Danedri Thompson
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It’s not exactly pie in the sky, but yes, there will be pie and a reason to look heavenward on Sept. 24 during the Gardner Historical Museum’s annual USO Show.
The annual show kicks-off the museum’s military exhibit. Although the museum itself is less than two decades old, the military exhibit highlights a collection that once graced the Olathe Naval Base.
The naval base, now New Century AirCenter, once had its own museum.
“Somewhere along the line, the museum went under and everything got put into storage,” Gardner Historical Museum board member Mica Marriott said. “When people were cleaning out the storage area, someone had the wise idea to contact the Gardner museum. They had pictures, uniforms, memorabilia. Everything. They said if you guys want it, come get it.”
The Gardner museum isn’t big enough to exhibit everything from the Olathe Naval Base at once, but since then museum board members have hosted an annual military exhibit that runs through October and November.
Items from the old Navy base are displayed in the kitchen and dining room of the museum house, located at 204 W. Main.
“It’s a floor to ceiling exhibit, and I mean floor to ceiling,” Marriott said.
The rest of the house displays areas that document every American War from the Civil War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“People have donated stuff from their loved ones. You name it, and they’ll have something there,” she said.
For instance, the World War II display even features foreign items. One donor gave the museum a Nazi arm sash.
In addition to the displays, guests during the annual exhibit kick-off will be treated to homemade pie, and performances by local groups including a barbershop quartet and a PT-19 flyover.
PT-19s were once used to train pilots at the naval air base. Two of the aircraft will pass over the festivities courtesy of the Commemorative Air Force, a collection of vintage aircraft stationed at New Century AirCenter. The Military Vehicle Preservation Association will also display some military hardware during the kick-off event.
The KC Bettys, a group founded at the Gardner Historical Museum, will also perform.
“They Betty’s got their start from the museum military tribute show,” Marriott, a founder of the group, said. “We started out just dressing up and helping serve refreshments, and now we have a full-fledged show we do with dancing, singing and a comedy skit.”
Officials also hope to see a few very special guests during the Sept. 24 event — a few, former U.S. Marines, who were stationed at the base in 1962 have said they hope to stop in to get a peek at the paraphanelia from the base’s heyday.
Members stationed on the base in 1962 reunited a few weeks ago. The museum didn’t have the full exhibit ready to show, so they donated a small display for the former Marines to browse as they dined one evening.
The attendees came from all over, Marriott said. They arrived in the Kansas City metro from Boston, Illinois, Oregon, Arizona.
“It was just a really fun group of guys,” Marriott said.
Marriott said the reunion-goers would pick up exhibit display items like aerial photos of the old gates and recall leaving the gates sober and returning back through them a little under the weather.
“The display brought up a lot of old memories,” she said.
The museum kick-off event isn’t solely for veterans, however. The festivities promise to be fun for the entire family.
“It’s absolutely free. The pie and the refreshments are complimentary,” she said. “It’s a great way to come out before it gets too cold. You can’t even describe how cool of an event and the great people you’ll meet there until you go one year.”
The annual USO Show and Military Exhibit kick-off will start at noon on Sept. 24 and run through 4 p.m.
Schedule:
12 p.m. American Legion Riders present the colors
1 p.m. Trails West Barbershop Chorus performs
2 p.m.  KC Bettys perform
3 p.m.  The Lintner’s perform
4 p.m.  National Sojourner’s perform
For more information about the museum, visit www.gardnerhistoricalmuseum.org.