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Neewollah Festival (Halloween spelled backwards) is an annual festival during the last week of October, in Independence, Kansas.

Neewollah Festival
Neewollah Festival (Kansas) logo.png
Genre Festival
Begins October 19, 2018 (2018-10-19)
Ends October 27, 2018 (2018-10-27)
Frequency Yearly, last week of October
Location(s) Penn, Independence, Kansas 67301
Years active 98
Inaugurated October 31, 1919 (1919-10-31)
Most recent October 21, 2016 (2016-10-21)
Website Neewollah Festival Website
Neewollah Festival Banner.jpg



Neewollah began in 1919, as an effort to provide positive activities for kids of all ages in place of the typical Halloween pranks that occurred in the community of Independence, Kansas. In the beginning, the events centered on parades, morning, afternoon, and night on October 31. The parades consisted mainly of decorated cars and carriages. Queens and princesses from area festivals rode in the parades, along with our own Queen Neelah who was selected based on votes bought at a penny each. The Great Depression and World War II interrupted the Neewollah celebration but in 1958 four businessmen revived and elaborated on the Neewollah theme bringing it back as a 3-day celebration.[1]

Today, Neewollah is the largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of just under 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000 in the final days of the now 10-day celebration. Today's celebration now includes 3 parades, a Doo Dah Parade (adult Kiddie Parade), a Kiddies Parade and a Grand Parade. Chili Cook-off, a hometown musical and queen's pageant also add to the festival activities. The main downtown is filled with 30 plus food vendors, a large carnival and bandstand for nightly entertainment. The Arts and Craft show, Great Pumpkin contest along with the Band Competition, Fun Run and Chili Cookoff provide activities for everyone. Great Bandstand Entertainment bring a conclusion to the diligent efforts of over 500 community volunteers.[1]


The Neewollah Carnival is brought to you by Ottaway Amusements. The Carnival takes place on the Wednesday-Saturday, of the week of the festival. One of the favorites in the Neewollah tradition, the carnival is a plethora of glittering lights and delighted screams. The Carnival is fun for the whole family. The flashing lights and sounds of the Midway leak out even onto the bandstand.[2]

Queen Neelah PageantEdit

Queen Neelah is a tradition of the Neewollah festival. Girls ages 17–18 from Independence and neighboring cities are allowed to compete in this pageant, usually there are around 25-30 contestants. There are two nights of the pageant, the talent portion and then the coronation. However, there are many activities the contestants must attend behind the scenes, such as the pop party, a tea party, a brunch, and they are also interviewed by the judges and have to create a bio. On the coronation night the girls dress up in their dresses and walk the stage one at a time, at the end of the night the awards are handed out. The awards are Miss Talent, Miss Originality, Miss Beauty, Miss Interview, Miss Fashion, Miss Poise, Miss Personality, Miss Photogenic, 2nd Runner Up, 1st Runner Up, and Queen Neelah.[3]

The Grand ParadeEdit

The two-hour-long Grand Parade starts at the corner of Penn and Chestnut. It proceeds from Memorial Hall south on Main St. east to Sixth St., south one block to Maple where it turns west to Ninth St. The final leg travels north on Ninth St. ending just short of the Independence Middle School. The Grand Parade is exceedingly well attended. Parade goers set up chairs on the front row in the wee hours of the morning on parade day. As the "great fly over" occurs at 11 a.m. the crowd will be five deep in many places along the route. There are free street acts, the carnival, and food concessions along Penn Ave. both before and after the Neewollah Grand Parade.[4]

Other ParadesEdit

The Kiddie Parade

One of the big attractions of the annual Neewollah Celebration is the Parade of the Children. The Children’s Parade was organized years ago for the enjoyment of the children of Independence and surrounding area. Down through the years this event has grown to over 1,000 children participating. In recent years, as many as 15 Middle School bands from all over eastern Kansas have marched in the Kiddie Parade. Families and organizations have built over thirty floats in past parades.[5]

Doo Dah Parade
The Doo Dah Parade is the adult only event of Neewollah. It offers those who are still kids at heart a chance to celebrate in their own special way. From year to year there may be an overall theme, while other years it's a free for all. The Mardi gras type parade extends from Memorial Hall to just south of Penn and Main. A King and Queen Doo Dah are selected each year to preside over the parade of rowdies that is liberally sprinkled with a variety of odd drill teams, bearded beauties, and unusual creatures.[6]

Marching Band FestivalEdit

The Neewollah Marching Festival held on the last Saturday of October, is one of the longest running festivals in the state or area. It takes place at the Independence Community College and high school football field. In accordance with regulations approved by KSHSAA, Neewollah is able to offer to any band that wishes to compete for top honors, the opportunity to compete in the Best of Class category. The Best of Class category will be grouped into four groups, based on your band size, not district size. In addition, there will be Trophies awarded, in each class, for the Outstanding Drum Major, Outstanding Color Guard, Outstanding Percussion Line. The GRAND CHAMPION OF THE FESTIVAL also receives a trophy.[7]

In order to compete in the Marching Band Festival, bands have to march in the Grand Parade.[7]

Other Neewollah CelebrationsEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Neewollah is mentioned in the play Picnic by William Inge, in which the character Madge is said to have been voted Queen of Neewollah.[9]


External linksEdit