Derby celebrates 150 years of history with a bang

Field Station: Dinosaurs, the  animatronic dinosaur park in Derby opened Memorial Day 2018.  It is one of several family-friendly attractions in Derby, which prides itself on being a place where people want to raise their families.
Field Station: Dinosaurs, the animatronic dinosaur park in Derby opened Memorial Day 2018. It is one of several family-friendly attractions in Derby, which prides itself on being a place where people want to raise their families. The Wichita Eagle

Derby is one of several Kansas towns celebrating 150 years of history in 2019.

The celebration in Derby, which started in February and will go into the fall months, is in recognition of when the first homestead was established in 1869 on the banks of Spring Creek, city manager Kathy Sexton said.

From that first settlement, the area grew slowly. Until the 1950s, the town of Derby was actually called El Paso, KS. A railroad ran through town and to make sure mail intended for El Paso, Texas didn’t end up in Kansas or vice versa, Sexton said the railroad depot was called “Derby stop” for a local man who worked on the railroad.

In 1956, the city council officially changed the name, even though Sexton said the community had been calling itself Derby for many years at that point.

“Derby has grown tremendously since the 1950s,” Sexton said. “We aren’t trying to be a city that we aren’t, we want to be a place where people raise their families.”

Sexton said the city has a lot of festivities planned for the celebration, but there a few key things the community wants to highlight that showcase its history.

Earlier this year, the Derby Informer published a coffee table book to celebrate the sesquicentennial. The hardbound book is made up of old family photos and other pictures of life in Derby from the last 150 years. The book, called “Celebrating Derby, 150 Years: 1869-2019” is for sale on the Derby Informer website at derbyinformer.com.

Another part of the celebration, scheduled to debut later this year, is the addition of seven historical marker signs throughout the community.

“Derby never had anything (like this),” Sexton said. “When people physically visit Derby, they’ll have more chances to find out about the history.”

The signs are currently being made, but Sexton said she expects an unveiling of some kind to be announced for September.

The final element of the anniversary that is focused on preserving the local history is the launch of a website.

“We really didn’t have a well-kept up, historical site,” Sexton said.

Sexton said when the city launched a site for the 150th anniversary celebration, they realized there was a “need for an ongoing archive.”

“We decided a permanent archive is really what we need,” Sexton said.

The new website, which will serve as the official archive of the city, is www.DerbyKSHistory.com. The site is already live, but it is still being put together by the Derby Public Library. When it is complete, it will be the go-to guide for local history complete with photos, old newspaper clippings and other records.

In addition to the education element of the sesquicentennial, Derby also planned some family-friendly events. Most of the events are concentrated in the summer, but there will be some on the calendar for later this year as well.

“Every community has its niche, but in Derby, we recognize that a lot of people move to Derby for their family,” Sexton said.

With that in mind, she said it was important to the planning committee that there be events for everyone, but with a special concentration on the community’s children.

“A number of our events and activities have an emphasis on the kids because they’ll be the ones still here in 50 years to celebrate our 200th anniversary,” Sexton said.

This Fourth of July, the city will host a lot of it’s regular events with a few added activities.

“What I’m most excited about for this celebration is that people will learn more about their community, more about their history,” Sexton said. “It’s more than just one event.”

Throughout the day on July 4, a free shuttle service through Derby Dash will be running through the area to get people from event to event.

Fourth of July Events

38th Annual Firecracker Run-High Park

One of the cities regular events, at 2801 E James St., is the Firecracker Run. Two separate races will kick off the day of festivities. The first race, a 4-mile walk/run, will start at 7:30 a.m. The final race is a 1-mile walk/run will take off at 8:30 a.m. Both races are open to all ages and abilities. Preregistration for a few race packages are still open. Participation costs $25 to $35 depending on the selected package.

Party in the Park-Madison Avenue Central Park

At 512 E Madison Ave., there will be food trucks and various kid-friendly activities sponsored by local businesses from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Happy Sesquicentennial Independence Day Parade-Panther Stadium

Sponsored by the Derby VFW and American Legion Post 408, the annual Fourth of July parade will begin at Panther Stadium on Madison Ave. and make a circle heading west on Madison Ave., south on Georgie Ave. and east on Market St. to finish at the starting point. The parade starts at 10 a.m.

Community Open House-New Fire Station 81

While Fire Station 81, at 715 Madison Ave., has yet to officially open, it will host an open house at the conclusion of the parade until 1 p.m. There will public tours available, but parking is limited.

Bingo & Trains-Madison Avenue Central Park

A few local Wichita Toy Train representatives will have a display open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Venue inside the park. Additionally, at 512 E Madison Ave., Bingo will be played. Concessions will be available throughout the afternoon. Bingo cards will be $5 for a pack of ten cards. The proceeds collected from the concessions and Bingo games will go toward the Senior Center fundraiser.

Fireworks in the Park-High Park

To finish off the day, catch fireworks at 2801 E James St. The fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m. People are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit on. Food trucks and other snack options will be open during the evening, starting at 7 p.m. For more information, email shanasneath@derbyweb.com. Personal fireworks are prohibited.