The first Neewollah celebration took place in 1919 as an effort to provide an outlet for kids of all ages instead of the typical Halloween pranks. Neewollah is Halloween spelled backwards. In the beginning, only parades were held in the morning, afternoon, and at night on October 31st. These entries for the parades were mainly decorated cars and carriages. Queens and princesses from nearby events rode in the parades, along with Independence’s own Queen Neelah. Originally, Queen Neelah was selected based on votes that were bought for a penny each. The Neewollah celebration was interrupted by the Great Depression and World War II. In 1958 four businessmen revived the celebration and expanded on the Neewollah theme resulting in a 3 day festival.
Today Neewollah is currently the largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence grows from a town of just under 10,000 residents to 75,000 on the final days of the 9 day celebration. Today, Neewollah includes three parades, a Doo Dah Parade (an adult Dress-up Parade), a Kiddies Parade and the Grand Parade. Additional activities include a Chili Cook-off, a play featuring hometown talent and the queen’s pageant which is open to area high school seniors. Downtown Independence fills with over 30 food vendors. Area musicians perform on the outdoor bandstand. Carnival rides and games are available for nightly entertainment. The Arts and Craft show, Great Pumpkin contest as well as the Band Competition, Fun Run and Chili Cook-off provide activities for all to enjoy.