Black Squirrel Fest is Saturday, October 22. The fest celebrates Marysville’s fifty-year designation as Black Squirrel City, proclaimed by Marysville’s governing body in August 1972.
The official proclamation calls for an annual celebration of “parading, pageantry and feasting.”
Saturday’s fest includes a grand parade with nearly 60 entries; a presentation by Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter to the 34th President of the United States; feasting compliments of seven food vendors and eighteen food booths; special features at local museums; and carnival games, activities and live music filling nine blocks of Broadway.
The day is divided into three parts: activities in the morning from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m.; Old-Fashioned Fun from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., including a parade at 1 p.m.; and a polka concert from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. All of the events take place in downtown Marysville.
The day starts with a breakfast buffet at the Wagon Wheel, 703 Broadway, from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Dating back to 1977, several downtown retail businesses will sponsor a guessing game from 9 a.m. until noon. Each store will have a different game, and each store will provide a $50 gift certificate to the winner.
Participating stores are Ar-Ex Drug Store, Backroads Bicycle, Feldkamp’s Furniture, Garden of Eden, IdntiTeez, Kim’s Kottage, Pony Express Tanning and Trading, Reflections Hallmark and US Cellular.
From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. there will be Old-Fashioned Fun on Broadway.
“We reached out to churches and organizations and asked them to recreate some of the activities that were part of the Black Squirrel Day celebrations from the past,” said Mandy Cook, one of the event organizers. “Broadway will be filled with favorite events from the past and a few new additions, too.”
From the 500 block through the 1200 block of Broadway, people will be able to get their face painted, win a cake at the cake walk, purchase embroidered black squirrel tea towels and crunch on caramel apples.
Over sixty groups are participating in the Old-Fashioned Fun.
At 813 Broadway, RSVP of Northeast Kansas will serve gedunks, a novelty ice cream treat.
A gedunk – pronounced with a long “e” – has two small scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream and crushed nuts on the top.
Gedunks were served at Gay-Mar Sweet Shop, a business located in downtown Marysville that sold bulk and penny candy. It also had a soda counter where the famous gedunks were sold.
Gay-Mar was also the favorite coffee spot for the Old Buzzards, a group ofl businessmen who gathered twice a day to discuss matters of local interest.
The idea for designating Marysville as Black Squirrel City was suggested by Bill Strange, a community leader, at a kaffeeklatsch in 1969. Having traveled through Olney, Ill., home of the white squirrel, Strange urged his fellow buzzards to follow suit and put Marysville on the map with a similar distinction.
Three years later, Marysville’s furry friend became the official mascot and the tradition of honoring the black squirrel became an annual event.
When the Black Squirrel Day celebrations were forming, the Black Squirrel Jackpot was introduced. The jackpot was designed to monetarily reward people for attending and to entice people to stay for the event’s duration.
In 1977 two lucky recipients each received $100 as part of the Black Squirrel Jackpot.
With a jackpot worth more than $300, those attending Saturday’s celebration have a chance to be rewarded.
“You can win prizes just by being in downtown Marysville,” said Ashley Kracht, a member of the planning committee. “You’ll have to listen carefully for instructions on what to do to win.”
Throughout the day, announcements will be made over the downtown speaker system giving directions for how to win the jackpot. The jackpot includes $250 worth of Chamber Bucks, a ham and a turkey.
“For many years, hams and turkeys were given away at Black Squirrel Night,” Kracht said. “People had to wait until the end to hear their name called. It’s a fun tradition we thought we should bring back.”
To appeal to teenagers, members of Marysville High School’s KAY club decided to host a Mario Kart tournament.
Mario Kart is a series of racing games designed by Nintendo. The video game tournament will be held at Platinum Dance Company, 820 Broadway.
“Although we know teenagers enjoy these games, we know some adults will want to participate, too,” Cook said. “This tournament is open to all video gamers, regardless of age.”
At the heart of the daylong celebration, a parade will travel down Broadway at 1 p.m. With nearly 60 entries, the parade will process from east to west through Marysville’s downtown district.
Two grand marshals will lead the parade. Mert Ott was Marysville’s mayor in 1972; he led the city council to officially declare Marysville as Black Squirrel City and to give the furry creature specific privileges and protections. Because of this, Ott will be one of the grand marshals.
The other marshal is the city’s distinguished mascot, the black squirrel.
Four junior grand marshals have been chosen to participate in the parade.
The Black Squirrel Fest planning committee conducted a coloring contest for students in grades kindergarten through third, and a poster contest for students in grades fourth through sixth. Two winners from each contest were selected to serve as junior grand marshals.
Winning the coloring contest were Kale Dunlap, a kindergartener at Marysville Elementary School, and Allison Anderson, a third grade student at Good Shepherd Lutheran School.
Winning the poster contest were Nash Edwards, a fourth grade student at Good Shepherd Lutheran School, and Tighe Olmsted, a fifth grade student at St. Gregory’s Catholic School.
Their winning drawings are on display at the Marysville Public Library, 1009 Broadway.
Other parade entries include members of Shriners International driving their compact cars, a kazoo band, the Marysville High School marching band and the seventeen new squirrel statues being added to the city’s Black Squirrels on Parade display.
After the Old-Fashioned Fun, Angie Kriz and the PolkaToons will perform from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the 900 block of Broadway.
The three-piece band plays mostly Czech polkas and waltzes with a little variety. Band members are Kriz on the button accordion and vocals; Craig Falls on tuba; and Jason Falls on drums, baritone and vocals.
Other musical acts are featured throughout the day, too.
Picnic tables will be placed along Broadway; however, people are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs for added seating.
For those needing assistance, a shuttle service will be provided on Broadway. Stacie Mayer, executive director for Marysville Chamber and Main Street, will operate the shuttle.
The committee members planning the celebration are Jamie Anderson, Cook, Sadie Goepfert, Kracht, Wayne Kruse, Mayer, Rachelle Olson, Diane Schroller, Katy Smith, April Spicer and Michelle Whitesell.