Monday, December 14, 2009

Make it a Kansas Christmas!

A friend had the question. What to give the son-in-law? He lives in another state and will be back from Afghanistan by the time he gets the holiday goods.

Here was her great solution which was prompted by an article Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau director Craig Hull wrote in his Pittsburg Morning Sun column.

So far her gift basket of Kansas products includes:
Grannie's Homemade Mustard, Hillsboro
Knackie's Bear-B-Cue, Inman
Art & Mary's Potato Chips, Cheney
Voran-Goertzen Peppernuts, Goessel
Circle's Pecans, McCune
Helmuth Bakery Homemade Noodles, Hutchinson
Blacksmith Roastery Coffee, Lindsborg

He'll just love this!

She could add:
A Caramel Apple MarCon pie or any other delicious flavor, Washington
A bottle of Kansas wine
Schlaegel's Homegrown Popcorn, Whiting
Buffalo meat, Smoky Hill Bison, Assaria
Muffin mixes, dried soup mixes, Louisburg

You could go to one-stop shopping and order most of these from Kansas Originals Market near Wilson! Click here, then under the catalog, click food products. Or, go visit them at the Wilson exit, just north of I-70.

Add Kansas art or photographs!
Add Kansas music! Ann Zimmerman, Kelly Hunt, Diamond W Wranglers, and so, so many more!
Add Kansas books!

For more ideas, here's an online Christmas shopping guide!

Giving Kansas is a meaningful gift. So instead of "Get Kansas" we're suggesting "Give Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I loved about the Outhouse Festival in Elk Falls

I love EVERYTHING about the Elk Falls Outhouse Festival.

It's a highly clever event that involves the community and is very fun for the public. That it happens in a small town of 112 is just a super bonus.

Aside from the main feature, there is an arts-and-crafts fair in the auditorium, rummage sales around town, 4-H sells goodies, there are activities for kids, and the senior citizen center, the cafe, and the the Mills' from Moline sell food. A quilt show is located in a small wooden church -- near the apple dumplings!

I felt good about buying $157 worth of stamps at the small post office and was glad for the post master's response that that would make her monthly report look good.

We got to help Dorothy -- sort of. She has run the "front desk" for so many years that you don't really want to mess up her system. It's a dollar for a button and a judging ballot. Then she checks to see if the number on the back of your button gives you a shot at the door prize table. Or, you can buy a jar of gravel from the front desk and then deposit it in the pot hole of your choice.

This is the outhouse at the headquarters and where you come later to turn in your ballot -- either at the drive through window or inside.

People come dressed for the theme.

I think there were 11 outhouses this year. The public votes for their favorites. Here are just a few:

The Greenhouse where you can get a view from the loo. The energy efficient system has the fish do the recycling.

The post office used some items laying around.

Gilligan's Island got in on the act, too.

This was the "Social Movement" venue.

And, the Dog Pound stop.

Part of the requirement is that the outhouse designers write a story to go along with their theme. The possibilities for a play on words with this subject is endless and, you can be sure, they are all used.

How such a crappy topic can provide so much relief from the hum drum world is a testament to the citizens of Elk Falls. Attendance was well over 1,000 people. Not bad for this town of just over 100.

If you want to be privvy to where small towns get their will to succeed come to next year's Elk Falls Outhouse Festival. It's held the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving each year.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Explorery things help you "Get Wetmore!"

This blog serves as an example of what exploring is all about. Warning: If you prefer obvious commercial attractions, this isn't for you.

Explorers need to keep their eyes open and look for nuances that might be about architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history or people. Interacting with the locals will help you find Explorery places or get your questions answered. Remember, don't judge a small town! If you do, you'll miss out on outstanding things behind the facade.

#1 What is this?
This 1925 service station is a clue.

The answer is that it was an outdoor oil pan! Drive your vehicle into the wheel troughs (my words) and the mechanic can drain the oil from there. (By the way, Robert Carson has a restored 1940s, 1950s mechanic garage available for tour. Many spit-and-polished antique autos and trucks are also on the showroom floor of the former car dealership that houses it all. It's located next to this restored filling station).

#2 This garage door is on main street in Wetmore. An Explorer would notice the door and would ask questions until they found out that Katie is a nurse in the clinic. She must be pretty important. Some people get their names written on the curb or a sign. Katie gets a whole garage door!

#3 Have you ever sign an 18-box hopscotch board? This one is permanently-etched onto the middle school sidewalk!

Look closely at this bar and grill. Notice the two doors? Above one it says "Dining" and above the other it says "Bar". Go in, have a beer, and ask the owner of Retingers why they did this. By the way, the food is great!

The last "big" nuance to notice near Wetmore is the Shoe Tree. Click here for directions and more information. The Shoe Tree was a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.

Well, those are just a few Explorery things to see and do in Wetmore. There are more, like the calaboose, the Pony Express rider's grave, and the giant stone art northeast of town.

The point of this blog is that almost every town has something unusual to see if you open your eyes and your mind. Do that and you'll Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day and the Emporia connection

Emporia shoe repairman, Alvin J. (Al) King, and his wife Gertrude, helped raise a nephew, John E. Cooper, who was serving as part of the Third U.S. Army in Germany when he was killed in action on December 20, 1944.

Grief over the young man's death started King looking for a way to honor not only his nephew but all veterans who fight during wars and serve during peace.

King began his campaign to change an existing national holiday, Armistice Day, to Veterans Day. He gained support from U.S. Representative Ed Rees of Emporia who agreed to take King's idea to Washington, D.C. The bill passed the House and Senate and President Eisenhower signed the bill to establish Veterans Day as a national holiday.

The nation held its first Veterans Day on November 11, 1954.

Fifty years later, the city was declared the Official Founding City of Veterans Day by Congress on October 31, 2003. Former Convention & Visitors Bureau director Liz Martell and the All Veterans Tribute committee did the bulk of the work to gain Emporia this designation.

In October, "Emporia, The Founding City of Veterans Day" was voted one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.

Just a little information that helps you "get Kansas."

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our Kansas History Museums Tell the Story!

Some have asked for this so here it is!

Speech given to Kansas Museum Association

Nov. 6, 2009

By Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation

I’ve been doing a little research. Listen to this as those you’ve never been to Kansas.


We have history museums in opera houses, jails, hospitals, Carnegie Libraries, newspaper buildings, old mercantiles, courthouses, auditoriums, schools, churches, banks, depot, houses, fire stations, city halls, an American Legion hall, a city shop, a county shop, a home for nurses, a grain elevator, a livery stable, and a water office.


You can enjoy the building or the stories they tell in places like the Strawberry Hill Mansion, the Brown Mansion, the Seelye House, and the Carroll Mansion.

Ah yes, the matter of the Carroll Mansion... In 1964 Ella Carroll, the last Carroll to live in this Leavenworth home, announced at church that she was leaving the mansion and people could come get anything from the house they wanted. After the last item was removed, Ella gave the key and the house deed to the Leavenworth County Historical Society.


The largest barn in the state, the Cooper Barn, once housed Hereford Show cattle and can now be viewed by all. Another museum documents the sad story of the largest horse barn in the state that met its fate from a lightning-induced fire. You can walk through a spectacular 1898 restored roller mill and a clay-brick Mennonite immigrant house or learn about pueblo Indian ruins that date back to the 1600s that you can still see! You can tour a Lustron and a Hartford House, too.

You’ll find a museum within an active high school and they give an awesome tour – even while school is in session. Or, you can tour and eat in the first Harvey House to have a restaurant!

Step inside Constitution Hall where the walls are still shaking from vigorous free-state and pro-slavery debates during our territorial days.


You can visit the homes that famous people lived in: Walter Chrysler, Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart, John Steuart Curry, Carrie Nation, Fred Harvey, General Fred Funston, Bernard Warkentin, Susanna Salter, and even the mayor of Munchkinland.


Our museums tell about colorful people. John Brown, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, George Custer, Martin and Osa Johnson, and even John R. Brinckley (the goat gland doctor).

The list goes on. A few more of our people include George Washington Carver, Gordon Parks, William Allen White, Clyde Cessna, Cyrus Holliday, Arthur Hertzler, Mother Bickerdyke, and there are so many more.

Satanta was held prisoner at Fort Harkner and you can still see the stretched bars in an upstairs window that were his escape route.

We tell about some real characters, too – Vivian Vance, Buster Keaton, Emmett Kelly, and Whizzo the Clown.

Athletes shine, too. From Olympians Thane Baker, Glenn Cunningham, and Billy Mills to Walter Johnson and Jackie Stiles, coaches Dean Smith and Eddie Sutton and the inventor of basketball himself James Naismith.

Do you know these people that you can learn about in our museums?

Merle Evans (Ringling Brothers band leader)

Ron Evans (astornaut)
Harold Krier (aerobatic flyer)

Wayne Dunafon (Marlboro Man)
Grace Bedell Billings (letter to Lincoln)

Grandma Layton (artist of social causes)

Earl Sutherland (Nobel Peace Prize winner)

Lorenzo Fuller (African American musician, Broadway performer, and early television pioneer)

---and we also have a Gallery of Also Rans...

We cover some really big and fascinating topics

Lewis & Clark

The Plains Indians

Santa Fe Trail

Oregon Trail and other overland wagon trails

Cattle Towns and cattle trails


Bleeding Kansas

Pony Express

Railroad expansion

Cherokee Strip Land Rush

Aviation industry

Oil industry

Lead, zinc, and coal mining


Immigration (Mennonites, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, Asians, Scandinavian, more)


The evolution of agriculture and ranching

And we’re a hotbed for fossils

You can go underground to see where businesses were once housed, you can traverse through a tunnel once used as a getaway for bad guys, or you can take an elevator 650 feet down to hop a tram into a dark ride for a salty adventure.

On the flip side, we have another museum that will give you all the space you need and rocket you upward and onward.


We have the largest electric coal shovel in the world and our museums also tell about the largest hailstone on record, the largest hairball, the largest swimming pool, the largest cattle pool in the state, the largest gas field in the world, the oil field that was the largest producer/supplier of oil in the U.S. during WWI, the first 1950s all-electric house in the U.S. open to the public, the first MGM lion*, the first patented helicopter, the airplane of the first Kansan who built an aircraft that flew successfully, and the longest hand-carved wooden chain! We have displays about the only nuclear plant in the state, the first post office in Kansas, the first state mental hospital, the first Kansas radio station, the first feedlot, the first night baseball game to be played under lights, the first chimpanzee to go into space and survive!

Did you know that the first greyhound race was in Kansas, that a Kansan won the first NASCAR event, that we have the fastest half-mile dirt track in the world, and that the world’s first synthetic diamond was made in Kansas? One museum tells about a nearby Glebe, the only one left in the United States! And, Comanche, the only living being of Custer’s U.S. Seventh Cavalry found on the battlefield following the 1876 Battle fo the Little Big Horn, now stands proudly draped in his army blanket in a natural history museum.

ART (art museums are not included in this summary of history museums -- but we have great ones)

JJ Pennell left us great photos of early Junction City and the Everhard photos of African American life in early Leavenworth will leave you breathless. Vi Fick’s shark’s teeth art is just unbelievable -- in fact, was listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. See a display about the humorous trick larger-than-life photos of Dad Martin. Rudolph Wendelin painted a marvelous mural of Rawlins County but was better known as the illustrator for Smokey Bear. The Combat Air Museum and National Ag Hall of Fame are just two museums that feature incredible paintings that help tell the story.


Mickey Mantle was a member of the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. In 1953, Ed Fouts put some shoes on and got on a train with the second largest ball of twine in Kansas went on I’ve Got a Secret.

We have whole museums for Girl Scouts, pharmacy artifacts, motorcycles, telephones, carousels, Bibles, and barbed wire.

FEATURED IN OTHER MUSEUMS ARE prison escapes, the start of suburbia, truck farming, auto-camping, deaf culture, jackrabbit hunts, chautauquas, rodoes, a round square, and Knute Rockne’s 1931 plane crash.

Find out about communities being lost under reservoirs, oil boom towns and gas camps that are now left for the ghosts, Asa Soule’s legendary effort to bulid an irrigation canal uphill. Learn the story of German POW prisoners in Kansas camps, orphan trains, the gripping account of those who attended Haskell Indian University in its early days, and the story of sister Rose Philippine Duchesne and how she ministered to the Potawatomi Indian children after their forced march along the trail of death.


Displays tell about the dust bowl, drought, floods (especially the 1951), tornadoes, including the 1955 tornado in Udall that killed 83 people, 270 injured, and erased 192 buildings.

Threshing Machine Canyon

Marais des Cygnes Massacre and the days of Bleeding Kansas

German Family Massacre

Kidder Massacre

And both sides of the Indian story


Find the Frontier Army Museum, U.S. Cavalry Museum, and the very interesting Fort Riley Regimental Museum that has exhibits that focus on training and combat operations of today’s Fort Riley units. Museums tell about combat from the air and training fields for B24s and B29s. Did you know we have a museum about the Kansas National Guard?


a fish within a fish fossil, a full-scale model of the Liberty Bell made out of Kansas wheat straw, printing presses, a chair made from cattle horns, 42 windmills in one row, a mini-scene built with 8,557 hand-carved pices of a wagon train attack or you can watch episode after episode of Gunsmoke. Admire collections of WPA dolls, brooches, fishing lures, and all things Wizard of Oz!

Visit our museums to "get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

*now known to be the second MGM Lion but maybe the most famous.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A great idea in a tough time

During the Great Depression customers of the Clay Center city-owned power plant who couldn't pay their utility bills were given the opportunity to work off their debt.

Their work resulted in Utility Park. In 1934 Better Homes and Gardens awarded the park its highest community honor with a More Beautiful America Achievement Award.

A bronze plaque commemorating the award is found on a large red glacial rock in the park located at 4th and Pomeroy.

A zoo was added in the early 1950s.

A win-win.

Just a tidbit to help "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spirit of the Prairie

I bet you have some favorite stops around the state. One of mine is the Thomas County Courthouse in Colby. Built in 1906, the architect for this red-brick Romanesque Revival structure with limestone trim was J.C. Holland and Squires. What a grand courthouse he designed for this prairie town.

Then in 1986 this Charlie Norton bronze of a prairie woman and her baby was placed in front of the courthouse. Charlie, a native of Leoti, did a fabulous job designing the statue and placing it in a way that adds to the majesty of the building--and of the plains. It's called, "Spirit of the Prairie." I have to think the woman is either waving goodbye to her husband who is headed off across the prairie for days. Alone on the prairie with her baby, what strength those women must have had.

I hope you can stop and see the statue sometime.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Catastrophic

I left it on my desk for a day. The big 9 x 11" envelope with the familiar Blue Cross Blue Shield logo in the return address corner. I knew what was in it. I've been waiting for it with trepidation, wondering how they'd punish me for having shoulder surgery this past year (and they don't even know that I'm going to have a second one in the same year).

The news. $110 more per employee per month. $220 per month just to cover the increase. Over $1,000 a month in total. One small example of the castrophic nature of insurance problems.

So many of you have insurance stories that should make our nation shudder in unison. Instead, we have divided ourselves because of reasons that have nothing to do with insurance. And so we continue to be a nation that cannot help itself.

This is not intended to be a political message. It is no longer a Democrat or Republican problem. It's about how we've devolved in handling difficult challenges.

Now, for me, this edited rant is useless unless we come up with solutions. It is no longer OK to just say we're disgusted. What are the action steps we can take to be part of the solution, even if small?

Each one of us needs to cut out the partisan rhetoric and start talking about steps that solve, rather than divide. If we used our energy to reframe the situation instead of blaming someone we'd have a lot more time to figure things out.

We have one zillion problems now created because we are more comfortable dividing than uniting.

My corner of the world is to find positive and creative grassroots solutions for rural communities, especially volunteer-led communities. I ask for your help by leaving your partisan stripe in the closet when you come to this problem-solving table. I ask for you to let go of any negative rants about your neighbor or fellow businessman or city commissioner at home. Take up the mantle for positive voices for change.

How can you alter the next meeting you go to today, tomorrow, next week? How can you have a solution-minded voice on Facebook, at your dinner table, at coffee in the cafe?

Find a way. It's our only chance to save us from ourselves.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reframe of a prank

Can you name the only two cities in the state that have Hot and Cold watertowers?

If you said Canton and Pratt, you're correct!

Pratt was first. It started as a joke in 1956. No one seems to remember who it was, but someone labeled two abandoned water towers "Hot" and "Cold."

In Canton, it was another teenage prank that can be traced to the early 1960s. Maybe they had heard about Pratt's watertowers. In any case, some kids crawled to the top of one water tower and painted the word "Hot."

Rather than get all upset, the city decided to embrace the idea so they painted "Cold" on the other one!

Now, both towns claim their "Hot" and "Cold" watertowers as tourist attractions!

Just a tidbit to help you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Make your actions count

Are you a business owner or leader in your home town?

I just have one question. Do you shop local when you can?

I remember going in to a grocery store once in a small town. The owner was an 80-year-old woman. I was asking her questions. It didn't take long before she was in tears.

What hurt her most was that neither the mayor nor city council members ever shopped in her small but fine grocery store.

Our actions matter. Make them count.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Power of Supporting Local

The power is in each of us to start a trend that will be a renewing resource every time we make the choice.

The choice is to buy from locally-owned businesses, not just our own local businesses, but any locally-owned business. It is the way to constantly renew our commitment to helping communities stay viable. Every purchase is like a pat on the back, an affirmation that we appreciate those who set up shop in Kansas towns.


Von Rothenberger, Kansas Explorer #8, stopped by last Friday with a gift basket of sausage and smoked cheese from Wilson Family Foods, the grocery store on E Street in Wilson. The sausage is made on the premises, I believe. Put the sausage and cheese on a Ritz cracker and you have a very tasty snack. My Dad would have eaten all the cheese if Mom wasn't monitoring...

The Kansas Barn Alliance has put a private label on Mark Galloway's Blacksmith Roastery Coffee and is selling as a fundraiser -- and supporting Mark's good artisan-roastery work.

Mary Arlington also sells Mark's coffee at her High Plains RV Campground at Oakley. A number of grocery stores are starting to carry this Kansas roasted coffee, including the one in Inman.

One thing everyone could do is at least buy the coffee to serve at your annual banquets. Lead by example. Use Kansas products when you can and then explain to your audience what you're doing.

Simply Kansas! is a Kansas Department of Commerce program. They set up an appetizer buffet at the recent Kansas State Tourism conference. It was great to see and taste all the Kansas foods -- and wines and beers. It was impressive. Great job, Simply Kansas!.

If you're interested in selling Kansas food items in your retail store or want to serve them at your banquet, contact Simply Kansas!.

Give Kansas foods or certificates for Christmas presents. When you're out traveling around, stop and buy something to share with someone. Whether it's food, crafts, art, or some other unique product, like P. Michael Eravi's sundials, share the spirit of buying Kansas and help kick the trend into full motion. Actually, even if you buy non-Kansas products but make your purchases at locally-owned businesses, that is good, too!

Mustard, salsa, barbecue sauce, potato chips, bottled water, bison meat, venison, turkey jerky, noodles, and pies are just a few of Kansas food items available. Stop at Krehbiel's Specialty Meats in McPherson; Brant's Meat Market in Lucas, Scott's Thriftway, Lindsborg; Hilltop Grocery, St. Francis; Marcon Pies, Washington; and, actually, more and more stores everywhere.

It requires a team effort for rural viability work -- and the win is so possible. Let's keep working together. Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's about what we have but, moreso, what we do with it.

What the public sees are the vote totals, the list of the top 8. We hope they read the information pages by clicking on the thumbnail pictures of each of the 24 finalists to really find the cool stuff.

What we often hear about at the Kansas Sampler Foundation, is what the contest is doing within the cities.

Franklin-Arma (Crawford Co.) sidewalk entry: The folks in Franklin are planning to restore the history sidewalk so one benefit of the contest exposure has been some new leads for financial support! Also, Phyllis Bitner spoke at the local nursing home about the contest and many of the residents had a marvelous time sharing stories about walking the path to school. The local newspaper also interviewed sidewalk-users of the past and did a great story about walking to school in the good ol' days.

Widest main street in Kansas entry, Plains: Click here to see the picture that shows how many school kids it takes to span the widest Main Street west of the Mississippi. Students weren't told why they were doing this until the news came out that the extra wide main street had been selected as a contest participant. Then, city advocates went back to the school with contest postcards and bookmarks (sponsored by the local bank and CPA) to tell about the contest. Voting became a class project and the kids all went to the computer lab to vote.

Ellinwood Underground Tunnels entry: Local support was fantastic and a host of group tours are in the date book!

Oz attractions: Because of the contest, Wamego and Liberal are now working together to promote their Wizard of Oz attractions.

The Shoe Tree entry, Wetmore: The notebook in the newly-erected mail box at the tree has a lot of new names since the start of the contest, including two from South Africa!

Red Fish entry, Harper: Maybe the greatest thing is the new awareness by locals about the Red Fish on top of the watertower. Some didn't even know that the nine-and-a-half foot fish was up there -- and it's been there since 1886!

Dala horses, Lindsborg: There is new buzz around town for Dala-related events and serious new ideas for horses!

The contest is exciting to the masses because of the competition, the process to pick the top 8. But perhaps the best attribute of the contest is the launching-pad effect that it creates locally for elevated pride, new ideas, and for helping communities see themselves with new eyes.

When locals seize the opportunity, the value can't be measured.

Visit the 8 Wonders sites and you'll definitely "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Interesting tidbit: If you go to Google search, you'll see over 1.5 million entries for the 8 Wonders of Kansas.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A room full of chicken restauranteers -- and don't forget the bread!

We got to take part in a pretty neat presentation on Friday morning in the Crawford County Courthouse, located in Girard. The series of events was planned by Craig Hull, Crawford County Convention & Visitor's Bureau director.

As a group entry, the six fried-chicken establishments in Crawford County were one of 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. The top 8 were chosen by a public vote in a 7-week long contest and announced the end of June. Votes came from several hundred cities in Kansas, every state in the union, and some foreign countries.

Craig thought it would be fitting to have representatives from all 6 of the Crawford County chicken restaurants come together at a county commission meeting to receive their posters from the Kansas Sampler Foundation. WenDee LaPlant of the KSF designed the posters. After a few words from Marci, each restaurant was called up to receive their posters.

Representatives from Original Chicken Annies, Chicken Annie's at Girard, Pichler Chicken Annie's, Barto's Idle Hour, Gephardt's Chicken and Dinners, and Chicken Mary's.

It doesn't happen often that all six restaurants come together so it was a high impact moment and very special for us to be a part of it. These restaurants represent the source of much county history, pride -- and sales tax, too.

(For the story on each of the restaurants, click here.)

The county commission also made a proclamation to honor the award-winning restaurants by naming it Crawford County Fried Chicken Day. Commissioner McGeorge presented the proclamations.


But not just any bread! Make it Frontenac Bakery bread. Not only do most of the chicken restaurants serve Brian and JoLynn Hite's famous bread but the legions of satisfied customers are many.

The bakery was one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce as determined by a contest that ended at the end of February. The county commissioners also proclaimed a day to be Frontenac Bakery Day.

The Pittsburg Morning Sun and the local TV station were there to cover the event.

Craig Hull did a great job promoting the contests and giving his local entries a boost. It's great to have such an advocate. Sometime we forget that it's important to remind the locals about what they have in their backyard. The contest was a great opportunity to do that and Craig seized the chance to help folks "Get Crawford County."

Great job, Craig!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Class is in session!

WenDee and I and Patsy Terrell are on a five-week roll of teaching "Rural Kansas: Come and Get It" classes. It's been so much fun!

This week we'll be in Fredonia and Greenbush for the seventh of seven first-round classes.

Community leaders learn the Explorer concept on the first day and go on a three-hour adventure. On Day Two, web-site maintenance and Social Networking skills are taught.

The whole plan is to collectively promote what there is to see and do in rural Kansas and use the free tools of social networking to help the world "get" rural culture!

When the website is populated and thriving we'll let the public know where the site is. In the meantime, we appreciate all the efforts of community folk who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to be part of this.

These people are literally putting their towns on the map:

Ulysses class: Satanta, Johnson City, Elkhart, Meade, Lakin, Ulysses, Hugoton, Syracuse, and Liberal!

Norton/Phillipsburg class: Downs, Oberlin, Stockton, Logan, Leoti, Alton, Clyde, Palco, Beloit, Bird City, Morland, Phillipsburg, and Glasco. Plainville not pictured.

Winfield class: Cambridge, Lyons, Atlanta, Sedan, McPherson, Clearwater, Winfield, Elk Falls, Greensburg, Claflin, St. John, and Oxford.

Lincoln/Salina class: Gypsum, Marquette, Jamestown, Great Bend, Lindsborg, WaKeeney, Concordia, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Dexter, Oakley, Tribune, Barnes, Cawker City, Coldwater, Ellinwood, Herington, Marysville, and Oak Hill.

Wetmore/Topeka class: White City, Wetmore, Leavenworth, Garnett, Tonganoxie, Lecompton, and Baldwin City.

We didn't get a group picture of the Great Bend class. Cities activated in that session included Lyons, Great Bend, Harper, Hoisington, Bison, LaCrosse, Ellis, Kinsley, Jetmore, Wilson, and Stafford.

One more class this week!

Way to go rural Kansas! This website will really help people "get rural Kansas!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

What I want the public to know...

We announced the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs last week. It was lots of fun to have 60 representatives of the 24 finalists at the Kansas Sampler Center for the announcement.

But what I really want the public to know is the story behind the finalists. All you have to do is click on the thumbnail picture for each of the 24 and read the information page. If you do that, you'll fall more in love with Kansas. Just to see the custom action phrase and the accompanying location doesn't to justice. The story is in the next click...

That's where you'll find out that the Red Fish above the Harper 125-foot stand-pipe watertower was placed there originally on 1887. Five years later (1892) a tornado wrecked the fish and they had to take it down, smooth out all the dents and put it up there again. The ol' Red Fish has been there ever since. Even Harper citizens will find this interesting. You know how it is when something is so familiar you can no longer see it...?

The Kissel Shoe Tree. I just looks bizarre! The story isn't long but you can read it by clicking here.

Another great story is the weekly Friday night jam sessions in Cottonwood Falls. Sue and Monty Smith of the Emma Chase Cafe make it all happen. The music is out on the street when the weather cooperates or in Prairie Pastimes, a neat ol' WPA Armory building. For a decade people with varying degrees of talent have been bringing their instruments and playing together to an appreciative audience. It's one of those Americana scenes. Read more here.

Twenty-one additional stories are found by clicking the thumbnail pictures on the contest opening page. Why would a sidewalk be a finalist, or Veterans Day or coming in second? Aren't those ordinary things? Not when you're in Kansas...

Do yourself a favor, click on the thumbnail pictures and get to know Kansas.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teter Rock

Teter Rock is in Greenwood County nestled in the heart of the Flint Hills.

Around the late 1870s James Teter piled rocks as a marker to guide pioneers searching for the Cottonwood River. Eventually the rocks were removed and used for construction materials. In 1954 a 16-foot-tall slab of rock was erected on this hilltop in honor of Mr. Teter.

Though this jagged monolith that slices the clean Flint Hills air is marked up with grafitti, it's still an excellent Kansas landmark.

Teter Rock is 11 1/2 miles east of Cassoday and then about 1 mile south into a private pasture. Or, go 8 1/2 miles west of Burkett Corner which is several miles east of Hamilton. There is a little rustic sign at the turn into the pasture where you cross a cattle guard. The driveway is pretty rutted so drive slowly but it's well worth it once you reach The Rock. At times, you'll see more than a hundred horses in the pasture below (maybe wild mustangs?). Thanks to the landowners for letting us drive up to Teter Rock.

The view is vintage remote Flint Hills.

Teter Rock also marks the approximate vicinity of Teterville, an oil boom town of the 1920s. At one point there were more than 600 people in Teterville along with two general stores, a school, a post office, and shotgun houses for oil workers and their families. By the 1960s everyone and nearly everything was gone. Today, you really have to use your imagination to envision such a town. A few foundations are the only remnants. You can learn more about the town at the Greenwood County Historical Museum in Eureka, 120 W. 4th. 620.583.8177.

To "get" Kansas you sometime have to go out of your way to be in the realm of what was. Nice to have a big stone to give us a great reason to go there.

KE #2 Marci Penner