Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ohhh....tired body

We're in Concordia helping prepare for the May 2-3 Kansas Sampler Festival.

Tents going up today! Traffic starting to increase around the park as interest grows.

Tent booth layout crew led by Bob Topping included his wife Jan, Keyta Kelly and daughter Kaitlin. I helped when I wasn't talking to Anthony the tent guy or doing an interview. Bob has a new efficient way to do the layout. It was great.

Fencing was completed and some new bodies arrived to help put up the 8 small white tents that comprise the Kansas Explorers Club tent and the historic performers tent. that ever a chore.

Dallas, Burnell, Mike, Don, and Tom from Concordia were fabulous workers. Ellen Morgan, one of our board members, worked so hard, too.

This was the day Sally Fuller, ace volunteer from Liberal, arrived -- and later her niece Christina Vaugh from Oklahoma joined us. Sally and Christina have volunteered for four years now.

We ate in two locally-owned places today -- Zistro and El Puerto. Bought necessary items at Town and Country.

Susie and Tammy are working hard in the office.

We'll get the chairs and tables in the tents tomorrow.

Have to go recuperate now!

Why do we all do this? To help the public "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The tents are here!

Report from the Kansas Sampler Festival location in Concordia.

Susie Haver (local festival director) and I were at the 6:30 a.m. Optimist meeting this morning at Kristi's restaurant. Club members are great volunteers at the festival. Next was the 8:15 a.m. chamber meeting. Good to see friendly and eager faces. Tammy Britt, local co-director, ran the Chamber coffee.

I had a chance to slip over to the Orphan Train Museum. It's looking really good and the exhibits do a great job of telling the gripping story. Hope you get to see it.

KSF board member Ellen Morgan showed up this morning. She did projects all day in the office. WenDee was stationed at her computer working on Volunteer info sheets, day program, and tent layouts.

The Leavenworth County contingent, next year's host, doubled today. Bob and Jan Topping got here Sunday night. Keyta Kelly, Leavenworth Co. festival director, and daughter Kaitlin, got here early this afternoon. They came out to the site and then went to the office to work with WenDee.

Tents showed up at noon and by 4 p.m., all ten big tents were stretched out on their designated areas and poles were slammed into the ground. Tomorrow the tents will go up!

Susie and Tammy were working on odds and ends, phone calls, and final details. Tonight we had three volunteer training meetings.

Now, here's the most interesting news of all for those who will be coming to Concordia this weekend. Today was the opening of Heavy's, a bar and bbq/other things classy joint just a block off of 6th (main street) on Washington. What a great place!

We had coffee at the very cool coffee place this morning, Jitters. Bob and Jan ate at Zistro's, another neat place in town.

Concordia's Blade Empire came out today with a 40-page tab about the festival. It's terrific!

Salina Journal is coming out tomorrow.

That's the festival report for today.

We're working hard to ready the place to help the public "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

p.s. Kansas Sampler Festival, May 2-3, Concordia's city park.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The early years of the festival

We're about to leave for Concordia for a week of prep before the May 2-3 Kansas Sampler Festival. Susie Haver and Tammy Britt have been working hard for months to prepare. WenDee takes care of a lot of technical things on this end. It's exciting for all the work to finally start bearing results.

In 1990 I had to leave my job as elementary guidance counselor near Philadelphia, PA because of ongoing episodes from a 1983 head injury. Time to move home with the parents... Best thing that ever happened. The only job I could hold was with Dad. He had written a coffee table/photo essay book on Kansas and people had been asking how to get to those places. So on my good days we traveled the state and researched. The result -- Kansas Weekend Guide.

We had a book-signing party on an early November Saturday in 1990. We had invited places in the book to help celebrate and they filled one tent. It was a sleety, cold day. We didn't advertise much. But despite the weather and the location of the event being held on a farm near a small town, one thousand people came!

It was easy to figure out that people were hungry for information about what there is to see and do in Kansas. We gave the event a name, the Kansas Sampler Festival, and rallied the family and Inman volunteers to make it happen. For eight years we held the festival on our farm. That was one great work crew.

It seems like we grew by about a thousand every year and in the final year, 1998, eight thousand people attended. The parking lot was the alfalfa field. The tin shed was the Tin Shed Cinema where communities showed slide shows. Exhibits were located in many tents and the grain elevator. The pond deck was one music performance area. Dad built a grass-earthen stage for another musical venue and we put a 40x80' tent over it. The audience sat on straw bales and filled the tent act after act. Food vendors used the claim shack and metal shed as a staging area and people ate in front of Mom's flower garden. Willis Loganbill gave horse and buggy rides along the creek, through the shelter belt, down tractor graveyard row, and through the prairie.

BY 1993
The festival was using every available area between trees and outbuildings. We needed more room. The Kansas Sampler Center was being built on the east side of the creek in what had been a wheat field. More land was taken out of production and planted into prairie. Trees were planted and a horseshoe driveway was built. A footbridge was built over the creek so people could walk from one side to the other. We filled all that area with more tents and demonstration areas. Food vendors lined the creek.

Finally, the alfalfa field parking lot had to be rotated. We had really beaten it down after 8 years of parking on it. Without a parking lot, we couldn't stage the festival. It had been really fun having the festival on our farm. Our farm dates back to 1874 when my great-great-grandfather came over to America in the Mennonite migration and settled here. It had been a great backdrop for this Kansas celebration.

We either had to end the festival or figure out another plan. We decided to let communities bid on it and move it from one host to the next every two years. It's worked superbly and more people had the chance to attend and more communities could exhibit. We're grateful to hosts in Pratt, Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, and now Concordia for taking such good care of the event. Leavenworth County will be the host in 2010 and 2011.

I'll always have great memories of how my family, especially brother Murray, Mom, and Dad worked so hard to get the farm ready. The Inman volunteers plus others from Wichita and Hutchinson were absolutely amazing. They treated this festival as if it were their own -- and it was.

It all happened because Mom and Dad were willing to risk the liaibility and step up to the task of preparing the farm for thousands of people. It was a special eight years for all involved. The Kansas Sampler Foundation wasn't even started until 1993 so it was a Penner Family and Friends event for the first few years.

It's exciting now to move from town to town and have communities from every corner of the state move with it. They know that the only way to smash the myth that there isn't anything to see and do in Kansas is to stick together and make a strong collective impression. And we do.

The most common reaction from the public is, "I had no idea Kansas had all these things to see and do."

Come to Concordia's city park May 2-3 to see how the festival has grown. Meet over 130 communities and see their exhibits. Hear musicians and historic performers as they provide a sample of their talents. Entrepreneurs sell products, authors sell books. Food vendors offer Kansas grown or made foods.

It's one big, giant Kansas party and we hope you can come. If you do, I can promise it will help you "Get Kansas!"

I'll be on The Stump. KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Knowing the story makes it mean so much more

Pho Hoa is one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. It's located at 713 E. Fulton in Garden City and is open Monday-Saturday (closed Wednesday), 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-8:30 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 620.276.3393.

You can click on the picture for each finalist and go to an information page that tells you more background about each restaurant and shows pictures. But you'll only find the following story here...sometime immigrants are faceless and stories like these fill in the face and heart.

(the daughter of Khanh and Ha)

The most interesting story I have ever heard was told by my mother. The story she told me was not a regular fairy tale that all kids have heard. Instead it was a story of how she ended up here in America. Some may think that a parent’s life has no relevance to us. I, however, find that nay story relating to my parents is of great interest. By listening to my parents’ stories, I have learned that life usually changes for the better. I also learned that no matter how terrible the situation is, there is always an event that will be better. This event actually happened to my parents.

Life on the other side of the world is different from what we would experience here. Marriages in the United States are not pre-arranged like those in Viet Nam. Marriage in Viet Nam is usually up to the parents; well, most of them. When a girl has matured to the age of eighteen, it is the time in her life when other parents with sons will come visit her family to seek her hand in marriage. Like all young ladies, Ha, my mother, was in the same situation. Her parents chose carefully who would be the lucky guy to marry their daughter. They stressed that the young gentleman had to be from a good house where Ha would not be mistreated but would find respect from her in-laws. For that reason, Ha’s marriage was a slow process because her parents had not found the right man and family.

Years passed and Ha turned twenty. At that time, she panicked because she heard the fortune teller say that if she didn’t marry before she was twenty-one, then she wouldn’t be able to marry until she turned thirty or so. The next person to come and ask was Khanh’s, my father’s parents.

After days of talking, both families decided to have the wedding, and Ha had no choice but to agree. Ha was afraid of getting married for many reasons. She feared her fiancĂ©, wondering how he was going to treat her. She feared living with another family whom she had never in her life seen. She was afraid that she would do something wrong and get yelled at. She was afraid of how her brother-and-sisters-in-law would act towards her. To make it short, she was afraid of her new family and the idea of being married, but she had to live where her parents had sent her. A good girl never went against her parents’ wishes.

In April of 1979, Khanh and Ha were married even though they were strangers. “The day of our wedding was the first time I ever saw him in my life,” my mother explained.

Two weeks after they were married, they left unexpectedly. They left to escape the terror going on in the country. They wanted to leave and get as far away from the communists as possible. Nobody thought that they would go through life or death situations just two weeks after marriage!

At nine o’clock in the morning, they left their home and traveled on foot to the boat dock. It wasn’t until the next morning that they arrived at the dock. They traveled with strangers for four days and three nights. It was a miracle that they survived the waves of the ocean, water splashing in their faces, everybody on that boat got seasick.

They landed in Malaysia but that was not the end of their day. They stayed on the coastline because the Malaysians would not let them on the mainland for twenty-four hours. Eventually, they were allowed on the shore and were sent to the refugee camps to settle.

The couple’s new life together was unexpected, but they stayed together for the better. At first Ha was afraid of her new household, but now she worried about living with total strangers. All around them were refugees who were in as much shock as they were.

“We didn’t have any money at all. We were very poor. You couldn’t believe the horror that we went through. Do you know what we had to eat to live? We ate bats just to survive. We had to go steal potatoes from the farms because we were so hungry. Who would expect that I would leave my land for this? Luckily Khanh was given the gift of telling fortunes, like a soothsayer, and from that we earned a bit of money,” Ha explained.

When stealing potatoes, the couple got caught and were punished in a harsh way. Khanh was punched and kicked by the Malaysians while Ha was held by the ears and force to do squats one hundred times. “What kind of punishment was that?” I asked. She said she didn’t know but they were nice enough not to hit her because she was a woman. She also mentioned that she had eaten iguanas. Yes, she ate a reptile that some Americans would keep as pets. Although they had food, they were missing rice which should be a part of every meal. Only once in a while did they have enough money to buy rice.

The days got worse when Ha was pregnant. She didn’t have enough to eat, so the baby inside her didn’t get much either. She went through pain trying to keep her child growing. This child was also unexpected. Dat was born prematurely. One day Khanh was giving fortunes, a lady came and said, “You were right. I did find some money, and so I give you this to thank you.” The lady handed over a bowl of porridge, and Khanh, being the man that he was, gave it to his wife. Ha ate it hungrily but moments later she screamed at the top of her lungs; she was in labor. During the delivery, the Malaysian doctor asked Khanh, “Who do you want to save, your wife or your kid?” Of course Khanh answered to save both.

When giving birth, Ha lost much blood because it was a difficult delivery. The doctors had to get Khanh’s blood and transfer it to Ha, but it was not enough, so they took blood from the natives of Malaysia. That is how she survived.
After three days, Ha was out of the hospital and working. Just days after giving birth, she was doing laundry with her bare hands. That is how she explains the bulging veins in her arms.

The couple was lucky that Ha’s brother lived it the states, and he sponsored their trip to Texas. Three months after Dat was born, they were flown to California. Dat got malaria on the way and so the family had to stay in San Francisco, California for a few days until Dat got better. Khanh and Ha were afraid that their first born child would die of this terrible infection. They were, however, lucky that it was treatable, and afterwards, they flew to Houston, Texas and were reunited with Ha’s brother.

I was born the following year and five years later we moved to Garden City. Life was always hard for us until the family business blossomed. We can now enjoy life. My mother’s story was such a tragedy; it is hard to believe that my parents survived it. Because of this story, I have learned that life is not always a pleasant dream. Sometimes in a person’s life tragedy occurs. Our family is one in which unfortunate events happened first, and then we found happiness. Life sometimes starts ugly, but when we continue to try, we can find a better life.

Wow....what a story that is. Pho Hoa takes on a whole new meaning after you read this and the story on the contest information page. Oh, and by the way, the food is outstanding! See wonderful pictures of their entrees.

Thank you, Huyen, for sharing this story. Knowing your family helps us "Get Kansas!" in a way that we never imagined.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, April 24, 2009

A gathering of icons

Yesterday was a really neat day. When I look at this picture I just smile. See the woman in the rocker? That's Mae of Guy and Mae's -- the famous barbecue place in tiny Williamsburg. On the left, the woman in pink is Carolyn Bontrager, owner of Carolyn's Essenhaus in Arlington.

We announced the top 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine yesterday and invited owners or representatives of the 24 restaurants to attend. They only knew that they were one of the 24, they didn't know the other 23 yet.

We elongated the suspense by explaining the project and who the Kansas Sampler Foundation is. Then finally we did a power point to announce the 24, alphabetical order, one at a time. This was a congenial group and they clapped after each finalist was revealed.

The wonderful reaction was that these restaurant owners wanted to go eat at the other finalists. In fact, we got a taste of some of the restaurants after the presentation! Dan Doerge from the Hays House brought their famous strawberry pie, the Hibachi Hut brought bread pudding with whiskey sauce, and Guy and Mae's brought ribs!!! Von Rothenberger brought meat and cheese from Brant's Meat Market (a Commerce top 8 winner).

It was like a who's who of iconic restaurants. Owners represented Hays House, Cozy Inn, Bobo's, Grand Central, Anchor Inn, Trapper's, Paolucci's, Guy & Mae's, Carolyn's Essenhaus, Hibachi Hut, and Charlie's. Convention & Visitors Bureaus came for Brookville Hotel, Crawford County Fried Chicken, Crazy R's, Homer's, and Pho Hoa.

Some of these places have been open for decades and the original owners should be remembered and recognized.

What I hope happens is that people will go to as many of these places as possible this summer -- especially before the June 15 voting deadline. The diversity of our restaurants matches the diversity of our people and culture. From steak and potatoes to Vietnamese food, a person could get to know us just by eating across the state.

There are so many great places not on the list. Hopefully this can be a recognition for all the super locally-owned restaurants in the state and it'll be the "Year of the Locally-Owned Eateries."

"Get Kansas!" by eating at our locally-owned restaurants! How fun is that?

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"We're celebrating life"

Awhile back I was with First Generation Video filming one segment of a DVD about Exploring Kansas. I had a point to make and a good place to make it was in the Idle Hour bar at 125 E. Main in Anthony.

Much to our surprise, at 4 p.m. the bar was full -- and loud! The whole scene was captured on film. Some parts may be seen in outtakes, but maybe I can explain with just a few photos.

Ray had his tripod up on the sidewalk filming the front when a man in a bright blue shirt walks out, throws open his arms, and with a big grin on his face welcomes us to the Idle Hour. It was one of those feelings you get as an Explorer -- we knew we were in for a special experience.

So we go inside and the place is full. I asked the first table I came to what was going on and they said they were "celebrating life." Indeed, it looked like they were. Pumped a little more they admitted they had all just come from a funeral and "Chief" would want them to celebrate his life with this kind of fun.

They were friendly as can be and said they didn't mind a bit if we were there to do some filming. But what were we so interested in?

Here's a close up picture of the intended target. Any ideas yet?

Someone from behind the bar is acting out the scene. Pretend her flyswatter is really a hatchet and now imagine this scene taking place in early 1900 and the person with the hatchet is none other than Carry Nation, the temperance crusader.

Indeed, the counter dates back to those days and still carries the evidence of Carry's crusade to rid Kansas of bars and drink.

Three points.
1) The Explorer point I was trying to make is that "explorery" things to see and do are everywhere. You just have to ask questions of the locals and eventually you'll find small, but very interesting, things like these hatchet marks.

2) Because of following the hatchet-mark lead, we stumbled into the unexpected, which I call Explorer moments. The bar was full of people celebrating Chief's life yet they were willing to absorb our little filming episode into their experience. They were friendly, very fun (for more stories, buy me a beer), very mindful of Chief, and before long we all felt like we were sharing a "Cheers" episode. It will always be a warm and fun memory for me.

3) Harper County will have a booth at the Kansas Sampler Festival and they'll tell you about more Explorer things going on in Anthony, Harper and other county towns. Rural communities have so many things to see and do!

The Kansas Sampler Festival is May 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and May 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in Concordia's city park at 11th and Washington. $5 for adults; $3 kids 7-14. For more information go to

Looking for evidence of historic hatchet marks and ending up in a celebration of life is what happens when you have the explorer mindset -- and the resulting experience helps you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's here -- and then it's gone.

This was the oil boom town of Oil Hill which sprung up near El Dorado with the founding of Stapleton #1. It didn't last long but 2,500 oil field workers lived here while it did. The Well was discovered in 1915. How it was discovered is the significance of Stapleton.

Turn on your Explorer mindset. You're about to get an important lesson.

To understand everything about El Dorado, you need to understand this story -- and it's not just about oil. It's about the shotgun houses, the instant towns (that came and went quickly), the grocery stores in the instant towns, the schools. It's about the products made using petroleum. The story is about the men of wealth who invested and how oil not only changed El Dorado but launched the aviation industry in Wichita.

Stapleton #1 was one of the finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce for a very good reason.

Stapleton #1 was the first well to be drilled using science and geology to pinpoint location.

On September 29, drilling contractors, Golden and Obins spudded Stapleton #1. Oil was discovered on October 6, 1915 at a depth of 2,497 feet and our history was changed forever.

Stapleton #1, the discovery well for the great El Dorado Field, became the most notable of all regional wells because it was located by scientific methods. It dawned on oil people that an unprecedented and utterly remarkable pinpointing had resulted from this geological work. Not only was oil found within the geologists recommended area, it was found on nearly every acre of that area, and almost none was found directly outside that area! It was shocking to the oil industry. The largest, formally organized industrial geological operation in history was launched.

It was the first time science and more specifically geology had been used to determine where to drill for oil by pinpointing locations on a map. In addition to location of wells the geologists also recommended how deep to drill.

Drive out to see the site of Stapleton #1. Follow the signs on N. Haverhill or 7th. Imagine 2,500 oil field workers once living there in shotgun houses.

You might actually want to go to the museum first so that your trip to the actual site will mean more -- so you can see the ghosts better. At the museum you'll learn about Oil Hill, Stapleton #1 and the lifestyle of oil workers/families at the Kansas Oil Museum/Butler County Historical Society Museum at 383 E. Central, El Dorado. 316.321.9333.

On the museum grounds is a recreated oil town. It's really so well done.

You can also learn more about this at the El Dorado booth at the Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia's city park, May 2-3. For more information go to

What I love about those with an Explorer mind-set is that they are eager to learn about all aspects of rural culture which only sharpens their overall view of Kansas. Things start to slip into place and into an every broadening timeline.

To learn the diverse history of Kansas, is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seeing Red

There are eleven physiographic regions in Kansas and it's easy for one or another to get ignored. One that should never be ignored is the Red Hills or Gypsum Hills of Barber, Comanche, and Clark counties.

In about a month the wildflowers will start to pop against the red hills and greening grass and the scenery will be exceptional. To get a good view of the area, one can drive U.S. 160 between Medicine Lodge and Coldwater, the official Gypsum Hills Kansas Scenic Byway, or enjoy the backroads Gyp Hill scenic drive in Barber County. You'll find the entrance to the scenic drive 3 miles west of Medicine Lodge on U.S. 160. Watch for a small sign and then turn south on Gypsum Hill Road for about 7 miles -- keep following the signs. Start with a full tank of gas!

The main thing is just to go to these counties that border Oklahoma and drive around. If you're not familiar with this part of the state you'll be in for an eye-opening experience. There are lots of small towns to explore, local places to eat, wild women to meet -- like Carry Nation.

If you happen to own the Kansas Guidebook for Explorers just start with the Barber County section and go from there.

Or, come to the May 2-3 Kansas Sampler Festival at Concordia's city park and find the Medicine Lodge/Barber County booth to get all sorts of inside scoop on how to see the area. In fact, 136 other cities will be at the festival to tell their story, too. Read all about it at or call 785.243.4303.

To "Get Kansas" you need to know all eleven physiographic regions!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Small towns have a beautiful story

I bet this looks like just a charming small church. It's much more! This 1899 Presbyterian church on Third Street in Natoma (Osborne County) has a no-sag, self-supported roof style invented by Natoma native Louis Beisner. (Natoma, population 350).

You say "what?" Yes, you know, a no-sag roof! (This is where the part comes in about needing an Explorer mindset -- but if you have one, you'll see more than you could ever imagine).

There is no sign inside that tells the no-sag story and the church has been renovated so it's mostly the shape and size that are historic. In any case, it's the roof that is important and many come to pay homage to see one of Beisner's first attempts at this style. Beisner conceived the innovative plan over 110 years ago and since then it has become a standard design element in modern architecture.

An Explorer would want to see another application. So, just ask anyone in Natoma to call Orville or Betty Pruter for a tour of their barn loft. Check it out! No supporting beams coming from the floor. A giant load but the Beisner no-sag structure works. Cool.

If you love chocolate, maybe you'll want to travel the scenic backroads of Osborne County (north of Natoma) to find the birth site of chocolate magnate Russell Stover. He was born in Osborne County in 1888. Thanks to the Osborne County Tourism group, a sign now tells the story. One from that group is pictured, Laura McClure. For me, I just loved standing on that spot imagining a young Russell Stover.

Alton, population 150, is another city in Osborne County. The name of the cafe has changed but it's always fun to have a reason to step inside the Bohemian Hall that was moved into town almost 10 years ago. It's main function is a restaurant and a community gathering spot.

Alton and Natoma are just two cities in Osborne County. The tourism group does a fabulous job of telling the rural culture element story of the whole county. In 2008, they showcased their Kansas Sampler Festival display after the festival.

Come to Concordia's city park on May 2-3 to learn what Osborne County and 136 other Kansas communities have to see and do! For more information go to

In the meantime, just know that to "get" Kansas, you've got to visit small towns -- and take your Explorer mindset with you.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good way to see Kansas: Mystery Trips!

Kansas Explorer #27 Susie Haver of Concordia is one of the best Explorers in the universe. She's a fabulous ambassador and has this nice way of bringing others into the Explorer mindset. Recently, she and co-Kansas Sampler Festival local director Tammy Britt, and friends went on a mystery tour.

This is something YOU could do with friends with results being a fun day for all AND making a difference in rural communities.

Below is the mystery trip in Susie's words:

We enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast at Kansas Creek Inn (north of Concordia) and a scenic drive on old Hwy 24 to get to Oak Hill in Clay County. Meg Perry welcomed us to Blackberry Mercantile where we learned how Meg came to Oak Hill. Of course, we all made purchases!

Then we headed to Oak Hill Pottery and learned the background of how Lonny and Jean purchased the old school and transformed it into their home and studio. Lonny demonstrated his work on the wheel and Jean shared how she makes the design with a sewing needle and then paints the pottery. The clay comes from Marion. We did our part for Commerce at Oak Hill Pottery, too. Jean's sister-in-law makes beautiful woven rugs. We made some purchases. By that time we were an hour late for our appointment at Wakefield Museum. But, we called and told them we were on the way.

One of our mystery trip participants, Sherrie Radcliffe, is a collector of costume jewelry. I asked her to bring a selection of brooches so we could all have a lovely brooch to wear all day. I especially wanted Sherrie to see the collection of 3000 brooches that Wakefield Museum has. We had a fun time with the two guides.

In a phone call the night before they suggested that we consider dining in Leonardville at Nelson's Landing. (They even called to make sure they were open and wrote down the directions for us.) The parents of K-State football player turned Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson, run it in downtown Leonardville. It's cute, has great food and homemade pie! They were really friendly, too, and there were lots of people eating there. It's a sports bar so they had a big screen projector and numerous TV's. It looks like they have a dance floor, too. It's in two buildings with lots of sports stuff and old advertising signs and ag stuff on the walls.

Then we headed to Manhattan to see the Elizabeth Layton exhibit at the Manhattan Art Center and Birger Sandzen exhibit at Beach Museum of Art on KSU campus. We even managed a stop at the KSU Dairy Bar in Call Hall for some fine KSU ice cream!

We kept track of the money we spent. I had the girls guess at the total. Tammy was the closest (and also had the highest guess at $395.) By the time we added our gas money we were up to just under $450. I can tell you that we felt really good spending our money in small towns. Plus, we didn't think we spent a lot anywhere, but as you well know it adds up. It also felt really odd to be in Manhattan at the end of our mystery trip. It seemed so BIG.

We're pretty proud of ourselves though. Six women going less than 70 miles away from home in just under 12 hours can make a difference. Plus we all feel better for having gotten away for a day.

By the way, the other four had never been to Oak Hill or Wakefield and 5 of the 6 hadn't been to Manhattan Art Center or Beech Museum of Art. Leonardville was new to all of us.

We can hardly wait for the next trip. Plus, it's so fun having it as a mystery trip! The yellow bags helped us keep our stuff straight.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Mysterious Concordia Women!

It's fun to "Get Kansas" with a group using the guise of mystery trip all sorts of little-known places take on an adventurous feel. Thanks for the inspiration!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's not just a wall mural...

This is a mural found at 1st and Main in Herington. A woman drinking a soda.

What questions do you have?

If you're in the Explorer mind set you might be asking yourself who did the mural and who is the woman and does she have a connection to Herington. Excellent Explorer questions!

Turns out that Milton Fleming did the mural. He also did the train mural at Broadway and Day. I think he was a local man, with a nice talent.

You've maybe seen the pose before. The woman was a celebrity model for Coca Cola, and was also an actress and music hall singer. Coca Cola used her for advertisement from 1895 to 1903, the time of her marriage to a millionaire. Now, collector's pay top dollar for items with her image.

Guess what? She's Hilda Clark and was born in Leavenworth in 1872. Yes, Leavenworth! You're home to the Coca Cola model!

Is there some connection with her to Herington? That's the rest of the mystery -- and I don't know the answer.

You all did so well with providing more information on LoMar that maybe you'll know the rest of this story, too.

Asking questions helps us all "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

P.S. Norma Mosier, thanks for help with this much information!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There is a wonderful cat named Phoebe that resides at the Kansas Sampler Center. Every morning she visits VLee (Marci's Mom) and me in the office we share. She'll whine until we pet and make over her like the prima donna she is and then she'll jump onto the table where she's made a stationery box her morning sleeping quarters. There, in the south window with the warm sun streaming in, she curls up and snoozes for most of the morning. Once in a while, she goes into such a deep slumber that she'll start to snore! It's more like a high pitched wheeze, but pretty unnerving at times - just like her human counterparts!

I had a chance one day to capture one of her snoring sessions and laugh every time I see it! Hope you will too. Anyone else out there with a snoring feline?

Another day of "getting" Kansas - this time with a KAT!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Is the Oxford Mill Restaurant open?

Does anybody know if the Oxford Mill Restaurant is open? Sure loved it at its hey day.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Behind the scenes with small grocery stores

I got a call from a town of 1,100 today. They haven't had a grocery store for awhile and they really need one. They have a non-profit group that could own the building but then they would like to lease it to someone who wants to have a profitable business. Or, in other words, they don't want to go the community-owned route or run it as a non-profit. That makes sense.

Here are the issues.

Where do you find these models that work in small towns?

Where is the guidebook that tells you how to find a grocery store owner willing to put a store in a small town?

How do you find a regional grocery store owner who is struggling with the $10,000 a week volume minimum that needs to own two stores to get rid of the inventory?

How do you convince your locals that it's necessary for the store to charge a little bit more than the big box stores because of the low volume?

Do we need a list of best practices for small stores? All the best practices (clean store, friendly service) don't matter if you can't find a way to get groceries in the store. But, if you do get groceries you sure better put your best foot forward to gain customer loyalty.

It's vicious to figure this all out. It's more than difficult. It requires determination from people who are maniacs for their town.

I think we need a completely new paradigm for rural grocery stores from distribution to marketing the stores as destinations. With a new system, these could be the stores that carry local produce. With volume buying of coolers, maybe these stores could be as green as possible. Maybe they could be developed with a nostalgic decor and become a destination -- like Murphy's Mercantile has done in Stark.

We need a two-day Midwest Small Grocery Store symposium to get all the best minds together to create a completely new vision and way of doing business for small stores. Let's not just take ideas off the scrap pile, let's figure out a new model for a New Rural.

What will it take? Awareness of common SMALL grocery store issues, a vision of new possibilities, knowledge of the network, and a financial management plan.

We can't be scared to reach, we can't hold back from finding new ways to do things. Do we think small town life is valuable to the world? Hec yeah!

Stretch your mind to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The story of Buffalo Jones

Meet adventurer Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones as he stands in front of the Finney County Courthouse in Garden City, a memorial dedicated in 1979.

Here is a summary of his story taken from the plaques at the base of the statue.

In 1879, John Stevens, W.D., James R. Fulton, and Jones founded Garden City. Jones was the first mayor and became the area's first representative in the Kansas legislature.

Here's where he got his nickname. Aware of the dramatically dwindling numbers of buffalo, he made numerous trips into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles were he captured 57 buffalo calves, herding them to his ranch in Garden City (imagine shepherding buffalo calves!). The buffalo in the herd on the present day Sandsage Bison Range south of Garden City are descendants of those calves.

In 1893, Jones made a run for land into Oklahoma as part of the Cherokee Strip Land Rush. In 1897-1989 he journeyed to the Arctic Circle in search of musk oxen.

There's more! In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt appointed him the first game warden of Yellowstone National park and in 1906 he developed a ranch and game preserve on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Zane Grey, western author, was fascinated by Jones and used him as the basis for a hero character in his books.

Jones' made a safari to Africa in 1909 where he captured and photographed all types of wild animals. His activities were of great interest to the public and upon his return he lectured and showed his photographs to large audiences. In 1914 he returned to Africa and contracted malaria from which he never fully recovered.

Buffalo Jones was awarded a medal by Edward VII, King of England, for his work with animals. He was further recognized by admission to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1959.

He died in 1919 in Topeka and is buried at the Valley View Cemetery in Garden City beside his wife Martha and his two sons.

I wonder of Martin and Osa Johnson knew Buffalo Jones???

Knowing one of our adventurers is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's a good place to gather in Dexter

Stepping inside The Gathering Place in downtown Dexter is like going to a family reunion. Vickie, Lynn, Janice, and Lynn's daughter all work there and are as friendly and welcoming as can be. On this day customers included Lynn's granddaughter and Janice's brother.

These gathering places are essential to small towns. Schools, churches, the post office, and cafes are the typical best gathering places in most small towns -- if a town is lucky enough to still have these places. Dexter has all of them. Of course, the yummiest is the restaurant!

Vickie tells the story that on Sunday mornings her cohorts meet at the restaurant before church to start the noon meal. Then they rush off to church and dash back as soon as the service is over to get ready for post-church customers. Vickie's preacher understands that if he gets too windy, she'll be leaving early. He's given his blessing.

The decor adds to the homey feeling in The Gathering Place. These painted tables came from a cafe in old Branson that was closing.

The tasty pork barbecue sandwich was served on one of their eclectic plates! The pie on this day was Butterfinger Pie. Was it ever delicious! If it's on the menu when you go in, order it right away before the last piece has vanished.

They also sell Tommy Parsons' eggs. $2 a carton.

Just inside the door you'll see this ABCDE sign. The "A" stands for the Eastern Cowley town of Atlanta. "B" stands for Burden, "C" for Cambridge, "D" for Dexter, and "E" for Eastern Cowley County. The slogan is good: Working together as a community team in revitalizing and sustaining quality of life for Eastern Cowley County. The ABCDE group with representatives from each of these small towns works hard at revitalizing the area communities. The Gathering Place ties perfectly into the philosophy. It's not just a restaurant but a symbol of determination and a place to bring people together.

The Gathering Place, Helium Park, the Stone Barn Mercantile and sesquicentennial barn logo, Henry's Candies, Crabby Patty's, and the beautiful scenery in the southern Flint Hills make Dexter a wonderful place to visit.

The Gathering Place - 620.876.3525.

You "Get Kansas" if you realize that having a place to "gather" is essential to a small town.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Visiting Crabby Patty

This is Crabby Patty. Patty Hafenstein. She really doesn't seem so Crabby. That comes at the end of the 16-hour days. When we were there yesterday we had to wait awhile for all the locals to go through the checkout line. That was terrific -- and made her smile, too.

This is Crabby Patty's, the Dexter Mini-Mart at the corner of K-15 and the city of Dexter in Cowley County. It's a one-pump store -- that is when there is gas. Patty has to pay at least $2,000 for the fuel truck to even come her way. The 12 cent per gallon mark-up pays for all the other costs associated with the pump and the paperwork. Maybe, maybe the Winfield Co-op will take over the gas pump operation. She's losing money on the gas pumps now. I hope the co-op deal works.

The inventory is relatively scant. She has to go to Sam's to buy grocery inventory. She'd rather not but she has explored all other options. A separate bread truck, chip truck, and beer truck come. One of the few profit producers is the Hunts Brothers Pizza.

Maybe she could fix the floor and ceiling tile if the out-dated refrigeration utility costs weren't so astronomical. The outdated ones are not energy efficient at all. The Dexter Economic Development Committee has located some people to come visit with Patty ways to reduce the utility costs.

The "lots of little money" that comes from the Kansas Explorers Club campaign to get one thousand people to go to Crabby Patty's to spend $5 helps her spirits and allows her to buy groceries and gas a little sooner for the locals. To date, over 200 people have come by to spend an extra $5 or sent something in the mail.

She gets money in the mail, too, with notes. She can tell when an envelope is from one of the Thousand and she tears it open to read the notes. The notes melt her heart. Bring a tear to her eye. She says, "It's really nice to know that people care so much."

Crabby Patty's address is 501 K-15 Hwy., Dexter, KS 67038.

The mini-mart is a functional business in Dexter that supplies staples of gas, a few groceries, and pizza. It doesn't look all that pretty inside but please don't judge. There are so very many things going on behind the scenes that we can't see. Patty is trying, she cares about providing Dexter with this business, and she works really hard.

Our $5 makes more of a difference to her than you might imagine. We're doing this till we hit 1,000 people. We Kan do it. If you go in to Crabby Patty's you'll get an "I Kan Help" button.

The following is from Linda Geffert:

May I echo your closing sentiments in the Explorer Update of April 3rd, "You're the Best, Kansas Explorers."

I was one of the owners of Lizard Lips during the first campaign several years ago. Having Kansas Explorers respond to the call of 'spend five dollars' was one of the most cherished memories I have of being part of that business.

The money was certainly appreciated but in addition to that, we received encouragement, made new friends and soaked up the positive, energetic vibes exuded by Kansas Explorers. They are always happy and up-beat and never quibble over price because they know rural businesses can't get volume discounts.

Best to Crabby Patty.

Linda Geffert, KE #61

Wanting to help is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The power of the collective...

The Wichita Eagle online version ( led with a story this morning about the new theme song for the Explore Rural Kansas Partnerships. Beccy Tanner wrote about the rural tourism initiative and about our song, "Come and get it" (Feed Your Heart).

One of the beautiful things about the song was that it was written, performed, and produced by Kansans in a studio in the small town of Towanda. Jim Farrell, you and your cohorts gave us your heart on this one and we appreciate it.

But, as per usual, there are trollers out there who just love to make insensitive comments. Little did they know that we would see their rants as an opportunity.

This is the power of the Rural Voice. When we're organized, we can make beautiful music. I sent out a Constant Contact and asked for help. Before long, there was a nice string of inspired comments about the song, about rural life, about coming to visit us.

I was so proud of everyone for being constructive and positive. The energy from those comments was perfect pitch.

As we all start to work on the Explore Rural Kansas Partnership we will be sending out a melodic invitation for the world to come see us, to come get us, and to step into our world as we work to be the best we can be at being ourselves.

We'll work to strike the right chords in rural land to help the world "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner