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Neewollah Memory Lane

Neewollah Floats from 1920 - 1930

Writer wrote:

I have always loved this picture of my sister-in-law and her two sisters and her mother (the driver) on this fabulous float in the Neewollah parade. I have no idea what year this is, but my sister-in-law, Clarie Peek (Dubbels) will be 100 years old on October 16. Her oldest sister, the one on the back by the driver, Marguerite (Mickey) Corley (Dubbels) passed away in 2010 at the age of 98 1/2. The middle sister, Dorothea (Dotty) Lange (Dubbels) lived to be 95. Their mother, Anny Eugenia (Billy) Dubbels had an antique store in Independence, Kansas, and lived to be age 87. Must be the fresh Kansas air!!!

My sister-in-law's mother came to America from Switzerland and her father John Henry Dubbels came to America from Germany.

The largest annual celebration in southeastern Kansas has come a long way since its beginning in 1919 as a way to keep playful pranksters out of mischief on Halloween night. For one full week, Neewollah entertains people from all walks of life, and Independence, a town of around 11,000, becomes a city of over 80,000.

Neewollah offers musical stage shows, queen competition and coronation, carnival, concessions, street acts, artists alley, and top performers in the entertainment world. Past performers include Patty Loveless and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The festival, normally held the last full week of October, is topped off by one of the biggest and grandest parades ever, a two hour kaleidoscope of music, color, pageantry and just good old fun!

Have you figured out what Neewollah stands for? It's Halloween spelled backwards!

The Neewollah festival, the largest annual celebration in Kansas, dates back to the end of World War I. In reading the newspapers of the day, apparently Halloween 1918 had been an extremely rough year in terms of the number of "tricks" pranksters had invoked on the Independence population. Accordingly, city fathers sought a healthy diversion to the good natured but nonetheless destructive vandalism that Halloween had imposed in those days. Neewollah was created as an outlet for young people's natural energy during Halloween.

The original Neewollah celebration was a one day county fair with rodeo, horse show, night parade and a queen. During the Roaring Twenties the celebration expanded to two days and an additional rodeo parade was added. Neewollah continued to be celebrated in a scaled down version until the onset of the great depression of the 1930s. It was revived in 1938 but later again disbanded during World War II.

By the early 1970's Neewollah was on the brink of collapse. A combination of bad weather and unforeseen expenses had led Neewollah almost to financial ruin. A board of directors was formed to oversee the celebration and watch the expenditures. And Neewollah committeeman Jerry Webb went door to door asking for local contributions. Finally, the celebration got back on its feet and since that time has flourished and

Daily Events - The Medallion Hunt kicks off the ten day celebration on the next to last Wednesday of October. The musical now runs three days with two evening performances and a matinee. Over 2500 people routinely see the Neewollah musical or 25% of the towns population.

The Queen Neelah pageant is held at Memorial Hall auditorium (a 2000 seat modernized auditorium built at the end of World War I) Queens talent night is Monday night of the Neewollah week and the coronation is Tuesday evening followed by a dance. In 1966 as an added treat the Neewollah queen was crowned by the reigning Miss America, Deborah Bryant and we had a return appearance by Miss America Tara Dawn Holland in 1997. The Queen Neelah pageant is always a great favorite with the crowd and approximately 30 to 35 high school seniors compete for the crown of Queen Neelah.

Wednesday night is family carnival night downtown with the opening of the food stands on the street and the reduced prices for the carnival. Thursday night is the continuation of downtown activities and a third parade, called simply the Doo Dah Parade. It is the adult version of the Kiddies parade and has grown in popularity since its inception in 1993.

Friday afternoon is the Kiddies parade at 4:00 and followed by street acts and street activities. Some years, a variety of different professional shows have performed in Memorial Hall on Friday night.

Saturday is the big day, with the largest parade in Kansas, the Neewollah Grand Parade. This is followed by free street acts and a high school marching band competition. Saturday night is the professional show which always presents a top act. Still going strong after nearly 40 years booking acts for Neewollah is one of its founders, Jim Halsey who actually helped started it all back in 1959.

The one constant in all of Neewollah since it was revitalized in 1959 has been community volunteerism. Without the work of hundreds of community volunteers, the celebration could not be put on.

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