In late August, there’s a feeling of joy in the air in Wathena, Kansas, as people gather for an annual tradition.

For the past decade, the Wathena Fall Festival has brought people together in the small Doniphan County town. Being held Friday to Sunday, Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, the three-day festival will feature a space theme, “One Giant Leap.”

“It’s a good time for families to come back. It’s a good time for class reunions and stuff of that nature. So it’s just a good weekend for everybody to kind of get back together and catch up,” Heather Cluck, chairperson for the festival, said.

Originally started decades ago by the Madinger Sisters, the festival disappeared for a long while before it was brought back in 2007. Since then, Cluck said it’s returned to being a staple for the community.

“It took a lot of effort for them to get it going that initial year, that was our town’s sesquicentennial. Since it was such a fun event, the community essentially decided, ‘Let’s keep it going,’” Cluck said.

The fall festival combines events for all ages. Kids can run around on a hamster wheel that rewards them with a snow cone or compete in a greased pig contest. Older people can enjoy the music performed by True North and The Schmedleys, as well compete in baking and car shows. There also will be a “Newlywed Game” show, meals and parades.

“There’s not a lot of things in today’s society where young and old see eye to eye. I think the biggest thing for me is we have fun for all ages,” Cluck said.

This year’s theme will have people breaking out their astronaut costumes and NASA-branded gear, as the festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of people landing on the moon.

“We’re just kind of gearing our theme around that, so the parade entries for floats and whatnot will hopefully follow that theme,” Cluck said.


Friday’s events will include local entertainment by Bridgewater (5 p.m.), opening ceremonies (6 p.m.), crowning of distinguished royalty (6:15 p.m.), a baby crawling contest (6:30 p.m.), the Fire Department Legion 100th anniversary (7 p.m.) and The Schmedleys (8:30 p.m.)


Events will continue on Saturday with a 5K/10K run and walk (8 a.m.), an antique tractor show (9 a.m.), a space-themed children’s parade (11:15 a.m.), Richard Renner (noon), a giant hamster wheel (1 p.m.), Richard Renner, a gaga ball tournament and the American Legion tractor pull (3 p.m.), the “Newlywed Game” (6 p.m.) and True North (8:30 p.m.).


The festival will close on Sunday with the Knights of Columbus pancake feed (7 a.m.), a community church service (9 a.m.), a royalty contest (10:30 a.m.), a motorcycle and car show (11 a.m.), a space-themed general parade (2 p.m.), a Girl Scouts obstacle course (3:30 p.m.), a greased pig contest (4 p.m.) and Kith & Kin (6 p.m.).

— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live

Andrew Gaug can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug

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