Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Purest Water in Kansas

A sign in town says the purest water in Kansas is found in Longford. That seems to make Longford the perfect town to have a bottling plant.

The following is on the website at

"The water near the city of Longford is known for its natural sweetness, softness and quality of its drinking water. For years, a sign on Highway K-15 boasted of the quality of the water.

The Longford water is unique because the water is naturally filtered by the distintive underground formations in the area. The rocks near Longford form a distinctive part of the Kiowa Formation and include siltstone, relative scarce sandstone, minor lignite and abundant clay rocks. These rocks mark the base of the Kiowa Formation in parts of North Central Kansas and are named for the excellent exposures near Longford, in Southwest Clay County.

I fell for it and have been a Longford Water fan ever since. In fact I was in town the other day and picked up over 300 bottles to use at our We Kan! Conference. Wava was at lunch so I backed up to the warehouse and loaded up my bottles. She found me later taking pictures in the middle of the street.

The city, population under 100, has some pretty great things. One not pictured here (because the sun was wrong) is the Coachlight Restaurant. 785.388.2437. When it's closed on Monday everyone goes to the bar and grill across the street to eat. Pretty good having those options in a small town.

Clarissa Kramer painted this mural found on the side of a downtown building. And, the bank is the original bank in town dating back to the early 1900s and you can see historic Longford photos inside. The exterior walls feature local Dakota sandstone. They also have a post office and Janice's Dream, a great place to get your hair beautified or get directions.

This Dakota sandstone sets by the restaurant as a memorial to their centennial in 1975. Maybe you've heard of Longford because of their great rodeo! Also, the giant stone buffalo is out in a pasture about 8 miles from town.

How can a small town have all these assets? Spend some time in Longford and you'll "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce are...

The 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce were announced earlier today:

Big Brutus, West Mineral
Brant's Meat Market, Lucas
Frontenac Bakery, Frontenac
Hemslojd, Inc., Lindsborg
MarCon Pies, Washington
Moon Marble Company,
Stafford County Flour Mills, Hudson
Vonada Stone Company, Sylvan Grove

As soon as I hit the send button with the announcement I know there will be recipients on the receiving end shouting in joy. That's exactly what happened in Pittsburg where Craig Hull leaped out of his chair in celebration. He's on the board of Big Brutus and is the biggest fan Frontenac Bakery could ever have. So he was pretty happy.

He called Brian Hite, owner of the Frontenac Bakery, and Brian said something to the effect that this was a big day for not only them but for the whole city of Frontenac!

Of course, that caused my eyes to water.

Maybe this contest means most to small towns. Recognition that they matter.

More ramblings...
Doug Brant in Lucas teased that he was going to pull out his magic marker and was ready to give autographs. I called Vonada Stone Company but no answer. They are probably out in the shop or field and don't even know what happened yet.

But you also know that there are finalists that are disappointed. And that's always hard. It's not quite as awful as having to tell cities that they weren't selected to host the Kansas Sampler Festival but it's still hard.

After you research and write about all 24 finalists you start to feel attached to them. I mostly hope the public reads the write-ups. The write-ups are where you find out how impressive each of the finalists are. They are the gold standard in their field and have unbelievable stories. Click on any of the thumbnail pictures at and read about them. You'll be proud they are in Kansas!

Contests are gaining in momentum...
The other great thing is that the contests continue to gain momentum. With each contest (architecture, art) we've had an increased number of votes. This time we had 9,805 voters from every state in the union and many foreign countries. Schools, nursing homes, international customers -- all focusing on what our state has to offer.

Next contest is Cuisine. Omigosh! This one is going to be nuts. How the Selection Committee will ever decide is beyond me. It's going to be rowdier than any meeting to date -- and they've all been pretty darn exciting.

Understanding Kansas Commerce is one way to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not in Kansas Anymore!

It doesn't look like they're in Kansas anymore! Pictured are Connie Hall and Rick Dykstra of the Geary County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Donna Price, CVB director of Sherman County. They are on the road to Los Angeles to set up a booth at the Adventures in Travel Expo. It's the largest trade show of its kind in the nation. And yes, Kansas does belong there!

Donna says their booth at the show helped people understand that Kansas is a beautiful state with much to offer. Many of those that came by the booth were surprised at the Kansas photos and the story of our history.

This small contingent of Kansas ambassadors made some great contacts and have already been contacted by a media outlet that wants press releases, announcements etc.

People have such a stereotype of Kansas so any kind of information helps re-shape their view. When they spend a few minutes asking questions, they start to get interested. We're one location that hasn't been over sold and that makes us desirable to many people.

This year, Donna has also represented Sherman County and Northwest Kansas at travel shows in Denver, Kansas City, and Wichita. That's a lot of road time but Donna is glad to do that for her sunflower state.

Thanks to Donna, Connie, Rick, and everyone else out there representing Kansas and helping people "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A sandy morning walk

Kansas has so many diverse trails to walk! To appreciate the sandy soil of the Arkansas River Lowlands, the Sand Hills State Park trails are recommended.

Trailheads are off K-61, north of Hutchinson, to the east on 56th or 69th.

Woodlands, mid-grass prairie (but we saw winter big blue stem turkey feet!), yucca, sumac and more make it a place with a rich eco-sytem. Winter vegetation looks so bleak but if you look closely you see stages of life and the sand confirms the presence of many little scampering animals, as well as deer. The squirrel and hawk nests are evident. The animal trails are all over the place -- and it's evident that some geo-cachers use those trails as well.

The grounds are well taken care of and the trails are well marked.

Anyone who has walked this trail recognizes the tree that some hiker is kissing in this picture.

Winter is good in Kansas and it primes us so well for spring.

Recognizing our diverse regions and being at peace with winter is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cy's Hoof and Horn

Hoof and Horn Supper Club. Hmm, what kind of place will this be?

You enter the door and walk up this hallway that feels like a cattle chute. You can't see over the sides until you get to the top of the runway.

You see deer being friendly and other cow hides and western motif.

But the friendly waitress describes the hand-breaded chicken-fried steak and says they use fresh meat so you order it. You can taste that it is deep-fried and not pan or grill fried but it was still mighty good. The rest of my party ordered healthier entrees and liked them so the place gets a thumbs up.

Cy's Hoof and Horn in Sedgwick. 425 N. Commercial. 316.772.5329.

It's good eating (nut you have to be OK about a bit of a smokey smell. Smoking is allowed on the other side of the big room in the bar area.)

Hoof and Horn. Names of restaurants, their decor help you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last stop

This suitcase gravestone sitting on a Dakota sandstone rock says that J.S. Jacobs died in 1891.
The epitaph was appropriate for this traveling salesman, "Here's where he stopped last."

Found in the Lincoln Cemetery, Lincoln, KS. Main entrance is at K-18 and E. Lincoln. On the north driveway at the east end you'll find this stone.

Sometime you just have to walk through cemeteries to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Lincoln Connection at The Scheme

A legion of fans will tell you the best place for pizza in the state is Scheme Restaurant located at 123 N. 7th, Salina. I hope I have the hours right: Thursday-Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 4:30 p.m. - late. Reservations are appreciated 785.823.5125.

The wooden floor and booths are a welcome change from template decor. The wait staff is the best. For families, young people, old hippies, tasty deli sandwiches and pizza are on the menu. Adult beverages are available, too.

WenDee and I went to Scheme right after being in Lincoln for the Lincoln (as in Abe) Re-enactment Day. One of the presentations in Lincoln was done by a young girl portraying Grace Bedell. When Grace lived in New York she wrote Abraham Lincoln a letter and said that if he grew a beard her brothers would vote for him for president. So when we walk into the Scheme and found a circled article about Grace Bedell Billings and a framed picture of Abraham Lincoln among the stuffed animal heads and other memorabilia, we thought that was quite a coincidence.
Turns out the owner, Duane Billings, is Grace's great grandson! Grace moved to Delphos (KS) when she married George Billings. Many of the items and artifacts on the Scheme walls belonged to Grace and George. Duane is very willing to visit, when he's not back in the kitchen cooking, so ask him some questions. The antlers (mounted on replaced heads)
came from hunts that George Billings went on with Wild Bill Hickok! True story! Duane has the original guns, too.
As good as the story and connections are, the main attraction is the pizza!
To help "Get Kansas" just head to Scheme Restaurant and study the walls, enjoy the pizza!
KE #2 Marci Penner

(Photo of Duane Billings with his staff who have been with him many years. Courtesy Duane Billings)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincolns

It was the neatest thing to see five Lincolns -- and one Junior Lincoln.

Marilyn Helmer started this event 19 years ago. It's still going strong because of Marilyn, the Lincoln County Historical Society, and other volunteers.

To sit in the courthouse courtroom and listen to Tom Leahy (one of the Lincolns) tell about campaigning in Kansas was pretty special.

You could have heard a pin drop as Civil War nurse Mother Bickerdyke (Lu Adams) told about taking care of her boys on the battlefield. I found out some things about Mary Todd Lincoln (Bev Nelson) I had either forgotten--or never knew. She led a very difficult life after Abe died, including a stint in an insane asylum. Bev, like Lu, had me crying. Grace Bedell (Maruby McQueen) told Lincoln why her brothers would vote for him if he grew a beard. Good thing he listened back then.

Angela Bates gave the African American view of the Civil War like only Angela can tell it. Later some members from the Nicodemus church choir gave a mini-concert. Pictured are a few that sang.

I was very impressed with this drummer boy. He knew his role and played it perfectly, standing at perfect attention as the Lincolns filed from the courthouse and passed the junior color guard. WenDee took part in the Freedom March while I snapped pictures.

The United Methodist Church ladies had buffalo stew, grapes, and pie waiting for hungry marchers. The audience came from faraway places like Ness City and Neodesha, and many more locales I didn't hear about. One family was going to go to Springfield, IL to celebrate Abe's birthday but came to Lincoln instead! Many were educators, home-schoolers, some were little, others dressed for the late afternoon Ball.
In the end, it was all about the Lincolns. It was just one of the neatest days. Thanks to all who made it happen.
It's important that we recognize significant events that shaped our world and we thank the volunteers who spend countless hours preparing to help us "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, February 14, 2009

You gotta love her!

Kansas, you knock my socks off!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

See Kansas from a Slow Boat!

Wouldn't it be cool to have a Kansas Explorers Club Canoe Regatta?

Last year Bob Topping invited WenDee and I to enjoy a slow day on the Missouri River. Bob gave us canoe instruction and then we proceeded to have one of the best days ever. We did see Kansas with new eyes -- from a slow boat!

I noticed over the past several years a certain hectic annual rhythm that culminates with the Kansas Sampler Festival. The rhythm includes the Retreat for Rural Leaders, the We Kan! Conference, and several other projects of opportunity.

By the time the Kansas Sampler Festival is over, it is time for a breather. A time to slow down and see Kansas again with new eyes. Last year, two Kansas Explorers joined me on the Missouri River the second Saturday after the festival. We placed my canoe in the river at Leavenworth and floated down to Parkville. During the trip, we brainstormed that something like this might have some potential as an annual event if we modeled it after KE #108 Jay Yoder's Kansas Explorer Club Happening.

This year, I’d like to organize the first annual Kansas Explorer Canoe Regatta for 16 May 09.
Here is how the day might work:
This year we will canoe some place east of Topeka, north of I-70, and on a calm body of water.
Announce the actual location at the Kansas Explorer meeting during the Kansas Sampler Festival.
I’ll arrange for 8 to 10 canoes from a canoe specialist. They will provide the canoes and one hour of instruction. They will also provide guides front, rear and in between to assist paddlers when necessary.
Meet at the designated location at 10:00 a.m. on 16 May 09. Tell stories of our exploring en-route. Huddle at 11:00 for the instruction.
Fire up the grills and have some lunch. Socialize.
Launch canoes at 1:30 p.m. and “see Kansas with new eyes from a slow boat” for about two and a half hours.

In order to organize this, I need names of interested individuals. They can contact me at or 913-758-1959. Each canoe will cost $50 and we need a minimum of 8 canoes. A canoe can hold up to 3 people. So the individual cost will vary from $16.67 to $25.

Now, from Marci.
We didn't fall out of the canoe once! It was so much fun. So, count in Moss and WenDee. We'd like to pay $24 each. I think Mom might want to come, too.
Veteran canoer or beginner, floating down the river and relaxing will help you "Get Kansas!" in a wonderful, slow way. Come along!
KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm ready for action -- are you?

We're working day and night, it seems. It's an exciting time as we start to launch our Ten Transformational Ideas.

Powering Up. 17-35. I'm on a search for people in this age group who love rural Kansas and want to dig in to help create a New Rural. When the right six or so come along, we'll go into action. You can be a teacher, a scientist, a geek, a farmer, an artist, a college student, anything. Desired traits: Positive. Have a hint of activism. Gumption. A desire to blend all the good ol' rural community traits with new ideas. And mostly, have a strong desire to live in a rural community without sacrificing. Have passion for rural. If you know what a YP is, that's a good sign, too. Send me a note: What are your thoughts?

Rural Voices. Recently a Kansas legislator threw out the idea of reducing the 105 counties in Kansas to something like 13 or 8 counties. This was a great motivator for me. I don't have the article in front of me but the reason for doing this was to make government more efficient and to be better able to position Kansas for the global economy. Without sharing all my thoughts on this subject I'll just say that it's time that we gather innovative grassroots minds in rural Kansas to create our own New Rural before more is "done to us."

Rural Voices is the plan to have delegates representing areas and meet, like in an assembly. We've got to create a strong and unifying voice that will stand up for a New Rural that can be viable and desirable. It's not about working harder to do things the same way. There are new opportunities. About 84% of the incorporated cities in Kansas have less than a 2,500 population. It's these towns that need to come together. Maybe larger size, each city will know.

Let's not just sit here and take more being done to us.

These ten transformational ideas are just what these times require. Things can happen quickly. We need some funding to keep the KSF operation going. But for now, I just wanted to share some of the ideas that keep bouncing around my head -- and won't stop. The only way they'll stop is to take action.

Anything here turn you on? Let me know. These are only a few of the ideas but enough for now.

You can only really "Get rural Kansas" by living it.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, February 9, 2009

The rest of the story...

This is the second part of the story begun in the previous blog.

When my Dad saw the bigger feather he figured it out -- as some of you did. It was most likely a duck of some sort. We've had a bald eagle flying along our tree-lined ditch and we actually think the eagle got the duck.

Bird expert Tom Parker agrees that that could be the scenario -- or that a bobcat got it.

There you have it. A nature story -- that helps you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What bird has a purple feather?

I first noticed the purple feather on my walk along our tree-lined ditch (creek). I picked the brightest one, studied it, and carried it with on my walk till I found Dad on the yard.
I asked him what bird he thought it belonged to. I just showed him that one feather with the very purple splotch on it. He was sure that I had colored it on there.
I went back to the area by the lagoon where I had found it and saw other feathers including the ones shown here.
When Dad saw the other feather he figured it out. What do you think it is?
Wait till you hear the rest of the story. It'll help us "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner