No bubble-burstin’ this year
Organizers finally get cooperation from weather for festival
For 22 years, residents and area vendors have converged along Fourth Street in Tonganoxie to participate in Tonganoxie Days.
Though rain has been a factor the past two years for Tonganoxie Days, this year's sunny, 80-degree weather was almost perfect.
"This is fantastic," said Beth Gunn a jelly maker from Inman. "The weather today has just been beautiful."
This was Gunn's first year at the festival, and she said was planning a return for a second year.
The festival started Friday night at the Tonganoxie High School, where four young women ranging in ages from infant to teenager took home crowns in various Miss Tonganoxie competitions.
Tonganoxie Days continued on to Saturday, when festival-goers were treated to the arts and crafts of local and regional vendors, as well as some free live entertainment.
Members of the Happy Time Squares dance club kicked off the entertainment with several square dances that gathered some crowd participation at the end.
Many students from the Starstruck Dance Center in town also performed on the main stage area on the intersection of Fourth and Bury streets.
Performing by herself was no problem for 6-year-old Bailey Bradley, who had just taken the title of Petite Miss Tonganoxie the night before.
"I've been in recitals and rehearsals and beauty pageants," she said.
There were also performances by the Cowtown Cloggers and local Boy Scouts, who did some traditional American Indian dances.
Pets were even able to strut their stuff and compete for prizes at the first ever Pet Pageant at the Tonganoxie Public Library. Dogs were dressed up and some even performed tricks to earn a top score by the panel of judges.
In the pits
Besides the yummy smells coming from the food vendors along Fourth Street, the irresistible smell of barbeque was wafting across U.S. Highway 24-40 from the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds, where a barbeque competition certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society was taking place.
Alfred Bowen, who has been a member of the KCBS for 20 years, said that most people just like to grill hot dogs and hamburgers in their back yards, but the competition on Tonganoxie was "real honest to goodness smoked barbeque."
Thirty-two contestants competed to be the winner at the Tonganoxie Barbeque Competition. The contestants competed in four meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket.
Each cut of meat was being judged on appearance, taste, tenderness and texture. The judges awarded two to nine points for each of these attributes.
"A two means, blah I won't even look at this stuff," Bowen said. "A nine means, I've died and gone to heaven. An eight is, I'll marry the cook."
The winner received a trophy and some prize money, but more importantly they received bragging rights for the year and an invitation to the American Royal BBQ in October.
"I've seen people win with just a 55-gallon drum and a truckload of wood over the most expensive rig," Bowen said.
Hemphill Smokers, Lawrence, was named the overall grand champion.
While the barbeque cooks were busy smoking their cuts of meat, the Kansas Miniature Horse Club was busy with a whole day's worth of competitions.
The competitors and their horses competed in events such as jumping, obstacle course, showmanship and even a costume contest.
Denise Mungle won second place for dressing her horse Hot Shot in a Superman costume.
Even the PTA was out enjoying the nice weather and trying to make parents aware of the PTA and get them to join for this upcoming year.
Tammy Bartels, PTA member, said last year the PTA had gotten about 50 members to sign up at their booth during Tonganoxie Days. To help with their promotion, QVC had donated money to rent an air-filled funhouse for children to play in.
About the only thing missing -- besides the rain that plagued the festival the past two years -- was the antique car at the VFW Park. In its place this year was an antique tractor show filled with many early to mid-20th century tractors.
VFW Park was the site of 63 weapons and 24 tractors on separate displays as part of Saturday's festivities.
Michael Seymour, park ranger at the Fort Larned National Historic Site, held a discussion with 22 listeners about the weapons, which ranged in date from the 1760s to 1987.
"The display is honoring the American soldier," Seymour said.
This was the first time Seymour gave the presentation as part of Tonganoxie Days.
Seymour said his personal favorite weapon in the display was the 1875 Springfield Lee Experimental. He explained his reasoning to the audience.
"It's very rare in production," Seymour said. "It's serial No. 2, plus the fact that it has a very unique method of operation. It takes four or five different movements to load and chamber some of these other ones, but this one only takes about two or three."
The model was serial No. 2 of the Lee Experimentals that were made. Congress actually approved $5,000 to make 500 of the rifles, but money ran out at rifle No. 143 and production stopped. The Lee Experimental was intended to replace the 1875 trapdoor rifle.
Ray Martin organized the tractor display, which also took place for the first time this year at Tonganoxie Days. The tractor display took the place of the car show.
Martin had 24 tractors lined up outside ranging in date from 1936 to 1957.
The 1936 tractor was a Case model that belonged to Jim Edmonds. The 1957 tractor was an International Farmall 450, which belonged to Martin. Other popular tractors included Allis-Chalmers and John Deere models. The majority of the tractors came from Tonganoxie, Leavenworth and Topeka. Martin said there wasn't a specific value for the tractors, but every tractor at the display had a value of at least $1,000.
Martin grew up in Tonganoxie. He's been collecting International Farmall tractors for 40 years. He said he had about 20 tractors in his collection. Martin buys most of his tractors from farm sales or state sales in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
"It was a lot bigger than what we thought it would be," Martin said of the tractor display. "It's a good start, but we hope to have even more next year."
The "ah's" had it Friday at the Tonganoxie Performing Arts Center.
This year's edition of the Miss Tonganoxie pageant tugged on the hearts of spectators.
The field included contestants who were barely more than a year old, wearing cheerleading outfits and tiny dresses for the pageant.
Toddlers and elementary school-aged, as well as middle school and high school students, also competed in their respective categories.
Eighteen girls entered the event, slightly down from last year's number.
Cynthia Starcher, of Starstruck Dance Center, which organized the event, said she was pleased with the pageant being held in the high school's new auditorium, which was completed last year.
"This made it better being able to use the new school instead of being at the fairgrounds," Starcher said.
Rachel Wood was crowned this year's Miss Tonganoxie, while Kaitlyn Newman received the sash for Junior Miss Tonganoxie.
Bailey Bradley was named Petite Miss Tonganoxie and Addison Goebel took home the title of Tiny Miss Tonganoxie.
Girls participated in categories, such as interview, costume and talent.
Some of the older entrants did tumbling and gymnastic acts, while others sang or performed dances. One youth demonstrated her tae kwon do skills.
Spectators were given a scare when participant Danielle Henderson, while giving a speech about what her hometown means to her, fainted on stage. Henderson, though, persevered.
Once she was back on her feet, she completed her speech. Henderson also participated in the event on crutches after sustaining a foot injury during a recent dance recital rehearsal.
Participants received gift bags and other prizes for their accomplishments at the pageant.
-- Staff writers Eric Sorrentino and Shawn Linenberger contributed to this report.
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