First City History Festival this weekend

The First City History Festival is April 29-30 at Haymarket Square in downtown Leavenworth. (First City History Festival graphic, derived from cover artwork on a 1909 book about Leavenworth)

Charlotte Richter/ Staff Writer

Area organizations, including the Frontier Army Museum, and more than 60 vendors are bringing interactive activities, food and shopping to the First City History Festival April 29-30 at Haymarket Square in downtown Leavenworth.

Festival Chairperson Shannon Gardner said though other festivals have highlighted the region’s history, the First City History Festival specifically focuses on educating the community on Leavenworth history from the 1850s to 1950s.

The event will include food trucks, live music, historical re-enactments, storytellers, a sock hop, a marble shooting tournament and other contests. Participating organizations plan to dress according to the historic era each day.

Gardner said she had previously helped research individuals buried at Greenwood Cemetery off Tonganoxie Drive and Limit Street in Leavenworth and wanted to find another outlet to share that history in the area.

“I started finding amazing stories about (the people buried at Greenwood) that I thought people would want to hear, so I started posting them on a Facebook page. People just loved it, so then I thought, ‘Hey we need to share this information,’” Gardner said.

She said she and other residents reached out to local vendors and historical organizations in a grassroots effort to develop a festival. Gardner said she hopes the festival will help people take pride in the history of their surroundings; she encourages visitors to ask questions.

“I think everybody can pull (from the festival) with what interests them. I think there’s so many different things you can learn from it that everybody’s perspective might be different. You know the kids playing marbles might learn (about marbles) and somebody who wanted to hear old country music or the poet (will experience them),” Gardner said.

Festival Committee Member Christian Roesler, museum specialist at the Frontier Army Museum, said FAM plans to have a booth at the festival displaying a Henry repeating rifle and civil war era clothing.

She said when the FAM museum specialists select artifacts to display at an event, they concentrate on the event’s purpose, the condition of the artifacts and the space available to share information.

“(The Henry repeating rifle) seems to be more popular, because that’s what people associate with the old wild west or the old west… It’s just kind of that nostalgia for the old days, and that’s why I’m taking this one,” Roesler said.

Roesler said FAM plans to present reproductions of original artifacts.

“The whole reason why we’re choosing to do reproductions is because these (artifacts) are not going to be protected in any way (at the festival) — it’s not going to be in a climate-controlled building. Unfortunately, we would never be able to bring original historic artifacts to something like this, just simply because it’s too much of a risk. But if we do have something, we want to make sure that it is historically accurate, so even though you’re not looking at a jacket that’s literally almost 200 years old, you are looking at something that looks exactly like that 200-year-old jacket.”

Roesler said those interested in the original artifacts are welcome to visit the museum to learn more.

For more information about the festival, visit the First City History Festival Facebook page at


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