List of themes since 1928 listed below

Dorothy lived in a house on North Second Street in the prairie town of Arkansas City. One September night in 1928 three prominent business men came to her door and asked to see her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Moore.

They told the modest 17-year-old Arkansas City Junior College student and her parents that she was to be crowned the first queen of a new fall festival called Arkalalah.

The next few weeks, Dorothy Moore was swept up in a cyclone-like whirlwind of activities. The night before Halloween, she was transported to the town’s opera house to be crowned in a colorful ceremony that included snow fairies, heralds, singers and dancers.

And that was the start of Arkalalah, an annual fall festival to be celebrated for the 88th time next week in downtown Ark City.

Like the story of another Dorothy, the fictional character in “The Wizard of Oz,” this year’s Arkalalah celebrates the theme, “There’s No Place Like Home.”

It’s the first time a “Wizard of Oz” theme has been chosen since the festival began nearly 90 years ago.

“To me, the theme screams Arkalalah and the home we all share: Ark City,” said 2019 Arkalalah Chairman Zach Barnes.

Arkalalah is a multi-faceted event that, to many children, means eating pancakes, riding rides and catching candy during a 2-hour parade, Barnes said. He now enjoys those activities mainly through the eyes of his children.

But the real key to Arkalalah has become clearer as he experiences the festival as an adult, he said. It’s a homecoming celebration.

“I’m always amazed at the number of people that pencil in the last weekend of October every year to come and celebrate with family and friends,” he said. “Community, friends and family are what make Arkalalah exist. Without these, it’s just another weekend in October.”

Choosing a theme

“There’s No Place Like Home,” this year’s theme, was selected by Barnes, with the consensus of the Arkalalah Executive Committee.

“It’s really up to the chairperson to come up with a group of potential themes,” he said.

For the past several years, the executive committee has selected artwork depicting the theme from drawings completed by Cowley College students in Mark Dykes’ graphic design class.

Cowley sophomore Faith Burger designed this year’s Arkalalah logo. It’s a colorful design with purple, gold, orange and black lettering spelling out “There’s No Place Like Home.” The words front white clouds appearing above wheat stalks. In the background is historic Ireland Hall and a witch flying on a broomstick.

Choosing a theme involves months of planning. Festival organizers begin discussing possible themes in January for the next Arkalalah in late October, said Tasha Bucher, Arkalalah executive secretary.

In recent years, the Arkalalah chairman has selected the theme, with the help and approval of the Arkalalah Executive Committee.

The executive committee has always had final say on the Arkalalah theme but the process of choosing a theme was somewhat different in previous decades, said Christie Rogers, who was Arkalalah executive secretary from 1992 to 2001.

“Even before I got on (working for the executive committee) the themes were kind of a hodgepodge,” Rogers said. “A lot of people had different ideas.”

She said that in the past the people in charge of the coronation ceremony submitted possible themes to the executive committee. They coordinated with high school and college performing groups, and considered the cost of performing music related to the theme. Stage and performance center decorations also were considered.

“We considered how the theme would play into community and school floats for the parade, and made sure there was nothing detrimental or offensive,” she said.

During the 1960s, Arkalalah themes weren’t always coordinated with stage performances when some performers from outside the community were featured, she said.

Using any kind of musical composition related to a proposed Arkalalah theme involved an examination of the cost of buying rights to use the music and purchasing musical scores for performers, she said.

Rogers said her favorite theme during the years she worked as Arkalalah executive secretary was “Rock Around the Clock” (1995). “It was an energetic theme that appealed to anyone regardless of age,” she said.

The revival of the first Arkalalah theme in 1928, “Under the Big Top,” was planned for Arkalalah in 2001. But after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the executive committee reconsidered that theme choice.

“The day after 9/11, we gave the fleeting thought of canceling Arkalalah that year,” Rogers said. “We didn’t feel like celebrating, but then we decided to go ahead.”

The theme that year was amended to “Celebrating America Under the Big Top.”

List of themes

Following is a list of Arkalalah themes for the 88 years the festival has been celebrated. For three years during World War II, Arkalalah was suspended; the 1942 queen was named Miss Liberty Bell.

1920s: “Under the Big Top” (1928), “Sunflower Garden” (1929).

1930s: Masked parade held (1930), “Modernistic” theme (1931), “Halloween” theme (1932), “Autumn” theme (1933), “The Girl in the Clock” (1934), torch-light parade held Saturday night, after the big parade (1935), coronation in new auditorium-gymnasium (1936), “Southern Mansion” stage background (1937), “Good Neighbor” (1938), “From the Land of Enchantment, to the Land of Make Believe, to the Land of Now” (1939).

1940s: “70th Anniversary of the Founding of Arkansas City” (1940), afternoon parade canceled, held night parade (1941), Miss Liberty Bell (1942), (no Arkalalah in 1943, 1944, and 1945), “It’s a Queen’s Town Tonight” (1946), “Awetomic Age” (1947), “Fun, Frolic and Mystery” (1948), Gov. Frank Carlson crowns queen (1949).

1950s: Coronation theme, fun and frolic (1950), “Arkalalah Melody” (1951), Herb Jimmerson and orchestra perform at Queen’s Ball (1952), Re-enactment of the 1893 Cherokee Strip Run (1953), Chilocco Indian School’s 70th anniversary (1954), Santa Fe’s 75th birthday (1955), 25th anniversary (Silver Anniversary) of Arkalalah (1956), “International Friendship and Goodwill” (1957), no theme (1958), “Far Away Places” (1959).

1960s: “Ninety Years of Progress” (1960), “Centennial Arkalalah — My State, My Kansas 1861-1961” (1961), “Out of this World” (1962), “Harvest Hoopalalah” (1963), “Coronation Time — 1964 Mardi Gras” (1964), “Arkalalah Hullabaloo” (1965), “Arkalalah Carnival” (1966), New Christy Minstrels perform stage show (1967), “Fantasies, Fairy Tales” (1968), “Haunters Holiday” (1969).

1970s: “Halloween Moon Walk” (1970), “Panorama 100” — 100 years of Ark City history (1971), “Witches Holiday” (1972), “Halloween Masquerade” (1973), “Hullabaloo” (1974), “Up With People” (1975), “Heritage in Harmony” (1976), “Autumn Jubilee” (1977), “Halloween Homecoming” (1978), “70s in Review” (1979).

1980s: “Harvest of Happiness” (1980), “Fifty Years of Fun” (1981), “Those Were the Days” (1982), “Prairie Days” (1983), “Autumn Fest” (1984), “Arktober Fest” (1985), “Reunion ’86” (1986), “Birthday Celebration” — Edith Davis, 100 years old (1987), “Masquerade” (1988), Jaycees stage “Haunted Hotel” (1989).

1990s: “Prime Time” (1990), “’60s Homecoming” (1991), “The Missing Years” (1992), “A Touch of Class” (1993), “Salute to Disney” (1994), “Rock Around the Clock” (1995), “Sentimental Journey Through Kansas” (1996), “Night at the Movies” (1997), “Age of Aquarius” (1998), music for all tastes at coronation (1999).

2000s: “Imagine Tomorrow” (2000), “Celebrating America Under the Big Top” (2001), “The Great Gatsby” (2002), “Encores of Broadway” (2003), “See Ya’ In Da Funnies” (2004), “The Wild West (2005), “Diamond Reflections” (2006), “Seuss on the Loose” (2007), “Life Is a Highway” (2008), “Bring on the Bands!” (2009)

2010s: “A Day at the Beach” (2010), “Totally 80’s” (2011), “Team USA” (2012), “Episode 82: I Need a Hero!” (2013), “Out of This World” (2014), “Game Night” (2015), “Royal Treatment” (2016), “The Great Outdoors!” (2017), “Madi Gras Madness!” (2018), “There’s No Place Like Home” (2019).

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