PAOLA — The party started, but it is far from over.

The Paola Alumni Festival started last year as a celebration to bring all of the alumni together for a day of music.

More than 750 people turned out for the event featuring music from talented alumni.

This year the Paola Alumni Festival will feature two days of music, Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4. The event is held Doherty Meadows, a a 40-acre venue owned by Dennis Doherty. He is one of the main sponsors of the event.

Paul Davis of Miami County Television, and Williams are co-emcees for the.

Williams, Doherty and Davis are co-founders of the event.

“If you thought last year was fun, oh man, I can’t tell you yet,” Paola Alumni Festival founder Bary Williams said. “Darn it. But soon. Very soon. Please tell your friends to join us here.”

Alumni need to mark Saturday, June 4, on their calendar, Williams said. An announcement with this year’s Paola Alumni Festival lineup will be coming out in January.

Classes have been coming back to Paola for their own reunion for more than 100 years. Williams wants to add an all-alumni flavor to the event with some good old fashioned rock and roll and a big old mug of Panther Pride.

“For a long time, we’ve had little to nothing in the way of having an overall alumni event at our Paola reunions,” Williams said. “Being a musician in the Paola area for the better part of 50 years now, I have seen alumni celebrations in Osawatomie, Ottawa, Emporia, and the list goes on. I have been honored to provide entertainment to so many other similar celebrations as the Paola Alumni Festival aspires to.

“We believe it’s time for a new sense of tradition, Panther Pride,” Williams said. “We thought, how cool would it be for our classes, such as my class of ’72, to have an individual get-together incorporated with an overall alumni celebration.”

The vision came to life last summer during the Paola High School alumni weekend in June. Alumni came together to celebrate on a 40-acre venue with tents and signs set up for classes throughout the years. The event was well organized, featuring handicap accessibility and a major emphasis on security, Williams said.

“It is literally 40-plus acres of the most beautiful concert settings you will ever see,” Williams said. “We are not asking each class to invest a lot to be there.”

Williams said they are asking for a $10 donation to get in for a day of music featuring some of their own, home-grown talent.

“We are not trying to be Roots,” Williams said. “We are trying to largely feature Paola alumni as our festival entertainment. I am prejudiced, but we have some great Panther talent lined up again this year.

“So everyone, your classes are invited,” he said. “Come as individuals. Come and stake off an area for your group.”

Softer music will be played throughout the day so groups can meet, reminisce and catch up.

“Be part of a new Paola alumni tradition with us,” Williams said. “Support Glenda and those fine ladies who organize the noon luncheon. Then come out that afternoon, spread out into your separate class and let’s come together as Panther Nation.”

The Paola Alumni Festival will have two stages of entertainment and food trucks. Every band will feature Paola alumni.

‘Bring your own chairs and coolers,” Williams said. “You really are in a cool meadow amphitheater.”

The Paola Alumni Festival has a Facebook page with updates. The group has more than 1,500 followers.

The Paola Alumni Festival donated $1,500 to the alumni luncheon committee, supporting the wonderful things they are doing, Williams said.

“We are Panthers,” he said. “We take care of each other.”

Williams has played for Paola alumni class reunions nine of the last 10 years.

The town needs to celebrate its past, present and future during alumni weekend, Williams said.

“The town is dead,” he said. “There is apathy in so many cases. Please help us change this. Let’s believe. Let’s try something new.”

Individual classes with questions, more information or to make a reservation, can contact Williams at kanzan7@aol.com.

Sports Editor Gene Morris can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or gene.morris@miconews.com.

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