Tonganoxie Days a hit for the whole family
Clear skies, the smell of barbecue on the west side of town, shiny cars on the east and plenty of entertainment in between.
Crowds gathered Saturday for a full day of events, celebrating the 16th annual Tonganoxie Days festivities.
The event featured food booths, arts and crafts vendors, a demolition derby, children's games, live entertainers, car shows and a run/walk benefit.
"I think everything went pretty well," said Connie Torneden, who has been the chair of the festival for 14 of the past 16 years. "With a lot of other things going on, sometimes there would be a large crowd and it would slow down. Then another wave would hit."
There is no way of doing a headcount, but Torneden didn't think as many people attended the festivities this year as last.
"We need to think of ways to bring in a larger crowd," Torneden said. "I'm tickled to death that it didn't rain, though. We're trying to find more things of interest for everybody. I've already started taking notes for next year."
At the fairgrounds beneath the shade of a canopy, Steve DeBusk pulled a rack of juicy pork ribs from the smoky oven and plopped the meat on a cutting board.
"Ahhhhh, this is what it's all about," he said.
DeBusk, part of one of the 27 barbecue teams competing in this year's Tonganoxie Days Leavenworth County State Barbecue Championships, finds fulfillment spending weekends cooking the perfect slab of ribs, sliced pork or brisket or chicken.
DeBusk is one of a three-member team known as Bovine and Swine, from the Kansas City area.
The other two are friend Ed Clements and son-in-law Jim Williams.
Bovine Swine finished third overall at Saturday's competition.
Nearby, Danny Bruch pulled a slab of ribs out of his portable oven while his wife, Patty, and son Daniel, prepared a tray for the judges.
Bruch won first place in the pork roast competition during the first Tonganoxie Days barbecue cookoff.
The secret to good barbecuing is consistency, he said.
"You just tweak it don't raise the oven temperature too much, don't cook it too long," he said.
Jim Gambrill, organizer of the barbecue, said Saturday's turnout was good.
"We were up about 10 teams over last year," Gambrill said.
Bum Steers of Lenexa was the grand champion and Squeal of Approval of Lenexa was the reserve champion.
To some, cars can be like another child. Especially to those who participated in this year's car show at the VFW Park Saturday.
Pausing from polishing his car, Mark Meyer of Basehor said this one took about 11 years to finish. His next challenge is restoring a '54 Chevrolet pickup that was owned by his wife's grandparents.
"I love restoring cars," Meyer said. "It gives me something to do and keeps me busy."
Bruce Smock, Leavenworth, proudly displayed his refurbished 1969 Impala the same car that he drove each day to Tonganoxie High School when he was younger.
In 1978, he sold the car, and about 10 years later, he decided he wanted it back.
"My wife thought I was crazy," Smock said. "She said you're never going to find that car."
But in 1991, Smock located the car, stored in a barn in Garden City, Kansas.
Smock, who does auto body work for a living, restored the car and repainted it the original gold color.
Now that he has it back, he plans to keep it.
"It's my baby," Smock said. "It's like a part of my family I'm never going to sell this car."
About 30 drivers and hundreds of spectators flocked to the fairgrounds to see dirt-slinging and crashing action.
"It's everybody's ball game out there," said Chuck Wood of Eudora, who placed second in the compact car consolation category. "The slightest complication can determine whether you win or lose."
Tonganoxie's Mike Breshears, 37, won the full-size division. It was the first time he's ever won a derby.
"It was a real surprise," Breshears said. "I think I got lucky more than anything. I've been doing this for about 17 years and never won a race before."
Kyle Lux, 22, Tonganoxie, won first place in the full-size category's first heat but only took sixth in the final round and injured his arm. Lux was carried out on a stretcher.
Lux also said that he thought the competition was a little tougher this year than in the past.
Despite temperatures that soared into the 90s, the Cowtown Cloggers danced for audiences downtown, and then they headed out to the VFW park to perform again.
The Cloggers perform to country-western songs, old and new. The group performs about five times a month. This past week, they performed about four times.
"It's great performing together," Clogger Gary Checking said.
The Tonganoxie Public Library sponsored the fourth annual pet parade at Tonganoxie Days this year.
Pets pranced around on leashes or dressed in costumes.
There were fewer participants this year than last. Only six entered the parade and each won $10 as their prize. Last year there were 12 entrants.
"The parade was awesome," said Beckie Borella, library director.
Kicking up heels
Students of Star Struck Dance Center, 504 1/2 E. Fourth, performed several dance numbers at Tonganoxie Days.
"They did a great job, but it was a little hard for them to just dance in the middle of the street," Star Struck owner Cynthia Starcher said. "There were no major catastrophes and they did a lot better than in the past."
Weed willow woodwork
Steve Woolf spent his day doing one of the things he enjoys making furniture from willow.
Woolf creates chairs, loveseats, bookcases and whatever else tickles his fancy.
One day Woolf was walking while in Colorado and saw three acres of weed willow and told himself he thought he could easily build things from it. Sure enough, now it's a hobby. Typically, he said, pieces of furniture take him a day to complete. While at Tonganoxie Days, he built a chair.
Woolf sells his completed works. Most items are between $100 and $150.
"I like to keep my prices down," he said.