Reflecting on nearly five decades of Tiblow Days
This is a big weekend in Bonner Springs with the annual Tiblow Days celebration. The event draws major crowds to downtown Bonner Springs and features a variety of fun activities for all ages.
The celebration has been an important part of my life. I served as general chairperson for the event for 20 years and was parade chairperson for 21 years. I retired after the 2000 event when we sold The Chieftain. I would imagine that the staff would have liked to see me leave the event much earlier. It was a hectic time with lots of calls and questions, but I enjoyed the celebration.
One question I still am asked concerns the history of the event. It was started in the 1960s by the Bonner Springs Jaycees and when the organization folded in 1979, the Chamber of Commerce assumed sponsorship. There is no doubt that the event has grown and evolved steadily.
I was a bit surprised recently when someone asked about the origin of the name “Tiblow.” The event honors Henry Tiblow, a Delaware Indian, who was one of the early founders of the city. Bonner Springs is situated on what was once land owned by the Delaware tribe. I gained a lot of respect for Tiblow and the Delaware Nation in 2004, when we were working to locate an Indians casino in Bonner Springs.
Henry was born on Feb. 9, 1818, and died in Nowata, Okla., Dec. 16, 1881. He was educated at the Shawnee Mission Indian School and originally operated a ferry across the Kaw River. He was an excellent businessman and also an interpreter for the United States government. According to a couple of sources he could speak English, French and five Indian dialects. That, in itself, was an accomplishment.
During Bonner’s centennial celebration we went to Nowata and found his grave. The centennial committee repaired his tombstone. Since that time, some of his descendants have attended the Tiblow Days celebration.
Over the years there have been so many highlights that I remember vividly. We used to hold the Mayor’s Luncheon at noon on Saturday but now it is held on Friday night and still features a speaker and the presentation of the Marion Vaughn Community Service Award. We have had outstanding speakers, but my favorite was John Wathan, who was the manager of the Kansas City Royals. We have had Governors, Senators, Congressmen and a variety of business and academic leaders over the years.
Probably my favorite evening program was the “service club comedy challenge.” Local clubs prepared comedy skits and the judging was done by using an audio-meter. The winning clubs received cash awards to their favorite charity. I also enjoyed the amateur contests, and probably one of our largest early day crowds was when the Kansas Lottery held its televised drawing in Kelly Murphy Park.
Perhaps the biggest event in Tiblow history was the construction of the bandstand in Kelly Murphy Park, which provided the celebration with a permanent home. Before that, the celebration was held in various parking lots. Another major improvement was the addition of Shrine units to the parade. The Basehor-Linwood band and other musical groups really helped the parade. I always enjoyed the competition for the top float between the Bonner Beautiful Commission and the senior citizens.
The event will start today and, yes, there will be a city band concert, which has been part of the celebration since 1980. The Chamber has been very innovative in adding events, but one thing remains – Tiblow Days is a quality activity highlighting Bonner Springs.