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'No place like home' for Larned's Santa Fe Trail Days
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LARNED — Alex Filbert, executive director of the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce, admits that sometimes looking for a theme for a long-running community event isn’t always easy.

But sometimes, the pieces just fit together.

That was the case for the 30th Annual Santa Fe Trail Days event, scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 27-29 in Larned. This year’s theme is “There’s No Place Like Home,” from the 1939 film classic, “Wizard of Oz.” The movie will be shown from 9:15 p.m. to approximately 11:15 p.m. Friday.

The movie, which is one of the events planned on the lawn of the Pawnee County Courthouse, was a major factor in the theme selection, Filbert noted.

“We’ve tried to do the theme around whatever movie we’re going to get,” Filbert said.

The formula worked well in 2018, as the Chamber introduced an evening “Glow Parade” for a baseball theme centered on “The Sandlot,” a 1993 coming of age film that told the story of a group of young players during the summer of 1962. Ralph Terry, baseball’s 1962 World Series MVP, was selected as Grand Marshal that year.

“It just so happened that there was a baseball tournament scheduled for that same weekend,” Filbert said. “Everything just sort of fell together that year.”

This year, with the theme derived from Dorothy’s wish to return to Kansas, Filbert is drawing on a number of aspects to fill the three-day schedule. Along with activities in conjunction with Larned High School’s All-School Reunion, several of the events have been slated just for them. Among these is the nightly lighting of the Larned water tower, whose Thanksgiving relighting ceremony sparked a “coming home” memory for many last November.

“The plan is to have the water tower lit for all three days,” she said. “I know that there were so many alumni that couldn’t make it back home for the lighting at Thanksgiving. It just seemed like a good idea with everything going on that we should light it up.”

Then there’s co-Grand Marshals Kyle and Tamara Beckwith. “Their entire staff dressed up as characters from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for our Chamber banquet last October,” she noted. “I don’t know if they will be appearing in costume, but it is just fitting that the great and powerful Oz will be leading our parade.”

Some events are new this year, and some have been brought back from a long absence. Coming back is the Duck Race, which takes place at the swimming pool opening and hamburger feed at 7 p.m. Friday in Schnack Park.

The Burger Battle, featuring mounds of hamburger sliders and quartered hamburgers that can be tasted for a $5 fee as grillers compete for prizes, has been moved to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Pawnee County Fairgrounds.

The annual parade, a longtime staple event, has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday on downtown Broadway.

The event wraps up Sunday, May 29, with a worship service beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Santa Fe Trail Center Chapel.

“If we’re going to be saying that there’s no place like home, we have to have lots of fun stuff going on,” Filbert said. “There’s plenty of options for food and fun activities for kids and those who are young at heart.”

Big plans for LHS All-School Reunion

LARNED — With around 470 Larned High School alumni signed up, the 16-member planning committee for the 2022 Larned Alumni All-School Reunion has high hopes for success Memorial Day weekend.

Held in conjunction with Larned Area Chamber of Commerce’s 30th annual Santa Fe Trail Days, there will be plenty of things to see and do.

The reunion’s theme is “Dragging the Gut Down Memory Lane,” notes Larned Alumni Association Chairman Rick Yeager. “It’s something that we’ve always kept in the back of our minds to do,” he said. 

The first all-school reunion drew 600 returnees in 2013, “which will be a hard record to break,” he said. The next was in 2017.

“With the Chamber having their carnival on Broadway, getting a car caravan on the main drag as a reunion activity was logistically difficult,” Yeager noted. During COVID, some grassroots “drags” downtown were organized and were enthusiastically received. “So, the committee adopted it as our theme and we hope for a big turnout,” he said.

On Friday, May 27, reunion registration opens at the Larned Middle School from 1-4 p.m. Alumni and others are then invited to Broadway Street to “Drag the Gut,” until the City of Larned’s hamburger feed at the municipal swimming pool in Schnack Park as the opener for Santa Fe Trail Days begins at 5 p.m.

Registration continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 5-6 p.m. In addition to name badges, registrants will receive tickets to attend the alumni banquet from 6-8 p.m.

All alumni are encouraged to assemble at the Middle School at 904 Corse Ave. for a group photo at 5 p.m. prior to the banquet.

Other activities are interspersed with the Trail Days schedule. On Saturday, individual class reunions will take place all day, and local historian Tom Giessel will present alumni history displays at the Middle School at 904 Corse Ave.

The reunion wraps up Sunday at the Middle School, with brunch from 10 a.m. to noon.