One of my favorite times of year is when we get to present ten We Kan! awards to unsuspecting people at the Kansas Sampler Festival. We have an exhibitor/We Kan! meeting after the festival on Saturday and that is when we make the presentations.
First, I'm very proud of the awards because they are made by Elk Falls Pottery. Steve and Jane Fry do a great job with them. For years, Bill Linde of Yates Center made the awards.
The awards are presented to people who have shown uncommon dedication and passion to their jobs and often because they have done it for quite awhile. You don't apply to win one of these awards, just be great at being yourself.
All of these people have a hand in preserving and sustaining rural culture. Here's a toast to all of them!
The 2009 winners of the We Kan! awards are:
Tom Braddy, Paxico, Mr. Promoter of Wine and Kansas. Tom (second from left in the picture) has been attending the Kansas Sampler Festival since it was held on the farm. He started out selling Lost Trail Root Beer for Louisburg Cider Mill and now promotes and sells wine for Wyldewood Cellars. Tom is one of the most engaging people you'll ever meet and he loves Kansas.
Concordia, Bringing Kansas Together in 2008-2009. Susie Haver and Tammy Britt received the award for the community of Concordia as the leaders of hosting the Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia. It takes a community to stage something like this -- and dedicated leaders. Thank you to all the volunteers from Concordia, especially Susie and Tammy.
John Divine, Salina, Longtime and loyal supporter. John has been a Kansas Sampler Foundation board member for a long time. He's become a dear friend and has put a great deal of time, money, and energy into helping KSF prosper. He's been there through thick and thin. John is an enthusiastic board member for a number of organizations and works effectively with many communities.
Sharla Krenzel, Leoti, Making a Difference for Wichita County (not pictured). Sharla works hard for Wichita County as the economic development director. She leaves no stone unturned and goes all out on any project. She epitomizes the spirit of Wichita County and does more behind the scenes than anyone would know.
Kristel Lewis, Lawrence, Extra Effort for Entrepreneurs. A busy Mom of two young boys, Kristel also produces Country Register, a publication that promotes niche businesses in Kansas. She lives and breathes it and makes purchases and goes out of her way to do little things to support these businesses. She also is the sponsor of the Kansas Mercantile tent at the festival and makes sure everything goes smoothly in that tent.
Joan Nothern, Glasco, Thoughtful Leadership. Joan has an artful perspective of how to keep a rural community viable and it includes educating and involving the youth in knowing the community story, storytelling, and focusing on efforts that bring a community together -- like celebrating a highway, place, and even rhubarb. Joan has a thoughtful perspective which helps take people to a deeper layer of understanding a subject.
Susan Rathke, Emporia, Excellent for Emporia. One thing Susan does in her job for the Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau is take care of groups that come to Emporia. She has a wonderful way of making sure the group has the best time possible. Susan is a marvelous ambassador for Emporia and is a great source for information about the city.
Glenda Trecek, Agenda, Believing in Agenda (not pictured). Glenda has unbelievable commitment and belief that Agenda can be viable. She has a gift shop, the Cedar Porch, in this town of 78, and has gone on to restore a couple of more buildings in what is left of the main street. One store now has a soda fountain! She's a bulldog when it comes to making things happen and a wonderful spirit to visit. (Go to Agenda!).
Kristina Vaughn, Canute, Oklahoma, Extra Effort. For four years, Kristina has come from her home in Oklahoma with her aunt Sally Fuller to help set up the Kansas Sampler Festival. She comes several days before the festival, pays her own motel room, and does hard work out on the festival grounds. She does it with a willing spirit and is fun to be around. Kristina makes things easier for the host and her efforts are greatly appreciated!
Pat Veesart, Garden City, Champion for Many (not pictured). Pat is the director of the Small Business Development Center in Garden City. Not only does Pat help innumerable businesses get started and help them as they progress down the road, but the spirit with which she does that makes her special. She deeply cares about entrepreneurs being successful and takes extra steps to offer support. She's a good friend to many and Kansas is better off because of her presence.
To see all of the award winners over the years, click here.