Corbin H. Crable
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Music, food, fun and community pride will all be on display when the fourth annual Festival on the Trails takes place in downtown Gardner on Saturday, June 11.
The daylong event, first organized in 2007 for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, will feature the combined efforts of community volunteers from local businesses.

It’s the culmination of months of planning, said Cherlyn White-Conklin of Central National Bank, one of the festival’s sponsors.

“We work year round to get ready,” White-Conklin said. “One of the biggest changes (in the offerings of this year’s festival) is in the kids area. We’ve added eight more activity stations there, and a second tent. The biggest thing is, everything (in the kids area) is free.”

Children will be able to get their hands dirty with a variety of arts and crafts activities, including making jewelry, a hair-coloring station and having their faces painted by a professional face painter. Kids also can participate in hula hoop races, fly high in a bounce castle and strike a pose in a photo booth. Demonstrations by Gardner Martial Arts students and the ‘Blazerette dance team will round out the fun in the kids area.

The festival’s kids activities not only tout fun, but safety as well, White-Conklin said.

Gardner police and Johnson County law enforcement officials will offer a kit for the state’s Child Identification Program, which parents can organize to help aid in the identity and recovery of missing children. The kit allows parents to file a DNA swab, digital still photo and fingerprints of their children to local police. The local Masons chapter will sponsor the program at the festival.

“The kits are a $50 value, and parents can get them for their children for free,” White-Conklin said, adding that it will take place in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church.

But the festival isn’t just for kids, she said – there’s plenty for adults, too, such as a car and truck show, arts and crafts show, and food vendors.

A returning event at this year’s festival will be a sanctioned chili cook-off, sponsored by the Chili Appreciation Society International. According to the event schedule, the competition is open to all, and judges will sample chili in two divisions: CASI chili and homestyle chili. Check-in for contest entrants begins at 7:30 on Shawnee Street in front of Gardner Elementary School, and judging will begin at noon. The cost to enter is $20.

Those wandering the festival grounds gazing at vintage cars or enjoying fried Twinkies will also be entertained by a variety of musical groups performing on the main stage, such as the country and bluegrass stylings of Redhead Express and the bluesy sounds of Gardner’s very own Brandon Miller Band.

Finally, distinguished Gardner residents will once again have the chance to get together and share their memories at the second annual Chatfest on the Trails, said former Gardner Mayor Phyllis Thomen, one of the event’s organizers.

Distinguished Gardner citizens who are at least 70 years of age and who have lived in Gardner Township or the USD 231 area for at least 45 years are invited to come to the Kramer Hall of the First Baptist Church between 2 and 4 p.m. to reminisce about their lives in the area and learn about Gardner history.

“It’s an opportunity to get together, renew friendships and chat,” Thomen said. “It’s just very informal.”

The Gamma Xi chapter of Beta Sigma Phi will supply refreshments, and the Gardner Historical Museum will be on hand to show video and images related to the city’s history.
White-Conklin said none of the festival’s fun would be possible without the generosity of donations from local businesses and residents, too.

“This festival is 100 percent funded by businesses and donations,” she said. “Businesses are generous with opening their wallets and giving their time and money (to sponsor the festival). We have to watch our pennies and make it stretch further than you think.”

Both time and monetary donations from local residents are appreciated as well, White-Conklin said.

For more information on next weekend’s Festival on the Trails, including a schedule and full list of sponsors, visit