Kearney's Jesse James Festival marks 48th edition

by Leigh Elmore

This year marks the 48nd Annual Jesse James Festival will be held held in Kearney, MO. And this year the festival takes place over six days, encompassing two weekends: Sept. 7-8 and Sept. 13-16.

Jesse James (photo courtesy State
Historical Society of Missouri)

"This quiet little Missouri town, which was previously named Centreville, is the birthplace and boyhood home of Jesse James, as well as
his final resting place," notes Julie Hedges, one
of the festival organizers. Over the last several years, a great deal of publicity was created by the media all over the world concerning whether Jesse was really buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

The issue was finally settled after exhaustive studies of artifacts, as well as DNA testing of the remains of Jesse James. For the citizens of Kearney, there was never any doubt, Hedges said.

One might ask why there is so much going on related to an outlaw whose reputation preceded him to many cities during his career as a bank robber, train robber, and even appearing as the local Robin Hood. The myth remains that Jesse was noted for taking from the rich and is alleged to have given much to poor Missouri farmers.

"The reality is that Kearney hosts a festival that brings together a large collection of people from all walks of life. They gather, not to pay tribute to an outlaw, but to be reminded of an historical era which had a great impact on our country," Hedges said.

Members of the Diamonds 'n' Dust Equestrian Drill Team will perform at the Jesse James Festival Rodeo, Sept. 15-16. (photo courtesy Diamonds 'n' Dust)

A host of activities are on tap including 5k and 10k runs, barbecue contest, a carnival, arts and crafts vendors, demolition derby, fishing contest, mud volleyball, a parade and rodeo. Go to the website for a complete schedule.

The festival gets into full swing at the Jesse James Park, just north of Kearney on Highway 33.


Leigh Elmore can be contacted at