Saturday, September 6, 2008

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!

1 comment:

cheryl said...

I've been to Stark! Loved Murphy's!