PAOLA — When Gary Patillo and his family members founded the Paola Roots Festival 30 years ago, it was meant to serve as a way they could all get together for something other than a funeral.
The family members gathered at Wallace Park and enjoyed a potluck picnic and games, while spinning records at the old armory site.
Two years later the event was moved to Park Square, and the rest, as they say, is history.
More than 5,000 people attended last year’s Roots Festival, which features two nights of live musical performances, as well as vendors, games and the East Central Kansas State Barbecue Championship.
Lee Mott, festival president, made his annual presentation to the Paola City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 13, and he said he’s happy the event hasn’t grown large enough to be commercialized. Instead, he says it has maintained that community family feel that it had when it began. And many attendees use it for the same purpose Patillo originally intended — to gather with family and friends for a positive celebration instead of a sad one.
“The founding fathers should be very proud of what they started,” Mott said.
Those familiar with Roots Festival will find few changes this year. The two-day event will once again be held on Park Square, Friday, Aug. 23, and Saturday, Aug. 24.
The barbecue competition will be one of the highlights, with about 70 teams set to participate. It is the 21st year the festival has hosted the championship.
Teams will be vying for winnings, and the top 10 overall winners, along with the top five winners in each category, will bring home prize money.
The winners will be announced at about 3 p.m. Saturday at Town Square, and the grand champion earns an automatic bid to the American Royal competition.
As usual, food, and arts and craft vendors, as well as games and rides for children will provide fun for all ages on both days during the festival.
The fun will begin Friday at noon with The Silver Streak Band. Jeremiah Johnson Band will kick off the evening lineup at 5:30 p.m. They will be followed by The Nace Brothers at 6:40 p.m., Victor Wainwright & the Train at 8 p.m., and Samantha Fish at 9:30 p.m.
The music will continue Saturday, starting with Fake ID at 11 a.m. They will be followed by Turner Blues Experiment at 12:10 p.m., Blue Moon All-Stars at 1:20 p.m., KC Marching Cobras at 2:30 p.m., Weda Skirts at 3:50 p.m., The Derailers at 5:10 p.m., Popa Chubby at 6:30 p.m., Lucie Silvas at 8 p.m. and Robert Randolph & the Family Band at 9:30 p.m.
The festival will continue rain or shine. Admission is $15 per person Friday and $20 on Saturday, or attendees can purchase an advance two-day pass for $25 at First Option Bank, Great Southern Bank or Security Bank of Kansas City. The pass also will be available at the gates Friday night. The festival is free for children ages 10 and younger.
Gates will be located at the northwest and southeast corners of Park Square.
Lee Mott, festival president, said the total cost of the event, including talent fees and all promotion, is about $100,000 this year. Funding for the festival comes from sponsors, vendor booth fees, admission fees and donations.
Former Paola police chief and current City Council member Dave Smail said he’s always amazed that there can be that many people on Park Square with little to no incidents reported each and every year.
“It’s good old-fashioned fun,” Smail said.