Story in pictures — Shawnee’s first-ever Moonlight Market creates ‘hopeful’ vibe after pandemic year

Downtown Shawnee was hopping Thursday night, despite the nearly 100-degree heat, as the community celebrated shopping local and seeing each other's unmasked faces, some for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The city's revamped farmers' market will take place the third Thursday of every month through October. Above, Matt (left) and Angie Thompson of Kansas City, Kan., crossed the county line to do some evening shopping at the market.

Temperatures Thursday afternoon swelled to 99 degrees in downtown Shawnee, but that didn’t stop hundreds of residents from flocking to the downtown area around Nieman Road and Johnson Drive for the city’s first-ever Moonlight Market.

Moonlight Market will take place the third Thursday of every month through October.

The first scheduled Moonlight Market was canceled last month because of stormy weather. Nonetheless, community leaders hope events like the Moonlight Market can make downtown Shawnee a destination this summer, especially as Johnson County starts to return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.

On Thursday, for the first time in more than a year, Shawnee’s downtown truly came alive. Nearly all market-goers and vendors went unmasked, and smiles were evident on many faces, despite the blistering heat.

Here are some images of the evening:

Jourdan Holmes makes jewelry and accessories as part of her home-based business, Holmes Homemade, in Overland Park. “I grew up in Shawnee; my parents live here, I’m very familiar with Johnson Drive,” she said. “And so when I heard that there was a Moonlight Market, something at night that was going to be cool, it would be perfect for me to come out here with the earrings, and it would be a great family event.”

 

Penelope Pitts (left) and her sister, Elliana, of Shawnee, check out the rocks at Rock Festival, a rock-polishing business by husband-and-wife team Mike Harrington and Kathy McDonnell. “We were so excited to come,” McDonnell added. “It’s a family tradition that my father taught me, and my kids support local.”

 

Ariel Peck (left) of Viva Social Dance Studio in Shawnee makes some new friends near Aztec Theater.

 

Jordan Glover, a maker and owner of Desert Sun Floral in Kansas City, Kan., hand paints wooden flowers for home decorations. A self-described introvert who loves people, Glover said getting back into public spaces like the Moonlight Market has been good. “I really missed the energy of doing these events and getting out and doing all of that. So I’m signed up through October for this market. I was like, ‘Day one: just sign me up for all of them.’ I’m ready to get out and do stuff.”

The Sam Platt Trio belted out colorful tunes, creating a lively background as couples and families wandered through the booths and picked up refreshments from the local breweries and bakeries. Children played in the spray of a fire hydrant, the shimmer of the water tossing a rainbow across Barton Drive.

The Sam Platt Trio gave a lively performance in the parking lot of Shawnee City Hall for the Moonlight Market.

It wasn’t all fun and games for Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler.

She agreed to get dropped in a dunk tank in order to raise money for the annual Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund.

However, she told the Post she suffered a mild injury towards the end of the evening when the tank collapsed and trapped her leg.

Shawnee firefighters had to free her. She was briefly hospitalized and is now recovering from soft tissue damage and swelling.

“No good deed goes unpunished right?” she said. “It was fun up until that point and raised money for good causes, so hopefully it was worth it.”

Mayor Michelle Distler takes a break from the dunk tank, her fundraiser for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, to give some love to pooch Colt Slocum, owned by Ryan Slocum of Shawnee.

Customers streamed in and out of the open doors of local shops along Johnson Drive. Betty C’s also had live entertainment, with Brianna Greene belting out “Redneck Woman” and other crowd favorites.

Brianna Greene with Stars N Bars Music belts out some crowd favorites and catchy, sing-along tunes in front of Betty C’s at the Moonlight Market.

For some families, the Moonlight Market marked the first major social outing following the drawn-out saga of the pandemic.

For others, it meant supporting local businesses, as dozens of makers, bakers, brewers and creators came out to show off their brands and sell their wares, some of them for the first time ever.

 

Elliana Pitts came out with her family, mom and dad Jessica and Kevin Pitts, her big sister, Audine, and her little sister, Penelope. Jessica said the event was one of the first public events the family has attended since before the pandemic started in spring 2020. “It feels amazing because we’ve been rather conservative and stayed home, and so just to finally get to be out and to take them out just feels hopeful, I guess,” she said. “It’s fun to see the girls interacting with people again.”

 

Brothers Kipton Wheeler (left) and Waylon Wheeler of Shawnee play in water spraying from a nearby fire hydrant at the Moonlight Market.

 

Colt Slocum, a young German Shepherd, was a fan favorite at the Moonlight Market.