Lenexa cancels remaining special events this year due to COVID-19 pandemic

Lenexa has canceled its annual Spinach Festival and the city's remaining special events this year. Above, a photo of the Spinach Festival in 2019. Photo credit Bill Harrison.

Lenexa has canceled its remaining special events for the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the city’s annual Spinach Festival, Chili Challenge, Enchanted Forest and the formal lighting ceremony of Sar-Ko Aglow.

“In light of these challenges, we are recommending the cancellation of the remaining special events for the year,” said Gary Ristow, director of parks and recreation, in a presentation to the Lenexa City Council on Tuesday. “With that in mind, we are committed to providing some options for our citizens.”

Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park will still be lit up this winter, with thousands of lights strung across the branches of dozens of trees. However, the lighting ceremony draws hundreds to watch when the city flips the switch to light the entire park. City staff is planning a virtual viewing of this event.

The following special events are canceled:

  • Community Orchestra season
  • Movie in the Park (Aug. 28)
  • Spinach Festival (Sept. 12)
  • Food Truck Frenzy (Sept. 19)
  • Chili Challenge (Oct. 9-10)
  • Enchanted Forest (Oct. 29)
  • Senior Banquet (Dec. 7)

City staff modified the city’s Movie in the Park event in September to a drive-in format, which is intended to accommodate social distancing guidelines during the pandemic (the August movie event is still canceled). Ristow said the drive-in movie last weekend at Freedom Fields at 83rd and Monticello had “great turnout.”

Staff also added a new event, the Fall Porch Parade. Similar to the Community Days Porch Parade to show hometown spirit in July, the Fall Porch Parade goes from Oct. 21 to 31 and has a fall/Halloween theme.

In other recreation updates, Ristow said the Lenexa Rec Center membership is down, from roughly 10,000 to 6,700, but those who are coming have “greatly appreciated” the efforts by staff to make it safe during the pandemic.

Indian Trails Pool, which is open to Lenexa residents this summer, has been going “extremely well,” at times almost reaching capacity.

Additionally, city staff is working on a possible plan to extend its summer camps, since Shawnee Mission schools will delay opening until after Labor Day in September.

Councilmembers shared their sadness and regret for the circumstances as well as support for staff working to keep residents safe.

“The seven or eight festivals or big gatherings… I’ve always thought of them as sort of our town square where we all come together and reconnect,” said Councilmember Bill Nicks. “It’s in your DNA to provide those kind of services, so I know it’s hard for you and Beccy (Yocham) and your staff to cancel these, and hard on Lenexa residents not to come together and reconnect, make new friends. It’s sad but it’s absolutely the right decision.”