Patrons can enjoy the 2022 season of animal-related Friday Amphitheater Programs starting June 3 at Ernie Miller Park’s new and improved outdoor amphitheater.
Meant to be educational and entertaining, amphitheater programs kick off June 3 with “Owls: Eyes of the Night” which will feature live owls from the nature center. Other June programs include: “Back from the Brink” on June 10; “Stories in the Park” on June 17; and “Snakes Alive” on June 24. The fun continues in July with “Predators on the Prowl” on July 8; “Voices in the Wild” on July 15; “Moths in the Moonlight” on July 22; and “Kansas Symbols” on July 29.
Each program is approximately 45 minutes to one hour in length and begins at 7 pm. Programs are presented by park naturalists, Johnson County Park Police officers, and by volunteers. In case of inclement weather, including extreme heat, programs will be held indoors. The cost is $4 per person. Advance registration is recommended and closes each Friday at 4 p.m.; onsite registration is cash only.
The park’s new amphitheater replaces the original facility first opened in 1987 and offers increased capacity, improved accessibility, and some new features.
“Although it is more modern and lower-maintenance, the new amphitheater blends in well with the surroundings and will provide a comfortable new area for us to provide interpretive programs,” noted Outdoor Education Manager Andrea Joslin. “The new amphitheater is designed to allow all visitors to view the stage easily with each row elevated above the one in front. It also provides a larger stage for performances, and a hidden backstage area for our performers. We also love that the seating areas are now ADA accessible both from the top and the bottom, and the stage is accessible too. The new fire ring with a surrounding seat wall will be the perfect place for evening programs and storytelling.”
The new amphitheater also features improved lighting with enhanced stage lights and lit handrails for the steps. The facility features a middle row which will allow presenters to interact more with participants, plus, the capacity of the amphitheater has been increased from 125 to 160 people.
The amphitheater replacement is part of a number of improvements at Ernie Miller Park which began in 2020 and was completed right after the 2021 amphitheater program season.
“Use of the amphitheater began in August of 2021 with the return of the annual Heritage History Lab fieldtrip program, and was used almost every weekday in the fall for that purpose,” Joslin said. “It was recently used for our spring field trips. Unfortunately, we were not able to use it for the Friday night amphitheater programs last summer, but are excited that we will be using it this coming summer.”
The recently-completed park improvements also include a number of other changes and new amenities.
“A new drop-off and accessible parking area has been added close to the nature center building entrance,” Joslin said. “This allows those with accessibility challenges to get to the nature center and amphitheater with more ease by decreasing the distance and the incline from the parking area. We have added another accessible portion of our trails in order to increase the accessible walkways in our park and corrected accessibility issues on other trails. We have also added an accessible dock on our pond which allows all visitors a closer view of the water and its inhabitants. The improved accessibility is already making a difference in our visitors’ experiences, allowing more people to be able to get the nature center to view the exhibits and its animals as well as allowing more people the opportunity to walk on the trails and enjoy nature up close.”
Ernie Miller Park is located at 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway in Olathe. Visitors can park in either the main parking lot near the nature center, or in the small parking lot south of the park entrance. From either lot, there is a paved and lighted path to the amphitheater. For more information, call 913-826-2800.