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Mrs. John Krebs.

Mrs. John Krebs had a problem. Every year at Halloween, her meticulously maintained flower garden was destroyed by mischievous children running around at night. On October 31, 1914, Elizabeth Oehler Krebs (11.19.1848-8.19.1931) organized the first Hiawatha Frolic. It is recognized as the longest consecutive Halloween parade.

Back then, women were called by their husbands’ names. Hence, you need to Google “Mrs. Krebs” to locate more information. You will find that Elizabeth was born in Switzerland and ended up residing in Hiawatha, Kansas. And she loved to garden.

In her obituary, Elizabeth is called “the flower woman of Hiawatha.” She is credited for coming up with a solution to the Halloween antics of the town’s youth: a community frolic.

Frolics are akin to the fetes held in Great Britain. The noun is defined as a “playful action” or “a lively party or game.” The Hiawatha Frolic has grown over the 107 years of its existence to include 2 parades! There’s a Kiddie Parade in the morning and the Grand Parade at night.

Elizabeth suffered great loss during her lifetime. Her only son, John Edward Krebs (12.27.1870-10.19.1893), died at the age of 22 from consumption in 1893. Two years later, she would lose her 16-year-old daughter, Charlotte May “Lottie” (10.22.1878-10.20.1895) to typhoid fever, as well. Tragically, Lottie was buried alongside her brother on what would have been her 17th birthday. The following year, Elizabeth and her husband would lose another daughter, Emma G. (1874-1896), to consumption, as well. Emma had just begun working her third year as a teacher. According to her obituary, all 19 city teachers attended her funeral. The remaining fourth child, Louise Elizabeth Krebs Friend (1872-1946), married, had children, and lived a full life, surviving both her parents.

It is easy to understand what drove Mrs. John Krebs to organize the Hiawatha Halloween Frolic. She loved children and gardening. She planted and took care of many city flower beds during her lifetime. By envisioning the community celebration, she came up with a productive solution to entertain the children of Hiawatha.