Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner Chamber of Commerce released a statement that they had made the difficult decision of cancelling the 2022 Johnson County Fair Parade because of on the ongoing reconstruction of Highway 56/Main Street.
They said there was too much uncertainty if the parade could take place with the timeline of construction.
The eastbound lanes have not been completed due to delays caused by weather setbacks.
After the completion of the project an asphalt overlay will be applied from downtown west to the western Gardner border that will also take place along the entire parade route.
The Chamber of Commerce said they had consulted with local public safety officials for alternative routes who advised it wouldn’t be feasible.
“We will miss seeing the smiling faces, kids collecting candy and businesses and politicians promoting themselves,” they said.
Rob Wyrick, board chair, said they understood the disappointment.
“We knew it was a difficult decision not everyone would be happy about,” he said. “It is tough for all involved and we don’t make light of the decision.”
Wyrick said the Chamber members are business owners, residents and community volunteers.
The chamber had met with public safety officials including KDOT who looked at all aspects and impacts of the parade from parking, road closures and traffic, adequate staging space for participants, exiting the parade, the impact to other areas of town and the route itself for a safe and realistic option as an alternative to Main Street.
“The idea of finding an alternative route has been explored for a couple of years by Chamber Staff to consider,” Wyrick said. “KDOT was not comfortable with any route that crosses Main Street at this time with the construction.”
A lot goes into the conversation to make a safe route for all involved, he said.
“We want to make sure it is safe for all involved from the participants to the spectators,” Wyrick said.
The parade runs approximately as a 3/4th of a mile to a mile and a half loop.
The Johnson County Fair will still be taking place, and they said they still encourage everyone to come down and support.
Wyrick said the Fair is run by the Fair Board, but the Parade is run and organized by the Gardner Chamber and not officially tied to the county fair.
The Chamber said they hope to continue the decades old parade tradition next year.
“We have every intention to come back next year as this was an unfortunate and untimely one time decision,” Wyrick said. “We hope to come back bigger and better.”
The fair was established in 1939 to celebrate the county’s agricultural heritage.
The fair takes place July 31 through August 6, 2022
Mark Baldwin, council member, said at Monday night’s meeting that they had not known about the parade cancellation until they had seen the press release.
He said he hoped they could have a conversation with the Chamber and Fair Board to resolve the issue and plan an alternative route.
Tory Roberts, council member, said the press release said the Chamber had talked to the City, but this was in fact not true.
Kellen Headlee, public works director, said KDOT had said they had never had a permit to close down the Highway, but the city had always closed down Main Street for the parade.