Hays, McCracken celebrate 50th anniversary of ‘Paper Moon’

The Hays, McCracken and surrounding communities are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the filming of “Paper Moon” (1973) this year. 

The movie, based on the book Addie Pray, takes place during the Great Depression when a con man finds an unlikely partner in a young girl who may or may not be his daughter. The film stars real-life father-daughter duo Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the youngest to ever win in this category. 

If you mention “Paper Moon” in the area, you are likely to hear stories and personal connections to the film. Area residents such as the Budke family were extras in the film, and land and equipment owned by locals were prominently featured in the film to provide an authentic Kansas backdrop to the script. 

Many of the scenes were filmed in Hays, McCracken, Gorham, Dorrance, Wilson, La Crosse and Liebenthal. The premiere was in Hays, where much of the cast and crew stayed during filming. 

Free screenings of the film will be at 7 p.m. June 17 and a matinee at 2 p.m. June 18 at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center inside Sheridan Hall on the Fort Hays State University campus. 

The Hays Arts Council has a collection of artifacts including newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, stories of those involved with the film and more. The items will be on display starting at 6:30 p.m. June 16 at the Hays Arts Center Annex at 1010 Main as part of the Hays Arts Council Summer Art Walk. 

“Paper Moon left an indelible mark on the community. It was a time when things like that just didn’t happen in a community like Hays, Kan.,” said Brenda Meder, executive director of the Hays Arts Council. “It gave people a sense of pride, value and community connection. It put us on the map.”   

Meder remembers when the follow-up television series was filmed. She was in a high school drama class and took a field trip to Gorham and Wilson to watch some of the integral scenes being filmed. 

“Our neighbors and teachers were extras. The actors became part of the community for a short while. It was a unifying experience” Meder said.  

Two special exhibits during the weekend will take people back to that time and reinvigorate a sense of community pride. 

The McCracken Historical Society was recently featured in KANSAS! Magazine for its collection of memorabilia related to production and the actors. McCracken preserved items such as the telephone booth that was featured in a hotel scene, the original license plate from the Model A Roadster, scrapbooks and other items. Newly added is a replica of the moon backdrop featured in the film where people can take photos.   

Movie memorabilia will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 16 and 17 at the McCracken Historical Society. A barbecue luncheon starts at 11:30 a.m. June 17, and a musical performance by The Little Big Band starts at 1 p.m. at the McCracken Community Building. 

“Our team is excited to share our collection and a map that features the film sites in our area,” said Susan Keith, with the McCracken Historical Society. “We hope you’ll join us for the celebration and visit the locations that are special to our community.”

To commemorate the occasion, Defiance Brewing Co. will launch a special beer for the 50th celebration weekend. A light, citrusy and tropical New England-style Indian Pale Ale (IPA) called Trixie Delight, named after one of the film’s main characters, will be available to sample at the Hays Arts Council Summer Art Walk. It also will be available for purchase at Defiance Downtown at 111 W. Seventh and at Defiance Tap Room, 2050 Old U.S. Highway 40. 

For more information on the Hays CVB or community events, visit VisitHays.com or call (785) 628-8202.

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