foundation is why we came together, to get it back to life again. It’s the last 12 acres of green space right in the heart of Kansas City with such history.

“Johnson County is named after Rev. Johnson, the man who started the Shawnee Indian Mission. So it’s of historical importance, it’s green space importance. If the state of Kansas didn’t take care of it and they sold it, what do you think would happen with this property? Condoes. You wouldn’t have this beautiful green space.”

Folk music, Native American dance contests and children’s activities

Shawnee Indian Mission
Randall ‘Hutch’ Hutchison runs the archery activities each year at the Fall Festival at the Shawnee Indian Mission. Photo from Shawnee Indian Mission archives

Folk music artists include The Matchsellers as well as Betse & Clarke will also perform during the weekend. Hamilton-Dix said Native American dancers will also perform in a contest, including men’s grass dancing and women’s jingle dressing competitions.

For the archery activities, Westwood bowmaker Randall “Hutch” Hutchison is also crafting two bows from a fallen hackberry tree that toppled on the mission grounds about a year and a half ago. Hutchison is donating the bows to the mission.

The majority of the festival activities take place Saturday, but the weekend kicks off with a free concert Friday evening with The Matchsellers.

Dozens of other activities and games are scheduled for the festival, rain or shine, including:

  • Pony rides
  • Mule-drawn wagon rides
  • Children’s games
  • Log sawing
  • Spinning
  • Buffalo toss
  • The Marble Man
  • Old Mission Cider Press
  • The rope bridge
  • JCYM bake sale
  • Blacksmith
  • Kettle corn
  • Beer tent
  • 10 food trucks and concessions, including Native American tacos
  • Face painting

More information, including a full schedule of activities, is available on the foundation’s website.

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