Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) began in 1919 as an effort to provide positive activities for kids of all ages in place of the typical Halloween pranks that occurred in the community of Independence, Kansas. In the beginning the events centered on parades, morning, afternoon, and night on October 31. The parades consisted mainly of decorated cars and carriages. Queens and princesses from area festivals rode in the parades, along with our own Queen Neelah who was selected based on votes bought at a penny each. The Great Depression and World War II interrupted the Neewollah celebration but in 1958 four businessmen revived and elaborated on the Neewollah theme bringing it back as a 3-day celebration.
Today Neewollah is the largest annual festival in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of around 8,500 inhabitants to 75,000 in the final days of the now 9-day celebration. Today's celebration now includes 3 parades, a Doo Dah Parade (adult Kiddie Parade), a Kiddie Parade and a Grand Parade. A Chili Cook-off, Musical and Queen Neelah pageant also add to the festival activities. The main downtown is filled with 30 plus food vendors, a large carnival and bandstand for nightly entertainment. The Arts and Craft show, the Band Competition and Fun Run provide activities for everyone. Great Bandstand Entertainment bring a conclusion to the diligent efforts of over 500 community volunteers.