Here are the Post’s most memorable images of 2021 in Johnson County

Like the previous year, 2021 posed challenges to the Johnson County community. But it wasn't all bad news. Some old favorite traditions returned to give a brief hint of normalcy. Above, SM East students parade down Mission Road in September for the first Lancer Day in two years.

Another year is nearly in the books for Johnson County — and a lot happened in 2021.

In March, our community marked the somber anniversary of COVID-19. And as the year ends, we look grimly ahead to a two-year anniversary.

Vaccine rollouts, the return of in-person learning in many schools and the lowering of pandemic restrictions gave us hope.

But successive waves of new cases, fueled by contagious variants, have reminded us how tenuous our hold on progress against the disease is.

It wasn’t all about COVID-19 in 2021, though.

Johnson Countians celebrated a new federal holiday. They also went to the polls in local elections.

Some businesses opened, others closed and a few local favorites gained national recognition.

Old traditions returned, as in Lancer Day, and new ones began, like Shawnee’s Moonlight Market.

And a historical landmark gained new life showing classic movies on the silver screen.

The Post tried to capture as much as we could with our cameras.

Here’s what 2021 looked like in Johnson County — in pictures:

Dennis Wilson photo
Dennis Wilson, a retired superintendent and part-time magician, was the first recorded death from COVID-19 in Johnson County in March 2020. At the one-year mark this year, his wife Joanna said she was concerned about people who haven’t been personally affected by COVID-19 going on with life as usual.
Shortly after the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being in Johnson County, Gov. Laura Kelly announced vaccines would become available to all adults — not just vulnerable populations — in late March. By December, local health officials reported more than 70% of eligible Johnson Countians had received at least one shot.
Some Johnson County businesses gained national attention, including Fairway Creamery (above) and Fluffy Fresh Donuts in Mission, which were both named best donuts in Kansas by Food & Wine Magazine in February.
The city of Lenexa regulated homeless shelters in March, allowing shelters in any religious institution as an accessory use. Project 1020 in Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church was the only shelter immediately affected by the regulation.
As COVID-19 continued, so did reports of discrimination and even acts of violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders. In March, some 200 people gathered at 119th and Grant Streets for a Stop Asian Hate rally. Above, a young girl speaking at the rally.
In the spring, as vaccinations accelerated, large in-person gatherings began popping up in Johnson County. One of the first examples of this was the first-ever Meadowbrook Car Show in Prairie Village in April.
Then, for the first time, Shawnee brought the Moonlight Market to its downtown area in June. Above, singer Brianna Greene with Stars N Bars Music sings.
Overland Park celebrated Juneteenth for the first time in June, after the date that commemorates when slaves in Texas found at they had been freed was made a national holiday. The Overland Park event featured a proclamation from then Mayor Carl Gerlach and performance by the KCK All-Star Band.
As summer came to a close, though, mask mandates were a hot topic. The Shawnee Mission School District was the first Johnson County district to announce a universal mask policy when kids returned to in-person learning in August. At the close of the semester, SMSD planned to roll back the rule for high school students.
Shortly after the school district’s decision, Prairie Village became the first Johnson County city with its own mask mandate. The city of Roeland Park followed after by adopting a resolution strongly recommending masks in city businesses. By December, both cities had let their mandates lapse. Roeland Park later rejected an ordinance re-implementing a new mask order.
In September, goats flooded Sar-Ko-Par Park and Trails in Lenexa, brought in by the city to help rid the park of invasive plant species.
September wasn’t all warm and fuzzy, though. Melange Dance Studio, a long time tenant in downtown Mission, closed that month. It’s owner said she could not continue amid the financial impacts of the pandemic, which hit the dance community especially hard.
Businesses came and went all year long in Johnson County. One business that started up: Imagine Furever Ranch opened in Shawnee, a home for aging pets looking for a final home.
Just next door to SM East, Harmon Park Skate Park reopened — new and improved. The city of Prairie Village hosted a grand opening for skaters to try their new digs in September.
Toward the end of September, a years-long effort to change Shawnee Mission North’s Indian mascot finally came to an end. A new mascot policy adopted earlier in the year made the Indian to be no longer in compliance, and the school community vote to replace it with the Bison. By the start of the new school year, some signage and logos, including the gym floor, had started to change.
At the start of October, Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes announced a partnership with the city of Fairway to find out more about the Shawnee Indian Mission. Barnes said he hopes to find out more about the children who went missing from the once manual labor boarding school.
The spooky season brought an appearance from the Ghostbusters. Volunteers for Midland Empire Ghostbusters, the crew traipsing around Johnson County appear as an attraction for events like kids’ parties or fundraisers.
Aztec Theater in downtown Shawnee showed its first film on the big screen in nearly 50 years. The 1937 “Dracula” was shown at Aztec on Oct. 27.



In November, Shawnee Mission North students staged a walkout to speak up against sexual assault allegations. Students said administration didn’t do anything when approached about the allegations, though a police report obtained later by the Post showed that officials had filed a police report the same as the walkout.
As Johnson County entered the holiday season, Shawnee Mission West senior Aidan Hall hosted his first-ever in-person holiday market at Thompson Barn in Lenexa. It featured performances, including the dance troupe pictured above. A virtual market will be available through Dec. 31.