by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
When Grain Valley’s first brick school burned in 1925 it was replaced by a new $75,000 building considered to be one of the finest schools in Jackson County. The new building had both a gymnasium and a stage. Any one graduating from GVHS between 1926 and 1964 received their diploma on that very stage.
Students also performed on that stage. From vocal music and band concerts to musical revues and plays, it was the cultural center of Grain Valley where many of us “old-timers” remember with fondness our “great times” on stage.
The photo above of the 1932 May Festival was undoubtably one of those great times. While we will never know how the yearly festival began, it may have been influence by the famous Ziegfeld Follies. The follies, a musical spectacular, were the American version of Folies Bergere of Paris. Begun by Florenz Ziegfeld in 1907, the follies came to the Amsterdam Theater in New York in 1913. They lasted into the 1930s and had a tremendous influence on American musical theater.
Since we will never know her motivation for producing and directing the May Festival, I am going to believe Mrs. Scott, the music teacher, was influenced by Ziegfeld, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and others to bring entertainment and culture to our town.
As for the photo, there are no names but I do recognize Linnea Snow and Paulina Farley, the first two girls on the front row. I also know their dresses, along with many others in the photo, were made from crepe paper. Costumes made from crepe paper was very popular back them. The rabbits on the front row are wearing long underwear, but judging from the size of it, I’m thinks it must have belonged to an older, and much bigger, brother!
Visit the Historical Society to see this and many other photos from Grain Valley “back in the day.”