Annual TARP Reunion, Stopped by COVID, Returning

They know they can’t bring back the ‘60s and ‘70s, but organizers of the upcoming TARP Reunion hope to bring back some of their friends from that era.

The Teen Age Recreation Program (TARP) started in 1955 at McAdams Park to give youth something to do on Friday nights.

“It was really the only place for Black youth to go back then,” Parlene Warren, a reunion organizer, said.

Students would flock to McAdams after football games for music and dancing. The weekly event had a great run, impacting  a couple of generations of area teens until it ended in 1974.

“My older brother and sister would walk up to McAdams every Friday,” Warren remembered.

Fans of the Friday-night fest began putting on TARP reunions in 2013, in part to show the City of Wichita that the park still was vital to the community. The last reunion was in 2019. COVID-19 paused the annual get-together until this summer.

The next reunion is scheduled for 6 to 10 p.m. July 30. That’s a Saturday — not the regular Friday from the original days.

Colleen Edwards, another organizer, said the reunion will feature entertainment and food. She demurred when asked about what the entertainment would be.

“That’s a secret,” she said.

The reunions are fun, she said, “because you get to see a lot of people you haven’t seen for a while.”

TARP nights were always well-attended, and attendees were well-behaved, Warren and Edwards said.

Park supervisor Emerson “Mac” McAdams made sure of that.

“He knew everyone’s parents, and he’d call your parents and you wouldn’t get to come back,” Edwards said.

TARP dances drew youth from all over Wichita, she said.

“It didn’t matter what school you were from,” Edwards said. “Everybody just came to have a good time.”

Tickets for the reunion are $5 and will be available for purchase at the park.

Warren and Edwards think the reunion will be well-attended given the COVID-19 pause.

“We’ve had a lot of people calling from out of town wanting to know about it,” Edwards said.