Hiawatha was the place to be on Saturday, Sept. 25 for the Hiawatha Chamber’s Maple Leaf Festival downtown and the Brown County Historical Society’s Heritage Days celebration at the Ag Museum.
Hundreds came out for the annual celebration for the City of Beautiful Maples around the courthouse square. The day was full of amazing music filling the square, the smell of wonderful food, the sound of children’s laughter and the sight of a downtown filled with fun. While it was hard to determine just how many people came out for the event, Chamber officials said approximately 450 wristbands were sold for the children’s attractions.
“Thank you for joining us for the 2021 Hiawatha Maple Leaf Festival,” Chamber officials posted on the Facebook site. “It was such a wonderful day to come together and enjoy what makes our NE Kansas community such a wonderful place!”
The HCVB wanted to thank all the sponsors who made Maple Leaf a successful event:
Gold Sponsors: AFLAC-Lady of NEK, Enbridge, Howard Farms, Howard Seed, Pederson Seed, Koch & Co., State Farm Insurance, Walmart.
Silver Sponsors: Bruna Implement, Carl’s Body Shop, Davis Body Shop, GNBank, Morrill & Janes Bank & Trust, The Shirt Shack, Wisdom CPAs.
Bronze Sponsors: BBCC Properties, Hiawatha Farm and Home.
“The Maple Leaf Festival would not be possible without their generosity!” according to the HCVB. “Thank you to all our amazing vendors & food vendors! You are what makes Maple Leaf so wonderful! Thank you to our entertainment for bringing such joy to the festival!”
The HCVB wanted to extend a huge thank you to Ryan Meininger — State Farm Agent, Chamber ambassador who serves as chairman of the Maple Leaf Committee, along with the committee members and team of volunteers.
“It takes and entire year to create the magic you experienced today,” HCVB officials posted. “There is an incredible amount of behind the scenes mechanics to make things run smoothly. We cannot thank them all enough.”
The events kicked off at 10 a.m. and continued until between 4-5 as weary festival-goers and participants packed up after a successful day for the trek home.
Headlining the musical entertainment on the main stage in the middle of Oregon Street was Red Dirt Rendezvous — a Northeast Kansas country/rock band at noon. Lead singer Tracy Schmitz was joined by Morgan Poole to form the duo Graceful Grit, which led the musical lineup.
Stephanie Gummelt, of St. Joseph, Mo., joined the local musical entertainment for an afternoon performance. Gummelt is a solo artist with more than 50 songs who made it to the top 200 of American Idol in January 2015.
The final musical performance of the day was by high school senior Nirvana Peterson for a solo acoustic set, which drew a good group of local followers.
Other fun family entertainment included ARCWild, local wildlife experts, for a presentation with wild animals at 10 a.m. on the north side of the courthouse steps. Their array of animals, including a skunk and owls, wowed those who gathered for the presentation. Local magician Barron Stringfellow pulled out a few tricks for two shows on the courthouse steps.
The Omaha Children’s Museum, including a wind tunnel/craft station, a bubble station, STEAM experiments and coding mice, were set up on the courthouse lawn and special guests Spiderman, Elsa and Captain America circulated the crowd to greet festival-goers.
Other fun events included several attractions through Carnival times, a rock climbing wall, laser tag, axe throwing, log-jammer, mechanical bull and inflatables.
The Hiawatha Parks and Recreation jumped in the fun and sponsored the Donut Fun Run/Walk in the afternoon. The winners of the 5K were 1-Tom Nolte, 2-Jake Robidoux, 3-Jim Robidoux. The winners of the mile fun run were 1-Lily Gatz, 2-Mason Bechtold and 3-Gavin Chandler. Participants got donuts for their efforts and had some fun with a photo station.
A trolley transported festival-goers from downtown to the Brown County Historical Society’s Ag Museum, where even more activities were happening for the annual Heritage Days, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Events there featured one-room schoolhouse classes, G&C Petting Zoo, Lead Sled Pullers Garden Tractor Pulls starting at noon, crooked sticks toys/walking sticks, muzzleloaders and blacksmith, Ioways Bee Farm, Kickapoo Tribe, Kansas Woven Keepsakes and much more. The Historical Society fellows opened up the Cook Shack for breakfast and lunch for the annual event.
Featured presenters included Doris Meyer with the basket weaving and her baskets and treasures, Robert Baumgartner with crooked sticks and toys, Black smoke Muzzleloaders and blacksmith, April Lemon More than Lemons Glass blowing and Gary Baldridge with a Petting Zoo.