Jewell County to highlight mammoth history at June Festival


On June 15th & 16th 2018, The 1st Annual Kansas Mammoth Music Festival will take place in Jewell County! With performances in the Mankato City Park throughout Friday & Saturday, the festival will celebrate art and culture like the county has never seen before.

The volunteer festival committee has organized bands and a circus performance for Friday night, and many activities for Saturday. Kids arts & crafts, yoga, an aerial acrobat workshop, a free library, and interactive live painting will take place at the park – not to mention all the food vendors, beer garden, and bands from noon to midnight. Camping will be available for festival goers as well.

The park is sure to be a hot spot, but so is Downtown Mankato! During the festival, the Jewell County Historical Society Museum will be open for viewing of the newly restored Mammoth tusk, downtown businesses will be offering specials, and breakfast will be served on the bricks. Festival goers will be able to hop on a hayrack ride to travel to and from the park.

For more information on performances, activities, and festival details visit or the Robert Turner Performing Arts Stage Facebook page.

One of the best kept secrets about Jewell County is our rich natural history. To paraphrase Dr. Steven Holen, Jewell County is an incredibly unique place for paleontologists to study the moment in time when mammoths roamed the earth. With the history of these findings plus recent events that have made headlines, and the anticipation of the upcoming cultural celebration – the “Mammoth Secret” is about to get out.

To understand the story of the Jewell County Mammoths, we must travel back in time some 22,000 years. During this time, Jewell County was a hot spot for prehistoric plants and animals. Scientists have hypothesized that our spring-fed White Rock Creek was an important source of life for prehistoric creatures.

In this river bed, now the North shore of Lovewell Lake, the remains of seven mammoths have been found within a 2 km segment.  There may be more! Numerous digs and research, from as early as 1969, are uncovering the hidden mystery that is our mammoth secret.

Surface finds in 1969 showed that the mammoths may have been killed by Native Americans. A long shot, this hypothesis was dismissed, and no bones were collected. Further research at the site, beginning in 1989, tells us Jewell County’s historically was a home to a rich flora and fauna (plants and animals). Later digs in, 2002 and 2004, uncovered more mammoths and some very intriguing evidence.

Dr. Steven Holen, Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science, led and conducted much of the research at the Lovewell Site. His evidence and experiments showed fractures in the bones of the Lovewell Mammoths indicating the presences of humans and their technology; an exciting find because there was little previous evidence of humans being present on the plains that early. “Several scientists, me included, are producing evidence of a much older Native American occupation of the continent,” said Holen. Whether or not the mammoths were killed by humans or humans simply harvested the remains, patterns indicate a human presence. Evidence from the Lovewell Mammoths shakes up the timeline and could drastically change scientists’ beliefs about when humans were first present on the Great Plains.

In the spring of 2016, a young boy and his family found a HUGE bone while shed hunting in a creek bed in northwest Jewell County. Sonny Johnson, his dad John, and their friend Dustin Bredeson, were walking the creek when Sonny spotted what they believed to be a dinosaur bone! After the excitement and learning that it was in fact a mammoth bone, they contacted paleontologist Matt Christopher.  A dig was started in August 2016. Everett Penner and Gale Jeffery joined to the group to help excavate the bone. After a hot day of digging, and dinner at the Johnson’s home, Sonny said the day he found the bone and the dig day were “the two best days I’ve had in my life so far!” Who knows what other fossils and bones are just waiting to be found?

In the Spring of 2017, Sonny visited the Jewell County Hisotrical Society Muesum to present on the recent findings. During the meeting, new musuem curator, Jane Pahls, shared that she had discovered a tusk, in casing & plaster, in the backroom.  Members, excited by this disovery, delivered the tusk to Bob Levine of Smith Center for repairs. The tusk was transporated back to the muesum in early 2018 and is now on display for the public. This tusk was found at Lovewell Lake by a fisherman in the 1970’s.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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