Tired of being overlooked, Wyandotte County celebrates itself on 913 Day
Wyandotte County residents gathered Tuesday for the first annual 913 Day festival. The event celebrates the county’s history, communities and local businesses.
Although the historic Vernon School in Kansas City, Kansas, has been closed for decades, the former school lot was bustling Tuesday evening as Wyandotte County residents gathered to celebrate something special: 913 Day.
The festival featured vendors, live performances, food, and activities for children. It was the conclusion of an all-day celebration in Wyandotte County, with tours of the Quindaro Ruins and $9.13 specials from participating businesses.
Joycelyn Strickland-Egans, a longtime elementary school teacher in Kansas City, Kansas, had a booth at the festival selling children’s books that she wrote. Strickland-Egans said the celebration meant "everything" to her.
“Our community has so much going on and people don't always hear about the great things. They sometimes focus on the negative things about Wyandotte County,” she said. “913 Day is important not just to the young people, but for those of us who have been around a while. It's a chance to celebrate community and bring awareness to the great things that are happening here.”
913 Day, named after the local area code, was first recognized by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, in 2020 as a “daylong celebration of all things great in Wyandotte County.” Three Wyandotte County men, Earnest Jackson, Samuel Lockridge and Kendon McClaine, worked with the Unified Government to officially proclaim Sept. 13 as 913 Day, but COVID put a damper on the festivities. Tuesday marked the start of what planners hope will be an annual festival.
Strickland-Egans said she's looking forward to celebrating the day again next year. For her, Wyandotte County has always been home.
“I don't think I would be this happy anywhere else. I know that sometimes people say if you live somewhere you are stuck there. And I'm not stuck here, I can go anywhere,” she said. “But I'm going to stay here and I want to give back to my community. They gave so much to me that it's my turn to give back.”
Sheyvette Dinkens, chairwoman of the event, said the day is not just for celebrating local businesses. Another important element is commemorating Wyandotte County’s history. The festival took place in the Quindaro neighborhood, which Dinkens said was once a bustling river town. It also was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
“I mean the older generation, right, they know all the history. But I think even some of the millennials and Gen X's and all those folks, they are really unaware of what the Quindaro Ruins is,” Dinkens said.
Vernon School, where the festival took place, also has deep ties to Black history. Dinkens said it was the first Black school in Quindaro and became its own school district. Black children could not attend Kansas City, Kansas, public schools back then.
Kansas City, Kansas, resident LaShawn Davis, her daughter and 2-month-old granddaughter were shopping at the festival Tuesday. Davis said she went to support her sister who had a booth there, but also because she loves her community.
“It's about our culture. I think we're underestimated a lot. I think a lot of people think that we're all just cornfields and everything,” she said. “I've noticed now more than ever that we have been coming together as a community more and more in Wyandotte County. 913 has been growing. And I'm super proud of it.”
Davis said Wyandotte County has always been her home.
“I've been here all 40 years of my life and I don't think I'm planning on going anywhere,” Davis said. “It’s just me, I’m just the 913 girl."