INDEPENDENCE, Kan. - The Neewollah Festival will celebrate its 60th Anniversary from October 19-27, in downtown Independence, Kansas. The famous nine day Halloween themed festival will feature live theatrical productions, concerts, three different parades, 5K/10K fun runs, pageants, a carnival, a chili cook off, vendors, food and more.
Neewollah was revived into a multi-day celebration in 1958 by legendary music impresario and Independence, Kansas native, Jim Halsey, along with Jerry Webb, Bob Wohltman, and Don Dancer. The first Neewollah celebration actually dates all the way back to 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. In the beginning the events centered on parades of decorated cars and carriages during the morning, afternoon, and night on October 31.
In 1981 HBO produced a music special from Neewollah - also organized by Jim Halsey, Sherman Halsey, and directed by award winner Marty Calliner - starring Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Lee, Charlie Rich and Lacy J Dalton. Other stars that have headlined the festival over the years have been Don Williams, Mel Tillis, BJ Thomas, Roy Clark, Oak Ridge Boys, Reba McEntire, Ray Price, and The Bellamy Brothers.
Today, Neewollah is the largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of just under 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000 in the final days of the now 10-day celebration. Today's celebration now includes 3 parades, a Doo Dah Parade (adult Kiddie Parade), a Kiddies Parade and a Grand Parade. Other activities include a chili cook-off, a hometown musical, and a queen's pageant also adds to the festival activities. The main downtown is filled with a variety of food vendors, a large carnival and bandstand for nightly entertainment. The arts and craft show, the band competition, and the fun run provide activities for everyone.
The Neewollah Festival will conclude on Saturday, October 27 with the Grand Parade, featuring the festival's co-founder Jim Halsey as the Grand Marshal, followed by a concert that evening with iconic Country music star, Lee Greenwood, along with Americana performer Kyle Dillingham at Memorial Hall. This will mark Lee Greenwood's third appearance at the Neewollah Festival.
Grammy award winner Lee Greenwood has more than 30 albums to his credit, seven #1 songs, 25 charted singles, and a CMA Song of the Year award in 1985 for his most recognizable, and patriotic song, “God Bless the USA.” Other hits from him include “It Turns Me Inside Out,” “ Ring on her Finger Time on her Hands,” “She’s Lying,” “ I Don’t Mind the Thorns if You’re the Rose,” “Dixie Road,” “Somebody’s Gonna Love You,” “Going, Going Gone,” “You Got a Good Love Comin,” “Fools Gold,” and “ Mornin’ Ride.”
Also joining on the stage that evening will be Oklahoma’s official musical ambassador and fiddle extraordinaire, Kyle Dillingham and his band, Horseshoe Road. Dillingham is a classically trained fiddle player who first picked up a violin when he was just nine years old. Eight years later, he gave two featured performances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Together, Dillingham and his band have represented America internationally in 37 countries. More recently, Dillingham was nominated by the National Endowment for the Arts to officially represent the United States in the NEA’s American Music Abroad program, and performed at the NEA's awards banquet in Washington D.C. on September 28. This rare opportunity was a huge honor as Kyle Dillingham also paid homage to famed clothing designer, Manuel Cuevas at the ceremony. Kyle, who often wears suits designed by Manuel on stage has formed a friendship and deep respect for Manuel since their first visit together. On stage, Dillingham performs a mix of his band’s original songs, along with classic covers and fiddlin’ favorites that are sure to have audiences on their feet.
For more information, and to buy advance online tickets for the Neewollah Festival, visit www.neewollah.com or the festival’s Facebook Event Page. Help lines for online ticket sales is 620-330-6834 or 620-330-0675, and will be open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm CT, Monday thru Friday.
About Neewollah Festival:
The Neewollah ("Halloween" spelled backwards) celebration 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 their 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 featuring big-name music and recording stars.