Wathena Fall Festival returns for 2021 celebration

Sep. 2—After missing out on a year of a local tradition, the Wathena Fall Festival is coming back in a way that's worthy of being named after a Beatles song.

Titled "Come Together," the 2021 iteration of the annual fall festival marks a return to in-person fun and community.

"I think because we were not able to have it last year, it's going to be exciting just to have everybody come together. And that's where the whole theme came from," Teresa McAnerney, a member of the fall festival's board, said.

Being held from Sept. 3 to 5 in Downtown Wathena, Kansas, the three-day festival will include all of the fall classics, like the childrens' parade, tractor pull and greased pig contest, as well as a number of live music performances.

When asked to describe this year's festival, McAnerney went straight to "bigger and better."

"There's a new carnival this year that has bigger and better things. There's more vendors this year. There's a lot of retail vendors and food vendors," she said.

The musical acts will include The Dead Ringers and Lisa Scholz, starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and a Saturday night performance from the reggae-rock band Soca Jukebox starting at 8 p.m.

"I think everyone's going to be very ready to get to come together and celebrate as a community and let loose. We'll have some good times and music and fried chicken and carnival games," McAnerney said.

The annual fall festival is an event that's become a staple in the small Kansas city. People build their vacations and family reunions around it. To not be able to have it in 2020 was a huge blow to the community, which makes this year sweeter.

"I think people are more cognizant than ever of separation, and not being able to see friends and family that they're used to having over often," McAnerney said. "I think it'll be a welcome celebration to just be able to get out and see each other, see neighbors that you may not have ... gotten to see for a year or more."

In putting it all together, McAnerney said credit goes to team leaders like Heather Cluck and the fall festival's committee.

"Heather Cluck is the heartbeat of this whole thing. She makes sure it happens," she said.

To be able to see the fruits of their labor come together for three days is a joy, McAnerney said

"Everything is now so tentative. We were just really glad that we felt like it was safe enough to do it this year and bring in some new things," she said.

The Wathena Fall Festival is free and open to all ages.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug