John Henry and Friends and their bluegrass band the Squarshers is just one of the music groups playing this weekend at the Festival of Cultures in McPherson's Lakeside Park. John Henry Holthus himself was born and raised right here in McPherson, but his bluegrass band is based in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“A lot of the people who are playing are local people who have moved away and are coming back to play for us,” said Dianna Carter, Festival Chairperson, speaking about the music lineup for this year.
Carter went on to explain how this year’s festival will still be keeping the traditions of the Scottish Festival alive while adding more events and highlights that reflect both the local Kansas heritage and the current population.
“We’re trying to be more inclusive because we do have so many different traditions and cultures in this area,” said Carter. “So we thought, well, let’s celebrate all of the different things that are around.”
The Festival kicks off Friday night at 7:00 with the traditional Scottish Fire Ceremony. But then things get a little more interesting.
“After [the Fire Ceremony] we are going to have a beer garden with Chris Arpad, who is a local guy,” Carter explained, because Arpad, like John Henry Holthus, grew up in McPherson. “He’s now living in L.A., and that will start at 8:00 on the North end of the park.”
The only cost for Friday night will be $5 for the Chris Arpad Steel Drum concert -- and for any beer you might consume.
Saturday’s events start off with a Fortune Cookie 5k fun run -- or walk -- at McPherson’s Wall Park. Registration is at 7:30 and the run/walk is at 8:00.
“This is a fundraiser for the festival, so it’s $25,” explained Carter. “You get a t-shirt and a chance at prizes, with a fortune cookie that you get at the end of the race.
“And if you wear your t-shirt to the festival you’ll get half-price admission!”
Regular ticket prices for the festival have been reduced to $8, down from the $15 when it used to be the Scottish Festival. Children 12 and under are free.
Again, Friday night admission into the festival is free, but day passes will need to be purchased for Saturday and Sunday.
“The festival gates open at 9:00 on Saturday,” said Carter. “[Saturday] will feature lots of music, dancing, food … and a big feature this year is our local Three Rings Brewery. We will be serving beer at the beer garden from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. And we’ll also have the Salt City Brewery as well.”
Sunday will still start off with the traditional Scottish worship service, but after that things will be somewhat different from previous years.
“We are bringing in some events that maybe people have not experienced,” Carter said. “We will have the traditional Scottish worship service, the Kirking of the Tartans, at 9:30. But we are also adding a community drum circle.
“And if you don’t have a drum, don’t worry, they always have extra things that you can play, but just sitting and listening to this is such a great experience.”
The festival will be featuring several local artists along with the traditional dancers and musicians people are used to from the Scottish Festival.
Carter started naming a few as examples, “Amy Allmon is going to sing for us a couple of times; and we have the Mac Jazz Combo – they are a group of High School students who have gone off on their own and started a Mac Jazz Combo, and that includes Garrett Farney, Taylon Goebel, Hadley Hageman, Gretchen Heidebrecht, Paxton Leaf, Patrick Munsey, Sarah Pham, and Tanner Rose.”
The same Scottish and Irish dancers will perform both days, but Sunday will also be offering something a little new in their dance lineup this year.
“We also have some Indian dancers who are coming from Wichita,” said Carter. “And they will be doing some traditional Indian dances for us.”
The Scottish Highland games have been a big deal for the festival for over 20 years, and Carter assured us that’s not going to change.
“The Highland Athletic Competition will be going on both Saturday and Sunday. This is a sanctioned Games,” Carter emphasized. “They actually go on to the [Highland Games World] Championship from these games.
“So they’re very important to the athletes, and they’re very fun to watch.”
This year the Highland Games World Championship will take place in Anchorage, Alaska.
The McPherson Festival of Cultures takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in McPherson’s Lakeside Park. Admission is $8 a person; children 12 and under are free.
Friday’s admission is free for everyone, but there is a $5 charge for the Chris Arpad concert.
Any questions can be directed to Dianna Carter at 620-755-3408.
John Henry and his bluegrass band The Squarshers will be performing at 1:00 both Saturday and Sunday.
The complete schedule and more information about the festival can be found on their website: