Johnson County Commissioner
Welcome to the Johnson County Fair and Parade in Gardner which starts with animal shows followed by events the entire week, and the parade at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
My wife, son and I made it a custom to visit the 4H exhibits, the animal shows, the musical entertainment, and rodeo events. We also check out the open competition for woodworking, baking, produce, and numerous other contests inside the fairground buildings.
My first memory of the Johnson County Fair, known as the Gardner Fair when I was growing up, was an outing with my family which was a fun but somewhat awkward moment for me as a seventh grader in 1968.
That moment happened in a drive to Gardner from Olathe in our new-looking royal blue 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon, our first car with air conditioning.
That summer my dad had made an offer on a beautiful car down the street that wasn’t accepted by the dealer, but to our surprise the dealer called back about a month later and accepted the offer.
We were so excited to get the car.
Our family had not been to the Gardner parade, and Dad thought it would be a good time to visit Uncle George Marriott and Aunt Marguerite Marriott in Gardner; so the 12 of us rushed around the morning of the parade, and all of us kids packed into the big-long car with Mom and Dad, and, running behind schedule, headed south on 56 Highway to the parade.
When we arrived at Gardner we soon realized that there were no open parking places and that the parade was already in progress.
Dad hurriedly turned down a couple of streets looking for a spot when a parade worker- apparently seeing our shiny chromed car- motioned for us to turn down a street. Dad quickly made the turn, still looking to park, when another parade official directed us into the parade as a “float.” With the kids in the reversed-back seat yelling that another entry had just pulled in behind us, which made us part of the parade with no way out!
Since we were effectively trapped into the parade, Dad and Mom, making the best of the situation, had all of us roll down the windows and wave!
Although we didn’t get to “see” the parade that year, we saw plenty of people and my little brothers and sisters sure had a great time being in the parade and showing off our car, while – as a developing teenager-I was feeling the uneasiness of the situation, suddenly parading in front of a crowd of hundreds!
Our “float” drew applause which at the time I wondered why, but I have since been to many parades and can’t say that I’ve ever seen a waving family of 12 packed into a nine passenger wagon at the end of a parade.
For me on that day, after the parade, all was fine when we visited the Marriott’s where we had a piece of the best raisin pie in the world made by Aunt Marguerite. I don’t know if she ever entered the county fair baking competition, but to this day I would say that pie would definitely be in the running for the grand champion ribbon.
Today, as a county commissioner, when I walk in the parade behind Mica-Marriott Ward’s 1972 Monte Carlo greeting friends and waving at the crowd, I still can’t help but think and laugh about attending my first parade at the county fair in Gardner.