Sunday, November 30, 2008

Familiar Things with a Different Look

Pop can tabs, bowling balls, bottles, chipped glass, kitchen dishes and cups. You'll see all sorts of familiar things at the Grassroots Arts Center in Lucas but it sure won't look like how you'd see it in Mom's kitchen!
These are just four snapshots of what you'll see. Make sure that you don't just see the Garden of Eden when you go to Lucas but also the Grassroots Arts Center on Main Street.
A grassroots artist is one that isn't formally trained in art and all around Kansas you'll see manifestations of that kind of art. You'll see it on mail boxes, in a front yard, on a street pole (Marquette) or on someone's front porch.
Keep your eyes open to see the clever touches all around the state and that will help you "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful for Our Richness

I'm so glad to live in Kansas! So much fun to be had in little ways that add up to big love.

I love the subtlety of our state and how the richness of what you're looking at corresponds with what you have in your heart for this state.
Degree of richness helps you "Get Kansas!" KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wherever you're going...

Safe travels to all over the Thanksgiving holiday -- and if you're on Kansas roads, keep your eyes open for Explorer stops. They're everywhere!

Enjoying the Journey helps you "Get Kansas." KE#2 Marci Penner

Support Us

Support Us. That's the name of the new navigation button on our web site. I'm mostly thrilled to share new ideas on that page. They are called Transformational Ideas for rural Kansas. It would be my dream and lifetime achievement to see them all put into motion. Hope you're curious enough to look at them!

Supporting the Kansas Sampler Foundation helps everyone "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, November 24, 2008

Someone said there is nothing to see...

Recently someone was trying to convince me that promoting rural communities as "an attraction" was a waste of time. I figure that person just hasn't learned how to explore Kansas yet.
Do you know which town the above pictures represent?
Here are some clues. The first plaque is actually in the middle of the main intersection downtown as you see in the second picture.
The "wedding ring quilt" pattern is incorporated into architectural design in a few places around this town.
This town once supported three brick plants.
Have you figured out which town this is?
These are just small points of interest but in the Explorer world lots of little things adds up to a really fun adventure. I mean, how many towns have you visted that had a historic plaque right in the middle of the street -- and you wouldn't get run over taking a picture of it? Why is it there? Because that is exactly where the town well was first built.
Three more clues. The memorial park is named after state senator and World War I General George Wark. The Black Dog Trail went through this area, too. Jabba Mason is buried in the city cemetery. She taught both Harry Sinclair and Walt Disney.
It's fun to search for Explorer tidbits.
I'm talking about Caney, a very fun town to visit.
If you want to make me bristle , just say there is nothing to see and do in our rural communities. Actually, the fact is that it's the person looking that may not have figured it out. It takes a real sharp eye and a curious soul be be an explorer...
Want to learn how to be an Explorer? Sign up to be a Kansas Explorer Club member.
Finding tidbits in small towns is one way to "Get Kansas."
KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Norma is the Pie Winner!

Surrounded by fans and friends in Dover, Norma Grubbs heard the news that she was the winner of the "Best Slice of Pie" contest organized by Good Morning America Weekend.

The url to see Norma hearing the news is:
or under the You Tube section.

Norma made 56 pies this week, about double her usual amount. Because of the publicity, the Sommerset Cafe in Dover had more business than ever. Norma is an 88-year-old that sure knows how to bake a pie the right way.

Norma's victory should be evidence enough that our small town resources (people like Norma, places like Sommerset Cafe) are of great interest. Likely she had to double her pie-baking numbers this week because of more Kansans coming to visit. Just think if we kept talking up these kind of places. It would help rural communities get the boost they need and it would affirm the fact that what rural communities need to do is work on being the best they can be at being themselves.

Norma and the Sommerset Cafe are the big winners this week because they were just being their best and people noticed -- and then people came.

If you understand that being the best at being yourself is far more important in rural Kansas than a highly expensive ad campaign then you "Get Kansas."

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's the Little Things

Here is a group of Kansas Explorers Club members in the smallest band shell (in Barnes) in the state getting ready to sing "Home on the Range." Susie Haver, KE #27, is directing.

We were on a Group Adventure and it rained most of the day. That sure didn't dampen our day. Explorers are fun. I mean, why just look at the tiniest band shell in the state when you could stand on the stage and sing?!

Kansas Explorers Club members love to experience the nooks and crannies. It's a great way to "Get Kansas!" KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marcon Pies! Need I say more?

Have you ever heard of Marcon Pies? Just the mere mention causes drool. They are famous all over the state.

They are on my mind because when I shopped at our local grocery store in Inman this morning the Marcon delivery man came in with trays of pies. Oh my. I wanted to buy one but the clerk wouldn't let me! First, she had to figure out which ones to set aside for pies pre-ordered for Thanksgiving. There were simply a pile of pies!

Stores in Inman, Yoder, Hoisington, Wilson, Belleville and many, many more have them. You'll know if your local store has them...

What's the big fuss? They are made in Washington and the company was started by Marilyn and Connie -- thus the name Marcon. You can go into the "pie factory" at 8th and D for a tour (call in advance, 785.325.243) or to buy a pie at the front counter.

Cream pies, fruit pies (only available on Friday), sugar-free pies, cheesecake. Yum.... Hey, gotta close. I'm jumping in my car and going back to Inman. Maybe I can buy one by now. Cherry pie here I come!

To eat a Marcon is to "Get Kansas!" KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Signs that'll make you look twice!

Signs conceived by locals are an endless source of fascination. Keep your eyes open!

Sign #1: This motel sign will sure get your attention! See this one along U.S. 36 in Atwood.
Sign #2: And, come on, don't you know the rules yet! Sign on front door at Polk's Market, Medora.

Sign #3: Designed by artist Paul Boyer of Belleville, what a clever idea! Look closely and you'll see that the open and closed are each in a window and a wooden white board with handle just slips over one of the sides. No screws. Look in the middle and you'll see the wingnuts that turn easily. When it says open make sure to go in and see Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings.
These signs will tell you alot about the characters of Kansas. Read into them and you'll "Get Kansas!" KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Preaching on Facebook

It's a bit daunting but I'm trying my luck on Facebook. I've got an account -- and I even have Friends. In fact, yesterday I created a group account for the Kansas Explorers Club. It's a lot quicker to send a message out to a group through Facebook than it is to send out a group e-mail blast.

In the group description I was a little more direct than in usual Kansas Explorers Club recruitment lingo. I wrote that we wanted people who are ready to be Kansas activists, ready to commit to buying at locally-owned stores and thinking local, local, local when making purchasing decisions.

My goal is to have 5,000 Kansas activists. Think of it, 5,000 activists sending their Kansas conscienceness into every one they meet. It could be something really great.
You can sign up to be a Kansas Explorer Club member at We want you. We need you! And, it's fun, too.

To buy local means you "Get Kansas."

From the office in the barn, KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, November 15, 2008

California Meets Kansas

You just don't expect to find a gift shop with such an urban loft (transitional) feel to it but one place you'll find it in Kansas is at The Feathered Nest at 1914 M Street in Belleville.

The concrete slabs with natural pantina are balanced with the high black ceiling and in between is a crowded inventory of everything from bright purses to holiday decorations. The building most recently housed a long-time successful furniture shop and now the owners converted to this gift shop to stay up with the times. The place has a contemporary feel to it. In fact, a young woman from California was working here.
She had decided to go to school at K-State for a couple of years as an adventure. But, she met a North Central Kansas farmer and two weeks before our trip to The Feathered Nest they had married. They went to some foreign country for a honeymoon and she told her husband she couldn't wait to get "home" to Belleville. She is having no trouble liking Belleville. It probably helps to have a "cool" store like The Feathered Nest to work in but she simply loves the rural life. She had already driven a tractor, too!
The place is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. 785.527.7200.
This young woman "Gets Kansas" and can see the opportunity of making a life here.
On the road, KE #2 Marci

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saluting Veterans

One of the newest memorials is this Veterans Memorial Amphitheater located at the east edge of Pittsburg State University campus on Rouse Street. You'll feel a tug at your emotions as you walk the entryways lined with flags and the seals of the five military branches. Dedicated in 2004, this all-veterans memorial features the first Vietnam Moving Wall to be retired, an eternal flame, and a reflecting pool. A depression in the middle of the pool honors Americans who died in the war or are missing in action.

I also really like the World War I Doughboy Statues. We have five in the state in Onaga, Oakley, Axtell, Wilson, and Parsons. The bronze statue depicting a charging soldier is a memorial to the veterans of the Great War. Most of the Doughboy statues made by artist Ernest Moore Viquesney were dedicated in 1920.
Kansas communities do a great job of honoring their veterans and that is part of "Getting Kansas." On the road, KE #2 Marci

Monday, November 10, 2008

You'll love this gallery!

The Strecker-Nelson Gallery is the oldest continuously operated commercial art gallery in Kansas. It's been operating since 1979 and I had never been in it! Now I am kicking myself for not checking it out sooner. I could have been enjoying it for years -- and telling people about it. I guess I'll start that now.
The gallery has an urban feel to it and is located on the second floor of a building at 1520 Poyntz Avenue in Manhattan. Three steps up the stairs you'll see a painting that will have you mighty curious about what you might see next.

Once up the stairs, upon the first peek you'll undoubtedly feel a "wow! sweep over you. Turn your head this way or that and you'll find vibrant art displayed with class against cool wall colors. The lighting showcases these quality pieces just perfectly. Fine art and rustic art is found in nooks and on walls. It's the kind of art that makes you really want to admire it for awhile and ask a million questions. Barbara and Jay Nelson are very friendly and willing to answer your questions. They certainly have a knack for choosing quality and interesting art. Of course, the art is for sale and if you buy I can almost guarantee you'll feel really good about it.
Barbara and Jay could have this gallery in much bigger cities and do very well. To understand why they stay in Manhattan is to "Get Kansas." Yours, KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, November 7, 2008

A High Noon Salute

Last Saturday, November 1 a group of C.O.W.B.O.Y.S. lined up in the center of Douglas Street in Ellsworth, hollered for Jim Gray to come out, and then commenced shooting (blanks) straight up at noon. It was a rowdy few minutes until Jim came out of the store with his hands up and Linda with tears streaming down.

That was the Kansas Cowboy way of saluting Jim Gray and Linda Kohls. The legendary Drovers Mercantile had been open since 1995 to sell authentic western clothing, books, and music and to swap stories and lies about cowboys, cattle, and trails.

Jim Gray will keep his Kansas C.O.W.B.O.Y. publication going and hopefully he'll put that information into a book someday. He's a cowboy and rancher at heart with a deep sense of history and a passion for sharing it. Jim would have been comfortable living in the era of his great grandparents.

And Linda...the steady rock behind the scenes. Grounded in common sense and a good balance for dreamer Jim. Together these business partners galvanized the Kansas C.O.W.B.O.Y.S. and will continue to be an important part of keeping the Old West story alive -- they just won't be doing it at 119 N. Douglas anymore.

Cowboy hats off to you Jim and Linda!

Yep, to know why Jim and Linda kept this store going is to "Get Kansas." Yours, Kansas Cowboy #41 and Kansas Explorer #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Amazing!

Each of the gallery windows at the Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings features one of Paul Boyer's motion displays. You push a button and it goes into motion -- and your jaw drops. Some of the displays show the "underworkings," as featured on two of the pictures above, and it's just awesome. Intricate work combined with humor puts Mr. Boyer's vivd imagination into motion.
The pictures above just don't do justice to what you see. Just imagine every thing you see in the pictures in motion presenting a scenario. It's so clever.

Paul Boyer's daughters Annie and Candy are your hosts at the gallery. They show as much admiration for their Dad and his amazing works as the guests do. They tell how he never wrote out plans. If he could see it in his head then he could make it. He must have amazing finger dexterity to work with those small gears and shafts. The carved figurines are another amazement! How did he do that?
My favorite display (not shown above) was the one with ball bearings dropping off of a chute onto a rubber drum and then bouncing to another drum before jumping into the cage where they'd go back on the conveyor belt and the top of the chute. Two ball bearings would be dropped at once and they would always go precisely where they should. You just have to see's amazing.
The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings, chosen as one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art, is located at 1205 M in Belleville. It's closed for the season but you could call Annie at 785.527.5884 to make an appointment. I hope you get to see this place sometime!
To see Paul's motion displays is to help you Get Kansas! Yours, KE #2 Marci

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Great Setting for Serious Thinking

As you can see, I still haven't figured out how to wrap text around the photos.

Nonetheless, I can still tell you about the Renaissance Cafe, 210 N. Center, in Assaria as an excellent place for quiet day meetings and good food. Nathalie and daughter Elaine are the breakfast and noon cooks. And it's always delicious -- and made from scratch. On this particular day we had spaghetti and fresh garlic bread. It was sooo good.

The cafe is located in a 1919 school and is adjoined with a Great Plains Manufacturing plant. The cafe surrounds a sunken gym and stage. Owner Roy Applequist owns the plant and keeps the cafe open so his workers have a place to eat their noon meal. On Thursday-Saturday evenings the place converts into a fine dining facility for Italian meals with Kevin as the chef. You can't go wrong at either time of day. It's different menus but both are delicious!

Dave Procter, director of the Center for Engagement and Community Development of K-State, WenDee, and I met recently to talk about the grocery store initiative. For good karma, I like to meet in a town that matches the size towns that we're discussing.

Dave had recently been at a national community development conference and realized that Kansas is ahead of the curve in paying attention to the crisis of sustaining rural grocery stores. Though things have been moving slow that bolstered us to know we're a least on a good track.

Issues on our mind are volume buying, work force, loyalty shopping, cost of utilities, some legislative issues, and the need and desire to stock local produce, healthy foods, and possibly Kansas-made arts and craft products, as well. We have to figure out what needs to be done to support this primary and anchor business in towns of 2,000 and less. Though it's hard to sustain stores in cities of less than 5,000, there seems to be another deeper layer of issues when you go below 2,000.

Dave and I have known each other for years so we understand one another and work well together. The plan is to mesh grassroots abilities with university resources and see if we can create a new working model for rural grocery stores. We've got to make it happen as soon as possible.

It was a good meeting... It will take some outside-of-the-box thinking to create this new model. It will take the right people in the bus, on the rights seats, and we'll need to find some money to put this all in place. We've just got to make it happen.