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Archive for Sunday, June 27, 2004

Territorial festival draws 5,000 to Lecompton

Parade, historical re-enactments, other events help Douglas County town mark sesquicentennial

June 27, 2004

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— The donkeys almost stole the show as Lecompton celebrated its 150th birthday with a parade through town Saturday morning.

As part of the Territorial Days festival, around 1,200 people lined up in the small town 10 miles northwest of Lawrence to celebrate its history as the territorial capital of Kansas.

More than 5,000 people attended the festival, which took place Friday night and all day Saturday, said Mike Leming, president of the Territorial Days committee.

Debbie Johnson decorated her two miniature donkeys, Gabby and Sparky, and with the help of her daughter Daisy, son Dusti and family friend Sierra Newport, marched them down the street.

"They were just fine until there were spectators," Johnson said. "Then they got stage fright."

With a little prodding, the donkeys, decorated in red, white and blue, kept going and made it to the finish.

Five-year-old Sara Hotchkiss said the donkeys were her favorite part of the parade. Johnson was Hotchkiss' kindergarten teacher at Lecompton Elementary School last year.

"That was exciting for her," said Pam Hotchkiss, Sara's mother.

Johnson had been preparing the donkeys for the parade since Sparky was born April 1. Gabby is his mother.

"He did good for his first parade," Johnson said.

Lee McMahon, 8, Lawrence, said his favorite part of the parade was seeing his grandfather dressed up as a clown.

McMahon's grandmother, Diana Swafford, said she enjoyed bringing her grandchildren to the festival.

Carey Monaghan and her son Gavin, 20 months, get a bird's-eye view
of Territorial Days festivities from Constitution Hall in
Lecompton. The annual festival drew about 5,000 people to the
northwest Douglas County town.

Carey Monaghan and her son Gavin, 20 months, get a bird's-eye view of Territorial Days festivities from Constitution Hall in Lecompton. The annual festival drew about 5,000 people to the northwest Douglas County town.

"I wanted the boys to experience something different and unique to do in Kansas," said Swafford, who lives in Topeka. "Lecompton in charming. It's the epitome of small-town Kansas. It makes me want to move to someplace like this."

The festival continued in the afternoon with the dedication of the restored Democratic Headquarters building, an 1850s-era cabin used during a time when Lecompton was known as "The Birthplace of the Kansas Democratic Party." Other events were the "Bleeding Kansas" performance, and a piano recital and jamboree at Lecompton United Methodist Church.

Paul Bahnmaier, one of the festival organizers, said the piano in the church had been used for 119 years.

Lecompton residents Bonny and Steve Fugett said this year's Territorial Days festival was a little different from those in the past, with more historical plays and events planned in honor of the town's sesquicentennial.

"There's definitely more people here this year," Bonny Fugett said.

Debbie Johnson's father, Robert Fulton, said he enjoyed how the Territorial Days festival brought communities in northeast Kansas together.



"It's laid-back and keeps growing because of the hard work by organizers like Paul Bahnmaier," Fulton said. "It's pretty nice to bring the communities together."

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