Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get the low down on the Lo-Mar!

The Lo-Mar drive-in is located on U.S. 54 in Eureka. Robby owns it and is there behind the counter 7 days a week, or so said the ladies waiting in line. Robby works very hard to please his customers. One was asking for a slightly burned pork tenderloin sandwich.

The specialty at the Lo-Mar is the Marshmellow Nut Cups. I just assumed that referred to some kind of an ice cream dish. But maybe it's a cup of marshmellows and nuts. Maybe the marshmellows is where the "Mar" in Lo-Mar comes from.

What I love is he uses fresh beef for his hamburgers. It might take a bit longer but you won't get a pre-cooked burger. My beef patty was about a third bigger than the bun and just hung out beautifully around the sides. Tantalizing the taste buds. It didn't last long enough for me to take a picture of it.

In the summer, Robby uses fresh peaches and strawberries in the milk shakes.

This is one of those super duper, service-is-everything, fresh-and-local ingredient type of places. The kind you're so glad is in your town.

Oh, and I had the best cherry limeade I've ever had!

Yes, you have to get out of your car and go to the window to order but you'll get to visit with the locals standing in line and get the true feel of the Lo-Mar. Plus, you get to look Robby in the eye and say thanks.

Get the Lo-Mar and you'll "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's so much fun to be Relentless!

170 people from 84 Kansas communities attended the March 24 We Kan Conference in Salina. The theme was Relentless for Rural. It might as well have been "Have Fun for Rural!"

One of the highlights was the sign parade. The task was framed like this. Let's say you had a 30-second video cast on your community web page with someone from your town (past or present) inviting the world to come visit. The questions to be answered on the signs were 1) who would make the invitation and 2) where would they be standing?

40-50 signs were in the parade with the new rural tourism theme song playing in the background and Debbie Divine and Lynda Fort carrying the Relentless for Rural banner at the head of the parade.

Then emcee John Divine had everybody give a 30-second explanation of their sign.

Everyone had such clever answers and it was a fun way to learn about the town!

Barry Bagnato of CBS News Radio had his shotgun microphone in front of the speakers. The next day on a national broadcast we heard the voices of those that talked about the Cloud County Museum and Piqua signs.

The conference was a kick-off for the "Explore Rural Kansas" Partnership. Next week we'll attach the theme song to the blog.

World get ready! We're about to go relentless in helping the world "Get Rural Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tiny town?

There's a great article in todays Hutchinson News about Tribune, a town the article tabbed as tiny. Made me smile. Tribune is population 1,297 making it bigger than 73% of the incorporated cities in Kansas. There are a total of 627 incorporateds.

The article should read as a symbol of hope and possibilities. Young people and alumni have been moving back to Tribune. One couple moved back because it is the home town of the husband. The wife had been used to working in Denver. She was skeptical but now loves has learned the virtues of small town life and loves it!

There are five doctors at the medical center. A new mother-to-be is thrilled with the quality of care she and the baby are receiving and she's comforted knowing nearby family will help with the baby. Regarding day care, since everyone knows the providers she trusts that as well.

The young couple was able to buy a house and are in the process of fixing it up. They could afford to do that in this "tiny town."

This tiny town needed entertainment so the community got behind a theater project and it's now open and run by volunteers. They saw a need, set their mind to it, and did it.

Christy Hopkins, community development extraordinaire for Greeley County, has figured out that roughly 73 people in the age bracket of 20-40 have moved into the county since 2005. That is fantastic! And quite a testament. But then Christy, one of those assets, is great energy to be around. Good energy attracts...

Some folks might think that it's a waste of money to have a hospital in such a tiny town. Talk to the people that live in this area and they'll tell you they don't choose to live anywhere else. We're talking priceless here.

Some people would say Tribune is "out in the boonies." Maybe it is to some, but to others it's just home, a really, really good place to live. What a great testament for Kansas.

Tribune/Greeley County, you're a great role model. Keep up the inspired living! Your story will help the world "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Piqua -- a quintessential Explorer town

Piqua, is an unincorporated city in Woodson County between Yates Center and Iola off U.S. 54. The many grain bins and co-op buildings let you know this is a rich agricultural community. But what isn't obvious is that it is a GREAT Explorer town. One has to just really keep their eyes and ears open to find the hot spots.

One thing that draws attention is the steeple of St. Martin's Church, easily seen above the trees. St. Isodore, the patron saint of farmers, greets you on the front lawn with his hand on a plow shear.

The bricks of the church seem a little wider than usual. Don't you think so? Shelia Lampe says they were custom designed for this 1922 church. The inside is beautiful with green and rust accents. The wooden pews are even numbered.

But the main thing to know about the church is that it is no longer open for weekly mass -- just weddings, funerals and special occasions. Shelia Lampe, KSF board member and Piqua native, was with us and is one of the keepers of the church. While we were there she discovered that three people want to schedule weddings in the upcoming months. Shelia and a group of Piqua women will make sure it's all cleaned up. No, they don't get paid. It's just part of being from a small town with a special church.

Learning gut wrenching facts like a church or school being closed is all part of visiting a small town. Understanding the story behind the facts is what helps you "get" the town.

The water office is a tan concrete block building. A sign and a bell from a family home identifies the building. Why are those red-colored drill bits at the top of the sign? Well, of course! The building used to house a drilling company.

A room in the water office is dedicated to exhibits on Buster Keaton. The silent movie actor was born here when his parents were performing with Houdini on a vaudeville tour. His mom's water broke on stage and he was born that night in a local home in Piqua.

Judy runs the water office and is glad for you to come in and see the exhibits. (Open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., when the water office is open!)

An aside... I was there with Martha Slater of First Generation Video and Ray Trevino. We were working on an Explorer DVD designed to help people know how to find these hard-to-find treasures in small towns.

Silverado's is a family gathering place in this small town. A place to get some food, maybe a beer. It would be easy to drive by and dismiss it, especially if you're by yourself or with a group of women. You'd take one look at the beat up front door, the beer signs and think you should just keep traveling down the road. But you'd be missing something! Booths were obviously obtained from a 1950s type diner and waitress Rosa was very friendly and welcoming.

You should know... steaks and broasted chicken are evening specialties.

(Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch specials; Thursday-Saturday for evening meals).

Read the window. One statement says "A restaurant and tavern built by friends for friends." Once you settle down inside you watch people come and go and they all seem to know each other, like in most small towns. But the sign says it all about the town and that's your first clue that you should go in and check it out.

Rosa was the waitress when we were there. She was the kind of friendly waitress you hope to find. She also met our favor with the good food she brought to us.

We were met at the restaurant by Don and Shelia Lampe and daughter Mandy. Don works at The Farm Store but played hooky for a while. Shelia works in Pittsburg at Sen. Lynn Jenkins office but left early to eat with us. Mandy writes for the paper so came over to do a story.

Not everybody can count on lunch with the Lampes but it's likely you'll see them there, or someone related to them or other friendly Piqua people. I think we also met Don's uncle when we were there.

The key to Explorer success in a small town is to start up a conversation with the locals and maybe they'll tell you about places like the Buster Keaton museum.

I hope they tell you to go to the Farm Store, too -- which was our next stop.

They were waiting for us at the co-op Farm Store. Usually this is where the guys have coffee but today there was a nice welcoming crew. The Lampes got there before we did, plus Sheila's Dad, Eddie Eckroat (!), Mark Massoth from the Farm Store, and Jay McNett and his partner Carolyn McGowan.

What a store this is. It's big! Beside offering lots of hardware store type items and farmer things they also have some grocery items, sell gas, and change oils and tires. But here's what you don't find in every farm co-op store. A barber!

Jay McNett is the barber and he has a little room in the back. On Tuesday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. you can walk in and get a haircut. I guess you sit at the coffee table until Jay has time for you. $7. Jay is a handsome guy with a full head of hair and is very personable so his haircuts are probably pretty good.

What an Explorer experience that would be to head to Piqua for a haircut. Let me know if you do it.

(The Store is open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 8-noon. 620.468.2435).

The Explorer lesson is this. Small towns don't always see themselves as "attractions." Why should they? They built the town for themselves. But that's what makes it so fun. It's the real thing. You may have to work a little bit to find out what there is to see and do but that's why it's good to visit with locals. Stop anywhere that's open in a small town and ask questions. You might get rude responses once in awhile but they just can't imagine you're wanting to know about them! You'll either warm them up or find out they are just one of the town's colorful characters.

Rural Kansas. Finding a barber at the co-op or a museum in the water office. Classic. For that matter, finding a nice place to eat past a rickety ol' front door is a pleasant surprise, too. All this in an unincorporated town! You gotta love it.

If you can figure out how to visit with locals you'll "Get Kansas" in a way you never imagined.

Piqua, you're a pretty special place. Quintessential.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cemeteries reveal much!

In the Lincoln Cemetery (K-18 and E. Lincoln) you'll find the final resting place for a traveling salesman. It sets on a Dakota sandstone base. The epitaph reads "Here is where he stopped last."

This suitcase is located on the east end of the north driveway within the cemetery. Take the drive just north of the Drummer Boy (below) marker and turn east. It's the last gravestone on the end by the fence.

Can you see the drummer boy carrying a flag etched into the stone on the upper left? This Civil War drummer boy is found just in front of the post-rock mausoleum.

We can learn so much about an area in the local cemetery. Clues tell about the person, their wealth, their demise, and the times. Exploring cemeteries can, indeed, provide a real awakening.

This is the Mitch Runnels gravestone in the Valley View Cemetery (N. 3rd) in Garden City. You'll see a deteriorating upright stone topped with a rusted auto engine. I don't know if the goggles are still hanging off to one side or not. Runnels died in 1927 when his car crashed into a train. One theory is that Runnels and his car were inseparable so the family put the engine on the gravestone. Another theory is that the unique grave marker was created to remind young people to drive carefully.

Exploring cemeteries will help you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's a good Landing at Nelson's in Leonardville!

Ever heard of the Green Bay Packers or K-State Football Wildcats? Know what they have in common? Jordy Nelson of Riley County. Maybe you have heard of another one of Alan and Kim Nelson's kids. Kelsey played basketball for the women's K-State basketball team and older brother Michael was also a standout athlete at Riley County High School.

Now Alan and Kim own a popular bar and grill in the town of Leonardville in Riley County called Nelson's Landing. You'd think it would be a popular place to watch a K-State game -- but everyone in the area is at the game! The place looks perfectly country with barn siding and tin along the walls and bathroom stalls like wainscoting. Couldn't be more comfortable.

The food is really great, too. The meat in the hamburger is from Nelson's own Angus! Sweet potato fries make a great side dish.

And the pies...Kim makes them every morning. Snicker pie, coconut cream pie are among the favorites. The crust is to die for!!!

Then, some people are so comfortable here they just don't want to go...

Think you know why Nelson's Landing can be so successful in a town of 375? Then you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2, a happy customer, Marci Penner

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shop Local in style!

Won't you want to go shopping with this bag?! Or, you might just want to wear one of the buttons. Supporting locally-owned stores is one of the basic tenets of the Kansas Explorers Club.

One of our early motto's was "Explorers pay full price!" Some of us even asked to pay full price when purchasing something on a sales rack if we were in a locally-owned store in a small town. Crazy? Maybe. But we WANT to help locals stay in business and don't think they need to give a big discount to gain our patronage.

Eventually, we settled on the statement of "Explorers feel good about shopping in small towns." And we do.

We're not shy to say that we think this is a really good thing to do. Make a choice. Each purchase is an indicator of who and which kind of business-style you wish to support.

Stacy Mitchell, author of Big-Box Swindle says, "For every $100 spent in a chain store, $14 goes back into the local economy; from a locally-owned business, $45 goes back in."

The bags and buttons will be for sale at the March 24 We Kan! Conference and the May 2-3 Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia. Or, call ahead, and come visit us at the Kansas Sampler Center near Inman!

Shop Local! "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

p.s. We purchased the Shop Local bags from Advertising Specialties in Hutchinson, owned by Inman's own Ruth Sisson!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Go to a livestock auction!

Dodge City. Westerns. Cowboys.

Dodge City has a great welcome sign. It sort of puts you in the mood for all things western.

There's lots to see and do in Dodge but one of the most authentic experiences might just be watching a livestock sale at Winter Livestock. It is one of the nation's oldest livestock sales, and one of the largest independently owned.

It's probably not something you usually do but that's what makes it an Explorery experience! Eat at the cafe, too.

Winter Livestock was one of the finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce. For more information, click here.

It's a place to feel history and to "Get Kansas!" Check it out.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Good Start to the Day

Cameron and Shelly Wiggins own Neighbors Cafe at 204 S. Main, McPherson. I love it when restaurants have web sites, like they do: http://www.neighborscafe.com/.

This isn't a really big place but it's fun to sit at the bar and watch the grill action.

Shelly is a friendly sort, in a neighborly way. Sometime she gets on the bull horn to make an announcement!

And, if you want to be a long-term contributor to Neighbors Cafe you can drop some change or dollars into the plastic container. Money is being collected to get a new stool seat.

This is the place where WenDee likes to order Mickey Mouse pancakes. I love the Fancy Browns! A half order is plenty. As the menu says, hash browns, green pepper, onions, and cheddar cheese.

Obviously, I love my Fancy Browns!

Feeling neighborly? This is the place to go. Open Tuesday through Saturday 6 a.m.-2 p.m. 620.241.7900. Where good friends meet to eat.

Get Neighbors, Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Pancake Quest continues

I admit I love pancakes and now have an even better reason to eat them more often at Neighbor's Cafe in McPherson. Shelley and her crew won my heart years ago with their extraordinarily HUGE cinnamon rolls. These things are legendary and are as big as a dinner plate! But the kid in me comes out sometimes - okay, frequently - and what better way to express the kid in you than indulging in a Mickey Mouse shaped pancake! It's complete with a butter daub for a nose and is served with thick, hot syrup! Can you think of a better way to start your day?
Stop in and enjoy one for yourself sometime. The kid in you will thank you for it!

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Nominate your favorite restaurant!

Below is the official news release for nominating your favorite Kansas restaurant. The very important thing is to send in background information about the restaurant. If you don't wish to do the research print this out (or print out a news release) and send it to the restaurant. Tell them you want to make sure they are noticed!

The Kansas Sampler Foundation announced that nominations are now being accepted through March 31 for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine.

The restaurant must be 10 years or older with intent to stay open for many years. Only non-franchise restaurants that are open regularly are eligible. Food items produced in Kansas and available to the public may also be nominated. Restaurants or food items must be iconic, legendary, or have some unique claim to fame.

All nominations will be listed on the website but those that include background, history, and details will receive the greatest consideration to be selected as one of the 24 finalists.

Director Marci Penner said, "There are so many excellent restaurants in this state. It is very important that as much information as possible be included in the nominations, including address, phone number, and web site but especially history."

Cuisine nominations may be submitted at www.8wonders.org or e-mailed to marci@kansassampler.org.

The 24 finalists will be announced April 23 when voting will begin.

We have some very iconic restaurants in the state and knowing about them helps the world "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More in Norwich!

Sondra said we had to see Ye Olde State Bank before we left town. As I remember it, a couple moved in from out-of-state and the result was the resurrection of the corner bank. It's now open Friday-Sunday for antique shoppers but, as proved the day we were there, they'll open it anytime. If it's closed, just go to the hardware store. In fact, while we were yakking in the hardware store a woman came in just happened to have a key!

Before Dave the owner (pictured with Sondra on the porch) could get there our tour had already started. It seems to have more valuable antiques than many places. Plus, they'll even cater a meal for you out of Ye Olde Bank. So if motorcycle or bicycle clubs, Red Hats group, or others want a meal catered, this is the place!

Or, you could go eat at Redz, right across the street. Look closely for a pizza advertisement and open sign in the window. You won't see the name of the restaurant on the red brick building right now but that will come soon.

For now, just know there is great atmosphere, great ice cream treats, Hunt brothers pizza and more waiting inside.

While we were waiting for our food, Sondra took me to another place just around the corner from Redz -- Brick House Designs! Yep, yet another person, Karen Poindexter, wanted to have a business in a small town -- and this one is gaining steam all the time.

Need some screen printing done? This is a good place to do it!

People that "Get Kansas" know that you can make it with a business in a small town if certain ingredients are present -- and they are in Norwich!

KE #2 Marci Penner