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!"