By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
The Ellis County Historical Society is set to host its first meeting tonight in preparation for the 150th celebration of Volga German immigrants settling in Ellis County and western Kansas.
Volga German settlers first came to Ellis County in 1876, and the official sesquicentennial is in 2026. Historical Society Executive Director Amanda Rupp said they want to start planning now for what they anticipate will be a year-long celebration.
“This is really just the very first planning phase. We know that it's going to be here in a couple of years. The historical society, fittingly I think, wants to take the lead on just being the chair organization that initiates and keeps all the moving parts in order,” Rupp said.
Rupp said in past years the celebrations have included a play, a mock wedding ceremony showing wedding traditions and a video.
“We've invited all of the church leaders from all the little villages, some organization leaders for Oktoberfest or the different Volga German, groups to join us,” Rupp said, “but anybody is welcome.”
In 2026 the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., will host its annual conference again in Hays, Rupp said.
“I went to the conference this year, and everybody from California and Utah and Colorado and everyplace were excited that it was going to be back in Hays, because it was the most fun one they've had,” Rupp said.
Rupp said Monday’s meeting will start with a quick overview of history and a list of other activities from past celebrations.
“This one's just a collaboration and a brainstorming session, and it'll hopefully evolve after that,” Rupp said.
The meeting is open to the public. Society members encourage anyone who wants to volunteer or has an idea on ways to celebrate the sesquicentennial to attend.