By Beccy Tanner
Mark your calendars for Oct. 21st for our Homecoming Festival.
The all-day event includes a chili cook off, concert, a pickleball tournament, horseshoe tournament, face-painting, a petting zoo, carnival games, free barbecue and so much more.
Most of the events will be in and around the square.
“Well, I think it’s a great community event where it will bring people of all ages out to enjoy the beautiful square and hopefully, we will have beautiful weather that day,” said Cami Raines, the festival’s committee chair.
“It’s a great event for families with small children because we have lots of activities planned for them – that will not cost a single penny, thanks to our very generous sponsors.”
Nationally-acclaimed photographer Bo Rader will present demonstrations of wet-plate photography — the kind of photography W.R. Gray worked with —and what the St. John Homecoming Hall and Museum is using to document the diverse cultures who have lived in Stafford County. Those demonstrations will be in the W.R. Gray Studio from noon to 4 pm.
At 2:30 pm in the square on the 21st, plan on learning more about the St. John Homecoming Hall and Museum’s recent Humanities Kansas Grant that allows Rader and museum staff to photograph, video and write stories about Native American tribes who once lived in Stafford County.
This year, we have invited some Native Americans to attend our festival to tell us more about their culture.
The festival focuses on the different cultures that have lived in Stafford County.
“It’s just good to focus on the cultures that helped start the county and the state and to encourage people to think about the past, our ancestors and support their local museums,” Raines said.
One of the highlights of our festival will be a concert featuring Jim and Salli Ratts with Ernie Martinez.
Their concert starts at 3:30 pm. In the square.
Jim grew up in Stafford County. The Ratts farm was a few miles northwest of St. John. The love of music has been passed down from generation to generation in the Ratts family. Many will remember Jim’s father, Loyd Ratts who lived to be 103 years old. He died in 2018.
Loyd Ratts’ legacy was not only as a farmer and inventor, but also as a musician. During the 1930s, Loyd Ratts, along with his two sisters, Vida and Thelma, would travel through central and southwest Kansas to local radio stations and perform live for their radio listeners.
Jim Ratts is considered a musical storyteller and is a solid fixture of the Denver music scene, having fronted his country-folk-rock band Runaway Express with his wife, Salli for more than 30 years.
Some of Jim Ratts’ songs have been recorded by artists such as Sam Bush (the bluegrass chart hit “Howlin’ at the Moon” and the Dillards. In the 1990s, he was one third of the Wild Jimbos with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jimmy Ibbotson.
Besides the concert, there will be an Old Coots table in the square beginning at 1 p.m., where local personalities have been invited to share their wisdom on random questions. They may not offer the right advice but really, who cares if it tickles the funny bones!
There will be raffle tickets and prizes, cotton candy and who knows what else!
“Free food,” Raines said.
What? There is no such thing.
“Oh, it’s free,” she said. “If you happen to be one of the first 200, it’s free. And, it’s a yes for old-fashioned popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy.”
Indeed, Equity Bank is providing a free barbecue for the first 200 participants at the festival, beginning at noon.
In addition, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, David Dalke, author of “Knees Lifted High and Toes Pointed” will be making a presentation on the second floor of the St. John museum about how the St. John Marching Band back in the 1930s became national champions.
The St. John Homecoming Hall and Museum has produced a video that highlights those champion years and what Dalke’s father, Jake, experienced in creating that band.
So come to the festival.
There will be prizes.
And lots of fun.