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Apr 06

Johnny’s jammin’ b-day party in City Park

Posted on April 6, 2018 at 7:05 PM by Michael Goens

Here in Manhattan, we’d like to see that our favorite lovable giant – farmer extraordinaire Johnny Kaw – starts to get the respect he deserves. The 25-foot agrarian expert has gone unnoticed far too long. Johnny should be the representative figure for Kansas and the state’s agriculture origins. Because there’s just one Legendary Johnny Kaw. That’s right. The big, blond behemoth may be the 20th century equivalent of the Incredible Hulk (only far more handsome, and not so angry and well, green), though he’d rather be working in a wheat field than tearin’ through the universe or storefronts along Poyntz Avenue.

That’s why people ’round these parts think so highly of Johnny Kaw. He’s not some Midwest rowdy from the Wild West days. Came along some time after that. So we’re throwing one, big party to salute Johnny. In May. His statue’s been around pert-near 52 years, ya know.

His friends want to spruce up Johnny's place. Greater fixin’s around Johnny’s hangout in Manhattan City Park is the aim of the Friends of Johnny Kaw club. In part to celebrate National Tourism Week and promote the Kaw club, Visit Manhattan is throwing a huge birthday celebration at Johnny’s City Park home. We know, it’s a bit uncouth to throw the party and expect Johnny to host at his place, but what better place for the May 10 celebration?

Johnny_Kaw_ProposedPlazaWe’d like to build some momentum around the fundraising campaign to celebrate Johnny’s Kaw-some-ness. Party activities include birthday cake – what’s a party without cake? -- 1-mile fun run ’round the park (6 p.m.) and b-day bash giveaways. Who’s invited? Friends of Johnny, which is to say everyone! Johnny deserves the adoration of hundreds. As for improving the “Kaw Kingdom,” major facelift work begins in four months with landscape and accessibility upgrades; increased signage to shout the praises of the Great Kansas Wheat Grower.

We’re really trying to move Johnny up in the pecking order of folk legends. It’s not like we’re trying to rival Metropolis, Ill., home of Superman. The Man of Steel has his own museum, for crying out loud, and he’s not even from the planet Earth! We’d just like to see Johnny get the respect he deserves and not be categorized as some dull roadside attraction like the World’s Largest Pistachio in New Mexico. Johnny’s better ‘n all that. Not even in the same universe as Lenny the Chocolate Moose somewhere up in Maine. This is Johnny Kaw, people!

He’s no Muffler Man or heaven forbid, some danged lumberjack who drags around a blue ox everywhere. Besides, Johnny Kaw busted up Bunyan in a wrasslin’ match, so George Filinger maintained. Johnny’s got a rough disposition, that’s to be expected when you’ve got a pet wildcat, Willie’s his name. We’re not sure if the pet bird he had ever really existed, but Willie Wildcat is known to like the taste of chicken.

Come out and help us celebrate, May 10. We’ll meet up around Johnny and start the fun run near the corner of 11th and Poyntz. Keep an eye open for Kaw cuisine specials at restaurants around MHK. Find more details right here at VisitManhattanKS.org/JohnnyKaw. Get geared up for the celebration. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. May 10 in City Park.

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