Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"As Big As A Plate!"

Kansas Explorer #1287 Margo Yates says "anyone searching for the best darn chicken fried steak in Kansas needs to come to Marion." She says the chicken fried steak at the Stone City Cafe (211 E. Main, 620.382.2656) is the best in the state and "as big as your plate!"

To be on the official Explorer Chicken Fried Steak list the CFS needs to be fresh meat, hand breaded AND pan or grill fried. The Stone City Cafe CFS meets the first two criteria but is deep-fat fried. It doesn't get on our list but that doesn't mean it isn't terrific and I'd never doubt a Margo recommendation!

Speaking of "as big as your plate..."

This is a pork tenderloin sandwich that I had at Cherokee's Grill in Stark. It's true! You're looking at a regular size bun and a very irregular size pork tenderloin! Not only was it big but it was terrific!

A number of Explorers ate there when we had the "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" event in Stark, 20 miles east of Chanute.

This is a prime example of the size of the servings of most items on the menu. Wow!

Cherokee's Grill is at 105 W. Main. 620.754.3995.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Art of Appreciating Barns

The Kansas Barn Alliance held their third annual Barn Fest this past weekend at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Goessel. The passion of this group is symbolized by Roger Hubert's sign: Stop Barnicide.

President Sally Hatcher did a great job of organizing the event which included tours of four area barns.

If you're interested in joining the Kansas Barn Alliance go to www.kansasbarnalliance.org.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's A Keeper

Have you seen the Keeper of the Plains in its new surroundings? It's located at 650 N. Seneca in Wichita and now stands on a 30-foot pedestal. Blackbear Bosin designed this 44-foot scuplture and in 1974 it was dedicated. It has become the symbol of Wichita. Keeper of the Plains is just one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art.
Have you voted yet? If not, go to http://www.8wonders.org. Click on each picture and you'll find more photos and information about each finalist. Kansas has much art of which to be proud!
KE #2 Marci

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Road Trip in Kansas

It was a perfect day in August -- except for the constant rain.

We went anyway. The family (plus cousins) left early for our every-other-year Kansas day trip. The rain just added to the fun.

This year's itinerary included the Anton Pearson Studio, Lindsborg; Coronado Heights, near Lindsborg; old, old Highway 81 from near Bennington to Minneapolis; Rock City, near Minneapolis; Blackberry Mercantile, Oak Hill; the stone buffalo, near Longford; and the Renaissance Cafe, Assaria.

Even, and especially, my nieces know how to see Kansas through Explorer eyes. Spending money in small towns not only feels good but becomes a must. We not only dared to do dirt but we did mud. I made up a Rural Culture Element auto bingo game and each car had fun playing. Enjoying the journey is the big thing. What a great day we had exploring.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Testifying for Tourism

I had the opportunity yesterday to testify at two legislative committee meetings for the Travel Industry Association of Kansas (TIAK). TIAK is leading the charge to support a change in structure for the state tourism office. If the state tourism office was a quasi-independent organization it would have more flexibility and stability, potentially more funding, and the ability to partner better with all those that have a stake in tourism. The new structure, if adopted, would still require legislative oversight and it would receive funding from the state. There is much work to do for this to get through both the Senate and House.

My role is to represent rural communities in these hearings -- and what a pleasure that is! I describe what various towns have to offer and elaborate that we'd sure like more people to know about these places. Now, don't worry. We don't want the essence of these towns to change but believe that a few more visitors a day would sure help the sustainability of rural communities. I'm confident the state tourism office would be more able to market rural communities if the flexibility and funding was available. Currently, Kansas is 46th (I think) in the ranking of state tourism marketing budgets.

Budget Committee Chair Dwayne Umbarger (from Thayer) asked what we did in Stark recently. He said "everybody's talking about it." His comment allowed me to briefly explain the "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" events and specifically the success in Stark.

For everyone that visits small towns, writes about them, or sees their value, just know that this is appreciated and helping making a shift. Gradually, that cogwheel is turning and with legislative approval we are hoping to change the structure of tourism in this state and be able to work with the state tourism office to better market the explorer type places in Kansas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


What an exciting few days it's been doing our "Explorer" thing. I've been hardly able to catch my breath! M. has done most of the catching up on our adventures so I'll add just a few of my personal activities - mostly eating of course! But I must tell you, this job definitely has some perks and one of them is sampling the cuisine. There are some talented cooks out there in the prairie hamlets.

One highlight that stands out occured following the B.Y.O.L.C. in Morland this past Saturday at the Prairie Junction where I enjoyed scrumptious and moist fried chicken (cooking MOIST fried chicken is an art by the way); the pasta salad and ewww, I almost get quivery inside remembering it...the homemade pumpkin pie accompanied by a side of homemade Black Walnut ice cream.

The other happened in Manhattan thanks to our cat Phoebe who was being treated at K-State Vet School and was scheduled to be picked up on Sunday. We timed our trip so we could try out a place downtown referred to us by Angie Fryer, KE#2048, called "The Chef Cafe." They serve up an amazing array of breakfast items including Smoked Salmon Benedict enjoyed by Explorer #2 and I drooled over the Pancakes Bananas Foster served with pecan dark rum syrup. I've never had such succulent pancakes! In fact, I could have eaten just the pancakes without all the other yummy stuff. Even tried to talk the chef out of his recipe but he's keeping it a secret! Darn! Log onto their website to find out more info: http://thechefcafe.com/menu.html

M has already updated you earlier on our experiences at Collyer and Castle Rock so I'll just supply the photos. You know what they say about pictures - it's worth a thousand words! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Time in Lincoln!

Last night the Lincoln County Historical Society had their annual meeting in the Kyne House Museum in Lincoln. It was so fun to set up our "Go Kansas!" game show and be the game show host. My Mom and her sisters made a quilt with 40 question pockets to be our game show board. Dad devised a PVC pipe frame that can be disassembled and hauled in my car. We have chaser lights, buzzers, scoring, and 40 questions about what there is to see and do in Kansas. This was a really fun group and we had a rowdy good time learning about Kansas.

I stopped in to visit with Marilyn Helmer at Village Lines before I went to the museum. We had a quick but excellent talk about a really great core of people in Lincoln working together to make things happen. Marilyn has spent many years working in and for Lincoln. She's been a stalwart and is one of those community folks that, to me, is a Kansas hero.

The drive up to Lincoln from Inman was so beautiful -- especially K-14 between I-70 and Lincoln. Stunning beauty. The rolling hills and the roadside grasses were exquisite. It was a sunny day and Kansas just shone, all the way to Lincoln.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Go Kansas! game show

I'm looking forward to doing my "Go Kansas" game show in Lincoln tonight for their annual historical society meeting. The game show is a fun way to help people learn about Kansas. Adding fun to the learning equation sure makes a difference.

I'm still glowing about the great Saturday in Morland and can't wait to see what our final "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" event of the year will bring in Dexter on October 18.

There is no end to adventures one can have in this state. One fun thing to do is just stop in any town you come to and drag main and drive the residential areas. There is always something to learn. I like to start in the post office, cafe, grocery store or library as a place to have an initial conversation.

It's beautiful today. If you can, take a drive! Yours, KE #2 Marci

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Morland, St. Peter, Collyer, Castle Rock

Saturday was a great day.

One of the Foundation's "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" events to increase rural community awareness took place in Morland, a town of 155 in Graham County. Two legislators, Ralph Ostmeyer and Jim Morrison were among the 40-45 that sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of the bank's bas relief mural.

We heard about what it takes to keep a restaurant open in a small town, about the efforts to re-open the grocery store, and the announcement of a new small mill that will likely move to town.

To simply say that Faye, Charley, Kirk, Artie, Terry, Chris, Billie Jo, Sam, and so many others have gone above and beyond to keep this town alive just doesn't tell the story. To have any chance of understanding why people work so hard to keep a town of 155 alive, you'd have to feel the buzz in the restaurant (and taste the delicious food), see the building restoration projects, you'd need to sit on the sidewalk and watch the friendly and small town rituals that take place -- like a mother going by pushing a stroller or little boys walking down the street unattended. But mostly you'd need to look deep into the eyes and hearts of the committed ones to "get it" and believe. These folks come in all shapes, sizes, dress, and talk but put them together and you have the basis for community sustainability.

Morland is in a beautiful part of the state and is on the cusp of the High Plains and Smoky Hill regions. As you approach the turn to Morland on U.S. 24 you see a grain elevator about 1/2 mile to the south and you know the town is down there in the valley. It's such a picturesque sight and you can understand why people choose to live there.

We certainly recommend going to the Prairie Junction in Morland! Get hours by calling the bank at 785.627.3165.

Thanks to the Explorers, townspeople, and legislators that came out with lawn chairs!

WenDee had never seen Castle Rock so we took a back road south of Morland to get to Castle Rock. On our way we came to the town of St. Peter. We took pictures of the four street signs. Street names were St. Ann, St. Mary, and two other saints. The two main action centers were the catholic church in the town and the oil company out on the highway.

The route took us by Collyer so we stopped, knowing they were having a festival. With a population 129, this town was hopping! At the east end of town they were having the Mud Run. We had never seen one. The crowd was large and the noise drew us in. We hopped onto a flatbed trailer and watched one truck after another rev their engine and try to make it through the mud pit. We saw one truck make it after much effort. The next one worked so hard at making it up the slope that it literally blew up the engine. Fire and everything!

We moved on a few blocks to the craft booths, food booths, and music. Little kids were riding these big-tire tricycles on the cement basketball court. The big tires allowed them to tip to the side and keep riding on two wheels. One little kid said to this next, "This is so fun!" Parents were at the nearby food booths. It was vintage small town at its best.

I'm so proud of the Collyer Alliance made up of a group of incredible women that just do anything to keep their little town going. Others help out and the enthusiasm is contagious. One guy who stood by us on the flatbed said that he grew up there and had come back today to help.

Small towns can just make you real proud.

"Wow!" That's what WenDee said when she saw Castle Rock. She took lots of pictures. But then we kept driving to the "badlands" and even more enthusiastic "wow's" were elicited. A person could stay all day to crawl around on these chalky rocks. If you haven't ever seen them I hope you can go sometime. After all, they are one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Outdoor Events and Rain

I'm thinking about tomorrow, Saturday. We will have our "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" event in Morland (Graham Co.) rain or shine. It looks like it should actually be OK in the Morland area. The BYOLC is a rural community awareness event and the point is to help the interested public learn about issues and opportunities in small towns. This town of 155 has a lot more going on than meets the eye -- and we want to help folks understand and really see this town. Highlights will be eating at the restuarant, seeing the comic book collection on the walls of the bank, admiring the bas relief mural on the bank exterior, touring the grocery store building that is being renovated, and more. The biggest highlight though will be meeting the people of Morland. The lawn chair meeting in the street will start at 10 a.m., but breakfast will be served at the cafe starting at 9 and the post office will close by 10. No matter what the weather is, it'll be a great day to be in Morland. Oh, did I say homemade ice cream will be part of the lunch menu?

But my thoughts are about all the towns having events tomorrow, including Kansas Originals outdoor event at their store and the state fair. You work so hard and then the thing you can't control, the weather, comes along to make itself known. Luckily, there are many sturdy Kansans who don't let the weather stop them. The fact is that rain creates a different environment for the event and sometime it can be even more special. Fewer people attend so you get to know each other better. Expectations are out the window so all you can do is relax and enjoy. Event participants are appreciative of folks that come out in the rain so they treat you really well.

If you had plans to go somewhere tomorrow, I hope you'll still go. I know I'll be in Morland with my lawn chair sitting in the middle of the street.

Yours, KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Always a Wonder

"Campaign for Volts" Guitar Exhibit
Every day I wake up and wonder what this new day in Kansas will bring. I know I'll be trekking alongside Kansas' biggest cheerleader and finding out more than I could have ever imagined what the state has to offer.
Yesterday morning I finished up the Power Point program we finally decided on that Marci would present to the Wichita City Library Wednesday group. I've been trying to wean M. away from her trusty slide programs but it's taken awhile! Well, I can't just blame M., it's taken me awhile to get enough slides scanned and digital photos taken to put together a suitable program to present using Power Point. We've had all the equipment needed for quite some time and have actually done a few here at the Sampler Center for other actitvities but this was a first for an "on the road" program. It was an exciting day for both of us!
The program we prepared was actually the combination of three we had put together for the announcments of the last 8 Wonders of Kansas contests - the original Big 8, Architecture and the current one, Art. Needless to say with 24 finalists in each category it made for a rather looooong presentation on M's part but delighted the large crowd present at the library.
It was fun to hear all the comments and enthusiasm from the crowd. There was even 15-20 Kansas Explorers in the group that had come just for the occasion. It's always great to educate fellow Kansans about what all there is to see and do in the state and also to have their interest in becoming Explorers.
It was also a perk to look up at the end of the program to see my old museum buddy, Jami Frazier Tracy, the Curator of Collections for Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, standing there grinning at me. She and I go way back from the days I worked as an Exhibits Curator at the Finney County Historical Museum in Garden City. There's just something special about those "museum people!"
I had heard about their special guitar exhibit at the museum so we jumped at the chance to take a quick peek with our personal guide before we had to scurry to our next errand. The museum is right across from the Wichita Library. Every time I go to the WSCHM I am always entranced by it's beauty and exquisite exhibits. What a top notch group of staff and volunteers they have there. It was also a treat to meet the new director, Eric Cale. Congrats on your first year Eric!
If you have a few minutes the next time you're in Wichita stop by and see the guitar exhibit. It's called Campaign for Volts! and is a special exhibit celebrating the first electric guitars from the 1930s and the 75th Anniversary of its world debut from the Club Shadowland in Wichita, Kansas. Here's what I copied from their news release about the exhibit:
"Enterprising Wichita Guitarist, Orchestra Leader and Music Educator, Gage Brewer made a trip to California in the late summer of 1932 and acquired the first electric guitars from their inventor and whisked them to Wichita for a triumphal introduction through a series of Halloween performances locally. It would take several years for the instrument to catch on but Brewer proceeded through a career spanning five decades prominently featuring the instrument."
It's a temporary exhibit and you'll be out of luck after the end of October so run, don't walk, to see it and all of the rest of the fine displays they have created.
Here's their visitor info:
Hours/Admissions: Tuesday – Friday 11:00am to 4:00pm Saturday – Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm Closed Mondays and Holidays Check Calendar
$4.00 for Adults $2.00 for Children (Ages 6-12) Under Age 6 are Free
Website for more info: http://wichitahistory.org/
The museum is located in the coolest building in downtown Wichita at 204 S. Main. It's the old City Building across from the Library at the southeast corner of Main Street and William. Parking is generally pretty easy to find too.
Today brought a visit to the State Fair. More to ponder on - I mean "wonder on" that later.
Enjoy the wonders of Kansas!

Great audience, Guitars, and Saltwater Taffy

WenDee and I had lots of fun doing a power point on Kansas at the Wichita library yesterday. About a dozen Kansas Explorer Club members were among the audience of 100+. We showed pictures of the 24 finalists of our first three 8 Wonders contests. It seems that people just can't get enough of hearing about Kansas. Once they are primed they love to tell you stories about their trips around the state and ask for ideas on places to go. One lady had come to a program I had done years earlier and she remembered the phrase, "Explorers like to pay full price." That's right! Shop local, we say! Feel good about spending money in small towns!

Explorers Rita and Dean Pressnall were in attendance. Tomorrow Dean and his son Brian are heading out to rural northeast Kansas to go exploring. They'll make stops in Atchison and Leavenworth but also in Troy, White Cloud, the ghost town of Doniphan and more. I hope they stop in Robinson to buy some items at the community-owned grocery store and in Denton to buy stamps at the most nostalgic post office in the state.

Jamie Frazier Tracy, a friend of KSF assistant director WenDee LaPlant, was also at the program. Afterwards we walked across the street to her place of employement -- the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum in the majestic 1892 limestone former city hall. What a beautiful building! We met the new museum director, Eric Cale, and Jamie also showed us the new and very cool electric guitar display! Hope you get to see it! WenDee is going to post pictures and hours for the museum.

We stopped at the Sedgwick County Extension Office to present Bob Neier with the Fromme-Birney Round Barn beveled masonite poster. The round barn near Mullinville was one of the top 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture. Guess where he's going to put the poster first? In the hallway of the Bucklin Nursing Home. Why's that? That's where Mrs. Fromme and also Bob's dad now reside. That kind of reasoning is what I love about Kansas.

We went to the state fair for a bit today. Fun to see people like Sally Fuller who has been there every minute promoting Liberal as a place to visit. We saw Jennifer Mueller urging people to vote for the Blue Sky sculpture for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. Dennis Katzenmeier was all dressed up in his cowboy duds promoting Ellsworth, the National Drovers Hall of Fame, and Kansas Cattletowns. After we got some biscuits and gravy and huge cinnamon roll from the Wheatland Cafe (Hudson) booth we bumped into Clara Kilbourn and Sandra Melbourn from the Hutchinson News. We sat down beside them and before I could blink Clara had dived into my B&G and deemed it terrific! And it was. We got a little rowdy but it was fun. When they got their notepads out we knew it was time to leave. We saw Clara later at the pig races. We couldn't leave the fair without a Pronto Pup and now I'm sitting in my office back at the barn and I can't stop eating the saltwater taffy that you just have to buy at the fair. I only have one left. I'll finally stop.

A post from Marci Penner, KE #2

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


We're off to Wichita this afternoon to do a program at the public library. It's always fun to have a chance to show pictures of Kansas to an audience and inspire travel. This will be the first program where we're switching from my old-fashioned slide shows to a modern power point presentation. Thank goodness assistant WenDee knows how to do all the techy things. I'll still narrate each picture but they will be more clear and vivid. We're going to show the finalists for the 8 Wonders contests that we've done so far (overall, architecture, art). I know we'll get lots of oohs and aahs and people will definitely want to go see some of these places. It's so fun to help folks see their state with new eyes.

We'll also deliver posters around Wichita to the winners and finalists of the previous 8 Wonders contests. That means we'll get to see Bob Neier representing the Fromme-Birney round barn (Mullinville) and Barbara Hammond of the Wichita Preservation Office who helped with the John Mack Bridge and Wichita Carthalite entries.

For now, I've got to get to work on the next We Kan! newsletter. This is a membership newsletter that goes to people working to sustain their communities. We share all sorts of grassroots information.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Can't Keep My Eye on the Road!

Fall is a great time to see Kansas! In fact, it's downright hard to keep your eye on the road. The eye wants to be in the ditches and pastures viewing the wildflowers and grasses!

KE #4558 Phyllis Scherich of Comanche County has this wildflower report for the Gyp Hills (Red Hills). She says: "...and we don't want to forget the grasses which are at their glory right now and for the next few weeks. The variations in size, color, texture, and form of the blooming and fruiting grasses are fascinating and intriguing. From the beautiful Indian grass to the nuisance sand burs to the little and big bluestems - they are worth taking a close look at. If anyone is interested in identifying grasses, this is the time!

Phyllis has seen the following bloom this week in Comanche - Barber counties.

Wax Goldenweed
Cut-leaf Gaillardia
Pitcher Sage
Mentzelia (opens late afternoon)
Fendler's Aster
Dotted Gayfeather
Clammy Weed
Some Prickly Poppy
a few Englemann's Daisy
Stiffleaf False Goldenaster
Camphor Weed
Showy Partridge Pea
Purple Ground Cherry
Silver Leaf Nightshade
Scratch Daisy

Barber County had more rain than Comanche so may have more abundance of wildflowers.

Get more info here on Kansas Wildflowers

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Being Director of Cool is not always cool!
It feels strange to refer to myself as the "Director of Cool" for the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Of course, this is just an honorary handle, and one given because I'm the most savvy employee about computers out of a total of two and a half staff members. (The "half" is VLee, Marci's mom who does the bookwork, mowing, mailing, but most important of all, the cookie baking!)
I never considered myself cool - always wanted to be - but just didn't have the right gene or something. So, this whole cool thing seems to have put a little more pressure on me to perform some nifty tech things. Problem is, it seems to take longer to learn everything just to be cool.
I was jumping around the barn, scattering dustbunnies everywhere, in excitement about learning how to embed a YouTube video of the B.Y.O.L.C. visit to Stark. It's not hard, just a little - okay, a lot - time consuming. I keep telling myself I'll get better and faster but just when you think you've caught up with the techie world, it's headed off in another direction or added some junket that you didn't take time to read about in the last Computer World journal.
The next steps are to get a Kansas Sampler Foundation or Kansas Explorers Club group on Facebook and use that social stepladder to enlarge our network. Then we enter the world of Blackberry's or IPhones. We haven't decided which one would best fit our use so if you want to leave a comment about your preference that would be "cool."
Our use would not only be to communicate while we're "doing dirt" or "seeing Kansas with new eyes" but also to "TWITTER" folks who are in the Twitter network to let them know in a nanosecond where we are, what we're doing and to invite them to be there, get there and do it now! To find out about Twittering log onto: http://www.twitter.com/ and learn all about it. It's now the Cool Thing. It basically is - and this is directly from their website: "... a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"
Sounds simple huh? We'll see.
Enough for now. Stay tuned for the next cool report from the Barn on Section 27, McPherson County, Kansas, coming soon.

A State Worth Loving

Do Kansans have an inferiority complex? Do we think we don't have much to offer? Have you ever heard someone say that small towns aren't worth saving? Here's a short story for you.

Kansas Explorer Club member "B" is from a big city. He has shown up at group Explorer activities in places like Osborne County, Leoti, Marquette, and Stark. He'll either bring his Dad, wife, sister, kids, or some combination. And lately he's been searching for out-of-the-way places to visit. Explorer blood is obviously starting to run through his veins.

When I researched for the Kansas guidebook by going to every city (627) in the state, my affection grew the more I knew the state. Some would say that's just a feel good statement. I think it's much more. Good feeling turns into belief which turns into action. Belief and action for rural communities creates opportunities -- which creates sustainability.

So when I got an e-mail yesterday from Explorer B I just wanted to melt. He said, "The more of Kansas that I see, the more I love it."

I guess that's why I hope everyone learns how to explore, either through our club's mindset or their own. This is a state worth loving and all we have to do to get to that point, is just get to know it.

Exploring Gets In Your Blood!

I love Willie Mays, country living, and a good Crepe Paper Festival. But I also just love it when a true believer is born -- an explorer believer that is. Some don't have to convert far from loving to travel and see the world or the state but there's something different about waking up one day and knowing that it's now exploring blood that runs through your veins, that your eyes now see a new perspective, and that your heart has warmly melded with the drama of rural community survival.

Here is an example of one of those spine-tingling e-mails we get or stories that we hear about another Explorer being born.

These folks will be called He and She. They are of retirement age and happened to get ahold of that book that I've heard about, "The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers." It became their traveling bible and after they had gone on numerous trips they soon started to just jump in the car and head out in any direction. They get near a town and flip open the book to get started. They recently found themselves in the city of Anthony (pop. 2,300) and followed book guidance to Mueller Bros., a men and women's clothing store with shoes and athletic gear as well. Mueller's has been a stalwart business in Anthony since 1907. The building is complete with pressed-tin ceiling, old shelving, marvelous old-time woodwork and lighting. Explorer "He" bought a pair of dress pants and both He and She bought shoes. They had a great experience and enjoyed exceedingly friendly service. When they got home, they opened one of the bags and found a handwritten thank you note. As wonderful as that was they have become accustomed to having all sorts of Explorer moments with small towns.

To finish this story of He and She... Friends recently suggested a structured Kansas day trip plan. He and She just couldn't do it. They convinced the other traveling companions to just head out, flip open that guidebook, and enjoy the journey. That, my friends, is the mind of a true explorer.

The Successful Combustion of Locals and Explorers

Stark. Population 105. Located in Neosho County, 20 miles east of Chanute.

Kansas Explorers Club members coming from all over the state.

Yes, indeed. It was exhilirating that 100+ people brought lawn chairs to Stark's main street on August 30 to respond to our (Kansas Sampler Foundation) invitation to come to Stark for a "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" event. It's really a rural community awareness event but the B.Y.O.L.C. name is alot more appealing.

Cars kept rolling into town. Many were sporting a Kansas Explorers Club license plate or a car flag. The lawn chair formation kept growing and growing until we took over half of main street. But the biggest indication that this was a big thing in Stark was that the county sheriff rolled into town to check out the situation.

Out there in the street we listened to Portia Murphy, owner of Murphy's Mercantile; the town historian (no, Stark founders did NOT claim that land stark naked); and the grandson of artist Vera Ungler. It was obvious that these speakers and the locals in the crowd just love their town of 105.

Listening to the realities and opportunities of small town living is the official part of the B.Y.O.L.C.'s but the real fun is how we all "do" the town. Before and after our official lawn chair meeting we broke the revenue record at the post office, we stuck our heads into the historic red-brick post office that was being touched up and gave encouragement, we bought fabric at the little shop connected to a house, we ate the biggest portions of made-from-scratch food you've ever seen at Cherokee's Grill, and we bought plants out of the back of a pick-up that were brought from a Walnut nursery (Walnut is the name of a town).

But we also thoroughly enjoyed the main feature -- Murphy's Mercantile. It's pretty cool how a destination business like Murphy's can attract out-of-town traffic but still be a great asset to the local needs. We shopped for groceries and staples, ate cinnamon rolls, a light lunch, and/or HOMEMADE PIES, we basked in the friendliness of Portia and her employees, and we oohed and aahed at the look and feel of this nostalgic store. Portia, family, and friends sure used a lot of elbow grease to convert this long-time grocery into this store that makes you feel good just stepping inside.

The beauty of this comes from both sides of the coin. The folks that love their small towns and contribute in any way they can to help it survive is one side. The explorer-types who search for these kind of places and feel good about spending money and showing interest are the other side of the equation.

These are two great groups. Can both groups grow? If so, we can just push the refresh button on rural Kansas and there will be a whole new look!