Monday, November 15, 2010

What if...we looked at rural this way?

I'm on a search. A search to find progressive thinkers for rural Kansas. I don't care if you're 8 or 98 or somewhere in between. Actually, you might be from another state and just have some ideas for rural communities anywhere. That's good, too.

I'd like it if you'd send me a summary of your thoughts or ideas. It can be a "what if..." type of response. Your idea might be small, it might be complex. It might be something you've put into practice or something that is just incubating.

What if...we looked at rural this way. Or that way? How could we take things to the next level? What if we mixed ideas through a collective mind meld?

What if...the message was sent loud and clear that rural communities are of value and should be looked at as sources for potential and opportunity?

What if every citizen and every school kid in a small town felt like anything could be accomplished if they worked together? What if the bar was raised for expectations in rural communities?

I'm not looking for traditional thinkers. I'm looking for people who have a personal grasp of rural common issues that can morph technology with common sense resulting in functional grassroots solutions. Are you open minded, positive, a good listener?

I'd like to put a Dream Think Thank together sooner than later. I'd like people from the media, from small business, entrepreneurs, farmers, teachers, preachers, volunteers, angel investors, college students, laborers to be involved. Share your thoughts with me. How would you help create a New Rural? Send your thoughts to

Get Kansas! And Power Up.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fun and creativity attracts all ages

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Lots of people ask how to get kids and young people involved in local community events. Partridge made it happen without thinking about it. Because the organizers are creative, fun at heart, and have a lot of kid in them, the young people turned out in abundance.

Partridge, a town of 250 in western Reno County, is a tight knit community. They even still have their own grade school. And, they also have lots of people that care about the notion of community.

A few years ago they added a bicycle twist to their annual event. It was so fun and added such a new dimension that it the whole thing is now called the Partridge Pedal Party!

In brief, anything that has to do with bicycles, it's done here. Home-adjusted bicycles are seen in the parade, pieces and parts are sculpted together and used in the home creation of the trophies. Bicycles are raffled away. There is unicycle hockey and bicycle jousting. There are crafts, poem reading, music, food, games, and a worthy parade with horses, floats, old cars and tractors, and more. It's such a fun day.

But it's hard to not notice how much fun the kids are having. They are engaged, they are part of it. So are teenagers and "kids" in their 40s and 50s. The spirit of the day is catchy and it's something we should all catch.

Sometime small towns have the most creative events. Be part of it and you'll Get Kansas.

Lucky to have been there, KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Garnett knows how to roll out the red carpet

The Kansas Sampler Foundation put out the call around Kansas for itineraries that would show the world a new way to look at Kansas. The result would be put on e-bay as an auction item. The proceeds would go to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the itinerary would get promoted, and a lucky winner would, no doubt, have a great time.

The Garnett Giveaway package was chosen to be our first attempt at this multi-purpose approach.

The high bid was made by Gary and Bunny McCloud of Wamego.

This past weekend, the McClouds, joined by friends, enjoyed their getaway package in Garnett. This blog has a two-fold purpose.

One is to rave about the way Garnett rolled out the red carpet.

The other is to commend Gary and Bunny.

Garnett, population 3,390, provided a fabulous time. The accommodations were offered by owners Mike and Eileen Burns of the The Kirk House Bed & Breakfast, a George Washburn designed home, built in 1913.

The main event on their first evening was the dinner theatre production "Leading Ladies" at the Thelma Moore Community Playhouse, located in a former Presbyterian Church. The Garnett folks raved about the whole evening and said they've never laughed so hard.

They had breakfast at The Coffee Loft, 130 E. 5th. The limestone walls make it highly attractive. They serve coffees during the day, Kansas beers and wine in the evenings. Check out their website for entertainment and more information.

A flight board MidWest Missionair for an aerial tour of Anderson County was the next treat, thanks to Gordon Blackie.

Bellini's Italian Cafe was the location for a pasta lunch followed by a downtown shopping spree, arranged by the Garnett Chamber.

Saturday night was the highlight for 24 of us who were invited to share an evening of entertainment, h'ors doeuvres, and drinks in the backyard of The Kirk House.

Chuck Cowan and Platinum Vine provided the entertainment that inspired dancing, a good time, and was the perfect backdrop for a marvelous evening that was put together by event planner Kimberly Hart-Spencer.

Caterers for the evening were A Cut Above Catering, The Galey Girls, Maloan's Bar & Grille, Mr. D's Bar & Grill, Rhonda Holsinger, Rick Felt and Two Sister's Cafe. The Scipio Supper Club serviced the bar and provided Kansas beers and wines!

Every guest had their own special wine glass with their name written in decorative fashion on the glass, a keepsake!

We can't say enough to Eileen, Scott Rogers, Kim, Garnett Tourism, and all involved for an unforgettable set of memories in Garnett.


And here's to Gary and Bunny McCloud. Bunny, I wish I had got you with your eyes open but you deserved that drink. Thanks to you and Gary for not only being the high bid but for being a classy couple that treats your friends so well. You two, plus your Wamego area friends, were a perfect fit with the fine people of Garnett.

Here's a toast to you all.

P.S. Some of us got to stay at the Shelly Tipton Bed and Breakfast!

Get Kansas! by staying in a rural community. Thank you Garnett and the McClouds.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Behind the scenes thoughts about 8 Wonders

The Kansas Sampler Foundation has loved getting to know Kansas better through our role in the 8 Wonders of Kansas contest. When the last contest is wrapped up, I'll do a summary on some of the results. But for now, I want to acknowledge the cities and counties that didn't have an entry in any of the contests.

It doesn't feel good to be left off a list like this. I appreciate it when people share those thoughts, even if you're upset. I like it that people stick up for their place and their people. Don't keep this inside. Send me an e-mail, Vent! I'll hear you. I'll listen. I'll let you know what the selection committee was thinking. We'll discuss it.

On the other hand, there may be some instructive things for communities to learn. And, it could be, too, that the selection committee didn't have enough information or knowledge to always make the best decisions.

The first thing is to acknowledge that contest criteria dictated some of the decisions. One of the criteria was that there always had to be something to see, something a visitor could see or do to learn more about the finalist. One goal of the contest was to encourage travel within Kansas.

Countless fantastic people and events in history were left off the list, simply because there wasn't something to see. It doesn't mean they weren't significant people or events. The circumstances just didn't meet the criteria.

Secondly, some places that are home to incredible events were left off the list because the sites weren't in good shape or weren't interpreted well. The criteria for every contest asked that there be a "wow" factor. There are some incredibly dedicated people who want to make their historical site a "wow" factor but lack of funding or available volunteers make it difficult. We were also appreciative of subtle "wows."

If you were one of those places that didn't make the list even though you feel like you have a significant site, let's work together. Maybe we can use this result to jointly speak to your city or county commissioners to do some upgrading. I'm thinking about one person in particular. This person is uncommonly dedicated to her county and has put in an incredible amount of effort to tell the story of her county. Yet, her county wasn't represented in any of the contests. It sure wasn't by lack of effort form this person.

There were some places we put on the list who never once acknowledged being on the list. They didn't care. It might have even been a hassle to them. I'd much rather hear from the people who were hurt and upset about not being on the list. They care. They care a great deal. I won't forget how much they care and down the line, we'll make sure other people know about their places. There are many ways to tell the Kansas story beyond the 8 Wonders contest.

Some of my favorite places didn't make the list, but they'll always be my favorite places...

In the end, I hope the contest did more good than harm. Please consider this an invitation to share your thoughts. We're in this together. Let's make it work.

Thoughts from KE #2

How KE #54 Sees Kansas

Gene Merry, KE #54, from Burlington, sent in this extensive Explorer Trackings. I enjoyed reading it so much and thought you might, too.

Written by Gene...

I started keeping track in 1997 of all the Kansas highways and byways I traveled. Recently, I completed the over 10,000-mile quest of traveling all state, U.S. and Interstate highways in Kansas, as well as many miles of dirt and gravel.

The highlights of 13 years of seeing every nook and cranny of Kansas are many. I visited all of the 8 Wonders of Kansas, a project of Kansas Sampler Foundation. The 8 Wonders include the Big Well, Greensburg; Cheyenne Bottoms/Quivira Natural Wildlife Reserve, Barton and Stafford Counties. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene; Kansas Cosmosphere, Hutchinson; Kansas Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson; Monument Rock/Castle Rock, Gove County; St. Fidelis Church, Victoria; and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County. I also viewed the 16 finalists in the contest.

I stayed at 20 different bed and breakfasts, all members of the Kansas Bed & Breakfast Association, my favorite overnight arrangement.

I explored Kansas using a Kansas state map, the DeLorme Gazetteer and Kansas Sampler Foundation’s Kansas Guidebook for Explorers written by Marci Penner. Using the eight elements of exploring and following the Kansas Guidebook, you find that many of the cities have following 8 elements--art, architecture, commerce, customs, cuisine, geography, history and people.

Breaking out my favorites by element class is as follows:


My favorite art across Kansas is mural art. Many communities tell their story by painting a canvas displaying what they are proud of and what reflects favorably on their community. There are so many great murals across the state, it’s hard to pick a favorite, if you haven’t discovered murals in Kansas, start today.


My favorite is the Kansas Statehouse, its structure, art, and history. Many Kansas towns have great downtown buildings and great historical documentation including Coffeyville, Caldwell, Ness City, Atchison, Marysville and Council Grove.

The Catholic churches across Kansas are also my favorites. St. Fidelis Catholic Church (Cathedral of the Plains), has neat double towers and magnificent marble, at Victoria.

St. Bede Catholic Church in Kelly has the most unique lector stand or soloist stand, great leaded glass and its location on a hill makes it look a mile high and visible for miles.

St. Ann Catholic Church in Olmitz has four clocks for each direction and has an unbelievable view. St. Joseph Catholic Church in Damar has a unique Romanesque design with incredible blues in their leaded glass.

Kansas has very unique courthouses some of my favorites Yates Center, Ness City, Anthony, Lyons, Ottawa, Paola, Osborne (mystery symbols), Lincoln, Marion, Cottonwood Falls and Manhattan.

If you haven’t noticed, architecture is my favorite element.


A great revenue producer Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation production facility near Burlington is the cleanest and greenest power production facility in the state. W.C.N.O.C. also sports a great 5,000 acre fishing lake with all species, hosts a great environmental center with overview silo, so cool.

Other favorites in Commerce are small town grocery stores from McDonald to Riverton. They are usually my stop for mints, crackers/cheese and soft drinks. Caldwell has a neat grocery store with daily barbeque. We ate in the gazebo in a downtown park. Small town grocery stores are the heartbeat of the community.


My favorite custom involves attending the Kansas State Fair and seeing the fruits of Kansas producers. Another favorite is custom combining, especially wheat. What it does to the soul to see five combines in a field, wiping out another successful Kansas wheat crop. Growing up in the Flint Hills, the annual custom of turning cattle out to grass and returning them to a collection point or taking cattle from grass to the feedlots.


I really enjoy all types of food, but in Kansas you have so many choices that are truly great homemade meals. Favorites in chicken are the Olpe Chicken House, Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s in Crawford County. My favorite in the most unusual category, the menu changes daily at Teller Room Restaurant in Oberlin. They also have the best fruit (located in the first floor of the historic Bank of Oberlin). Tex-Mex favorite is Across the Borders in Burlington. El Salvadorian chef has the best cheese sauce and numerous tasty Mexican food entrees. The restaurant has the only Explorer dining room showcasing the 8 Elements of Coffey County.

My favorite travel food comes from Brants Meat Market in Lucas--love the sausage, crackers and root beer.

Chicken fried steak fixed the Explorer Way is a highlight along with prime rib at Trappers Bar and Grill in Simpson, Pinky’s Bar and Grill in Courtland, and on the widest street in America, Plains Tavern in Plains.

Just great down home food at Don’s Place in Protection, Hometown Café in Barnes, pan fried chicken Whiting Café, (tell Rosa hi), and Neighbors Cafe in McPherson. Chili, snack cheese, and hot pickles at C.W. Porubsky Grocery and meals, in the Little Russia neighborhood in Topeka. My favorite steak house is Jim’s Steak House and Lounge, Pittsburg.

My parents and I like pie so anytime passing through Emporia, I always bring back pie. My dads favorite is strawberry rhubarb from Galva’s Kountry Kafe (620.564.3500) and good food, too. I’ve been to the pie plant in Washington known as Marcon Pies. They sell in southern Nebraska and Kansas, wide variety, always great consistency and my favorite is blueberry. Rosa at Whiting Café makes great cream pies, candy and serves the largest ice cream sandwiches around.

Whiting Café has a special place in my heart as over 100 volunteers remodeled the cafe in 2009 in association with the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


My favorite geography areas are “The Breaks” near St. Francis, the Kansas Grand Canyon, Cimarron Grassland near Elkhart, especially in wet years, wildflowers are great. I grew up in the Flint Hills near Olpe, so my favorite of favorites would have to be the beauty of the Flint Hills, and the world class grass.


Kansas has so much history in trails, people, communities, agriculture and many more, take your pick, so much history so little time, to get all the stories.


My second favorite element is the people of Kansas, from the store owners at small grocery stores to the bed and breakfast owners across the state, to volunteers in museums, attractions and parks. We have the most friendly, informed (if they don’t know they’ll call a friend) and dedicated to their individual communities. People make Kansas the superior attraction it is. Take some time to sit down with the locals at their coffee shop and get to know what’s going on there and taste Kansas.

My plan for doing all the traveling was to prove to myself and others that vacationing in Kansas can be just as exciting as any other destination, because you do the same things. When you travel you eat, stay in hotels, motels or bed and breakfast establishments and you see the sights. The big difference is the midwest business persons are some of the most helpful people on earth. They are very proud and accommodating. They love to tell their story.

My wife Barb has traveled with me on numerous trips in Kansas and enjoys shopping at all kinds of quilting shops, gift shops and markets. She likes to make an economic impact.

To enjoy Kansas you have to be engaged in the history of Kansas communities.

Before you plan an expensive trip out of state, take some time to explore Kansas, enjoy a slower pace, try some great food, take advantage of bargain prices, and get to know the state and its people, like we have.

Thanks Gene. Certainly, one way to "Get Kansas" is to know Kansas!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Add post offices to your adventure stops

Above, post offices in Lost Springs and Fort Dodge.

A post office is a big deal in a small town. A couple of years ago the New Albany post office was detroyed by wind. The federal post office decided they didn't do enough business in town to warrant a replacement office, so they "took away" their post office status. This means that when you write a letter to a citizen of New Albany, you no longer address it to New Albany but to Fredonia. Essentially, this one piece of evidence that they still exist as a city, is gone.

Other towns are losing their post offices because they don't have enough revenue for the feds to justify their existence any longer. It's a business deal for the "deciders" in Washington D.C. In other words, it's extremely important that we buy as many stamps in small town post offices as possible!

The Norway, Kansas post office stayed open until Belva retired. She felt the pressure and stayed on until she was 90-something. Then, Norway no longer had a post office.

The last post office that doubled as a residence closed about two years ago in Pfeifer. And, when Carol retired, that was it for the Pfeifer post office, too.

You know how some post offices have really screwy hours? It's because revenue determines the hours. Don't blame the clerk. Revenue also determines the salary of the employees, the number of employees, and the quality of equipment. If you go into some small post offices, they still have the manual scales. Most now have the digital scales but if you see a clerk going back and forth with that thing that slides to determine the exact weight, you'll know it's because they don't have enough revenue to earn the fancy scale.

Revenue and "points." A post office gets points for things like the number of box holders, the number of bulk rate permits purchased from that post office, and the amount of mail sent out through that office.

We have our Explorer newsletters printed in McPherson but then we go pick them up and mail them through our local Inman post office so they can have that bulk rate permit.

One year we had a BYOLC (Bring your own Lawn Chair) event in Stark, population 105. We asked the post office clerk what their best revenue day had been. The answer was $250. So, we asked Explorers to get in there and beat the record. We did! In the end, we purchased almost $500 worth of stamps. The clerk was more than thrilled.

I try to buy stamps in quantity. Awhile back we stopped in Hardtner and bought over $100 worth of stamps. The clerk just beamed and said that made her whole week look great.

Lots of times these clerks are a great source of community information. You can ask for directions, recommendations, hours at the local cafe, or maybe you're looking for a long lost relative. Be aware that these are busy people but they'll probably get a little friendlier if you make a nice purchase. Whether you just buy ten stamps or a hundred stamps, the extra sales mean alot to this small post office.

Norwich, population 540 in Kingman County, has a community-run post office. It's the first one like it in the state. The post office is located in the hardware store, which also doubles as the grocery store. The hardware store clerk might sell you paint as easily as sell you stamps.

Some of these small post offices have great nostalgic value. Some have the old-fashioned gold-plated boxes. Some have the old teller cage with a wooden frame. Twenty post offices have Section Art murals. Some are in tiny buildings. Where are your old-fashioned favorites?

People ask 500 or less, absolutely need your business. The smaller the city, the more they need you. A city of 1,000 needs your business, too, but even a few extra stamps can make a huge difference in a small town. I went to one very small post office one day and asked how her day had gone. She had only sold a two cent stamp that day (and had to lend the guy the two pennies).

Some of my favorites post offices to shop in are Denton, Lost Springs, Crestline, Effingham, Rock, Bison, Palmer, but the list is truly endless. Get out there and find adventure at small post offices!

Helping out with the revenue is one way to Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harland on the move

Harland Schuster, a farmer/stockman from Morrill, Kansas is on one dandy adventure. The Kansas Sampler Foundation tabbed him to take pictures of the 216 entries that were involved in the nine 8 Wonders of Kansas contests. No small task.

Many of the photos will be in the 8 Wonders of Kansas book, a 288-page 9"x12" book that will debut April 16, 2010 at a reception for an 8 Wonders of Kansas exhibit at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene.

Want to see behind the scenes on this process? It's pretty interesting.

Harland will send his pictures to Liz King, my sister, who will pick which pictures should be in the book, as she is the designer. She has been commiserating about how hard it is to just pick a few of his excellent pictures. I think she'd like the book to be 600 pages so she could use more.

I made a spread sheet for Harland of all 216 places. I listed the city, county, region, address, hours, and then we talked about what kind of shots we wanted. He then sorted all this by county or region so he could make a schedule. He sends me his schedule maybe 2-5 days before he goes out and I make the photo arrangements with each place.

Harland's goal is to take pictures that not everyone else has already taken. Here are some examples of the kind of arrangements that need to be made, per Harland's requests.

  • Horse and rider at Castle Rock, Gove County and at Cimarron National Grassland, Elkhart.
  • 70' bucket truck lift for a different angle on Cooper Barn, Colby.
  • Airplane for aerial photographs of Mined Land Areas and Big Brutus, Cherokee County.
  • Fire department ladder to be over diver at Big Pool, Garden City.
  • Have maintenance man go on top of Chase County Courthouse to put up the flag.
  • Veteran and young boy to be at Eisenhower statue, Abilene.
  • Reenactors at Fort Larned and a lift to put him above the flag pole.
  • Bucket truck on a Sunday night in Lucas.
  • Access to the Masonic Center roof in Salina.
  • Train schedule and conductor's phone number to get train crossing Samson of the Cimarron bridge in Seward County.
  • A "Dorothy" at Dorothy's House in Liberal.
  • The three artists that worked on the Blue Sky Sculpture to be at the sculpture.
  • Kite flyers at Coronado Heights at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
  • Man to climb to the top of the Harper watertower for perspective. City had to bring out a bucket truck to get him to the first step.
  • Access to M.T. Liggett in his shop.
  • 5:30 a.m. access at Brookover Feedyard, Garden City.
  • Hunter in gear at 7 a.m. at Ringneck Ranch near Tipton.
  • All six chicken restaurants together in Crawford County (we got 5 anyway).
  • 83 kids and adults to stretch across Plains' widest main street in the U.S.
  • Access to Traditions Night at KU football stadium to capture the Rock Chalk cheer.
  • A teenage couple dressed in 1950s clothing sipping a soda together at the Clark soda fountain in Cimarron.
  • Kids hopscotching and blowing bubbles on the sidewalk at Franklin.
  • Bikers on the Prairie Spirit Trail near Richmond.
  • Hikers on the Elk River Hiking Trail.
  • Kids with pinwheels having fun on the rocks at Rock City near Minneapolis.
  • Kids looking at the exhibits at Sternberg and someone working on a fossil.
  • Gunfighters shooting right at him at Dodge City's Boot Hill.
  • Kids looking at outdoor sculptures at National Orphan Train Museum, Concordia.
  • A group of citizens at Nicodemus.
He didn't ask for the deer that magically arrived at Monument Rocks, the raccoon that came out at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge sign or the sailboats that were on Lake Scott. We had it lined up for him to be in the pace car at High Banks track in Belleville but he got bumped by the blonde that gives out the trophies. He asked for an ultralight aircraft to fly beside Coronado Heights and an airplane for him to be in. In the end, the thermals weren't right and the ultralight cancelled but we had it arranged!

Arrangements to be made yet are antique cars at Pillsbury Crossing, a helicopter over Blue Rapids round square, and just about anything else he can think of.

I can't even tell you about the 8 Wonders of Kansas People shots yet because we won't announce those finalists until September 9.

What makes it all possible is the people on the other end of the phone. Almost every call I've made, the person on the other end says they can make it happen. I know that it's been a hassle at times, other times kind of exciting. Newspapers have come to take pictures of Harland taking pictures. In the end, everyone will be darn proud.

These pictures will be used in the book and some of them will be used for the 8 Wonders exhibit at the Eisenhower Library (from January 29, 2011 through the summer). The collection of all 216 places, depicting different aspects of Kansas, shown in quality fashion is going to be pretty special. What a great way to help celebrate Kansas' sesquicentennial birthday.

Now, not every photographer could do this. It takes stamina, real interest, creativity, persistence, and ambition. Harland is often up at dawn and still has the camera in his hands at sunset. It helps that he is a Kansas Explorer, number 1261 in fact. He gets what we're looking for. His wife, Suzanne, keeps the home fires burning and makes the motel arrangements. Sometime, probably after corn harvest, he has to group all of these photos together and send them to Liz so she can continue to design the book.

We're about 75% done with photographing the 216 places so I have more arrangements to make. Harland has about 4-6 weeks to go yet on this project. He has to get done before the fall calves and hopefully before its time to combine the beans.

If you've been on the other end of my phone calls for these arrangements, I thank you. You've made these great shots possible. From Craig Hull in Pittsburg to Sue Taylor in Colby and Vienna Lee in Elkhart to the sexton at the Hiawatha Cemetery and every one in between, you're part of the team that will make this portrayal of Kansas simply magnificent.

I'm excited to help debut Harland's skills. I remember when he just started this "hobby." I could tell early on that he had what it took to become a super photographer. His work has appeared in Kansas! magazine and other places already but we'll be so proud to showcase his work in this book.

It takes a special kind of person to meet this kind of challenge. It takes cooperative efforts to get the bucket trucks, the models, and all the other necessary ingredients for the kind of pictures that will make every Kansan proud of their state.

The hard part in all this? Waiting until April 16, 2011 to share this book with you.

Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rural Kansas: Come and Get It!

I want to go to the rhubarb festival in Glasco and the meatloaf festival in Paxico.

I want to see the drinking fountain in Cawker City that the daughter of Harrison Cawker gave to the city in 1914. I don't really know if Harrison Cawker was a great man but I know he won a poker game and therefore got to name the city after himself!

I want to stay at the Silver Bell Motel in Longton because the website entry says that it has the reputation of being the cleanest and most inexpensive motel in existence. Wow. In existence! I've got to see that and I want to spend money to stay there.

I want to take my Dad to Piqua (Woodson County) on Tuesday and get him a haircut. That's the day the barber shop is open in the back of the Piqua Co-op.

Now you can find out about these kind of things and more on a website that makes its debut today! The website is

Representatives from 80 rural communities took two-day classes last summer to earn a page on this website and to learn tools needed to produce and populate a community page on this site. For now, you'll only see 40 communities in the drop down list. The others are still working on it. It takes a lot of time and many of these folks are volunteers or are overworked in their community capacity.

Go to this site. Play with it. Have fun learning about Kansas and make a list of places to go! Let us know if something isn't working or if there are any problems in navigating.

Also, when you click on a community, you'll find that many offer Facebook, Twitter, or blog connections. Become a Follower of your favorite towns. The idea is that these social networking devices will be used by the community to help the world "get" why and how we are who we are.

The website is just a start in a collective promotion called "Rural Kansas: Come and Get It." More to come down the line but for now, it's great fun to share this website!

I also want to give a big shout out to WenDee for helping in a zillion ways but mostly for helping with all the pictures, and to LogicMaze for creating this site and being so willingly helpful. Also, thanks to Patsy Terrell, Kathy Kajinami, and Cort Anderson for helping with the classes. And thanks to Regina, Becky and the state travel office for the grant that made this possible. It's been a great team effort.

Mostly, hats off to the rural community folks for making time to do this. Because of you, we can say, rural Kansas, it's a wonderful place to live and visit. Come and Get It!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Festival from the Inside


The Kansas Sampler Festival will take place Saturday, May 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, May 2 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Venue is Ray Miller Park, 4201 S. 4th Street, Leavenworth. A neat opening ceremony will take place on Saturday at 9 a.m.

I like to call it the kick-off event for the 2010 exploring season. More than 300 exhibitors will be there to inspire you to explore Kansas! You'll be swimming in day trip ideas when you leave and you'll be happily filled to the brim with Kansas pride. You'll hear Kansas music, eat Kansas foods, buy Kansas products, and talk to lots of Kansans about their favorite nooks and crannies in the state.


Bob Topping of Leavenworth started laying the groundwork for Leavenworth County to host this festival many years ago. By the time the Kansas Sampler Foundation held the informational meeting for potential hosts in January 2008, Bob had already been setting forth plans. Keyta Kelly was tapped as the director. She orchestrated the effort to complete the preliminary application and the rigorous final app. The KSF board went to Leavenworth for a site visit and interview before officially granting the festival to Leavenworth County in the fall of 2008. By the time the 2009 festival rolled around in Concordia, Bob, Keyta, and her two daughters, Kaitlyn and Rachel, came early during prep week to pitch in and learn the ropes.

Since then, there have been some unexpected twists and turns but everything is looking great for a strong 2010 Kansas showcase. The public will view the many tents and exhibitors as if they had been magically planted there. They'll miss seeing the craziness of set-up when volunteers unload 325 exhibitors and help transport booth materials to their designated areas.

The public won't see the months and months of long hours and endless details of getting everyone registered, marketing, finding sponsors, producing the festival guide, and answering a thousand different questions. Parking and parkers, security and fencing, tent ordering and layout are just a few of the details. Straw bales, picnic tables, electricity and water have to be brought in to the park. It seems that every one of the 325 exhibitors has a different set of needs and all must be attended to. Who will staff the admission gate, the information booth, and who will pick up trash? How many port-o-pots are needed, how many food vendors, and how do we convey the message to buy all supplies from locally-owned businesses?

Volunteers have to be trained, signs need to be made, fence posts need to be pounded in for the community flag lane. Plans must be coordinated with sound technicians, electricians, and EMTs.

That's just the life of the host.


Exhibitors all over the state have been planning their booths, performances, food, or products for months, too. Authors must make sure to have enough books on hand. Artists are creating. Entrepreneurs, wineries, and Kansas breweries are producing extra inventory. Promoters are making brochures and figuring out a display that will get the public's attention. After all, there will be competition for getting noticed...

BUT COME MAY 1 and 2 adrenalin will kick in and we'll all be excited to be a collective force in sharing what's great about Kansas.

By now, our Leavenworth County hosts might be wondering if it's all worth it, but once the music begins at the opening ceremony and the communities come marching up the lane with their flags, goosebumps will serve notice that all the work, all the sleepless nights, and all the persistence and endurance was worth it.

Due to Leavenworth County and the hundreds of local people and statewide enthusaists involved, thousands will see Kansas with new eyes -- and will make plans to go out and around Kansas. New professional relationships will be started, networks strengthened. Products, art, and books will be happily sold. Musicians and historic performers will get bookings, sell CDs, and find appreciation for their talents. Food vendors will serve us well.

And maybe best of all, rural and urban will seamlessly come together. Under these tents will be one Kansas. If you aren't able to come, just step out your door and look towards northeast Kansas. You're likely to catch a glimpse of some mighty good energy filling the Kansas sky.

May 1-2, Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Capitals of Kansas list helps us know towns!

What good is a list? Let's find out. Let's see if this list of "Capitals of Kansas" helps you learn something about Kansas or makes you curious enough to want to go visit the place!
Here's the list as compiled by the Kansas Sampler Foundation. The designations have either gone through a legislative process or through a Kansas Sampler Foundation process.

Air Capital, Wichita
Allis Chalmers Capital, Washington
Art Treasures Capital, Oswego
Barbed Wire Capital, LaCrosse
Bass Fishing Capital, WaKeeney
Bean Feed Capital, Erie
Black Squirrel Capital, Marysville
Bluebird Capital, Johnson County
Brome Grass Capital, Holton
Carnival Heritage Capital, Kinsley
Catfish Capital, Chetopa and Coffey County
Comic Book Capital, Morland
Covered Dish Capital, Windom
Cow Chip Capital, Russell Springs
Cowboy Boot Capital, Olathe
Cowboy Capital, Dodge City
Cutting Horse Capital, Garden City
Czech Capital, Wilson
Drovers Capital, Ellsworth County
Earthquake Capital, Palco
Fishing Capital, Geary County
Fossil Capital, Geary County
Fossil Capital, Oakley
Fried Chicken Capital, Pittsburg
German Capital, Ellis County
Goose Capital, Kirwin
Grassroots Art Capital, Lucas
Greyhound Capital, Abilene
Halloween Capital, Hiawatha
Hamburger Capital, Phillips County
Historic Barn Capital, Doniphan County
Homestead Literature Capital, Osborne County
Horse Racing Capital, Eureka
Light Capital, McPherson
Lustron Home Capital, Great Bend
Milo Capital, Beattie
Mural Capital, Winfield
Museum Capital, Abilene
Natural Gas Capital, Hugoton
Original Jayhawker Capital, Mound City
Ornate Box Turtle Capital, Caldwell
Outhouse Capital, Elk Falls
Pancake Capital, Liberal
Peach Capital, Haysville
Pecan Capital, Chetopa
Pheasant Capital, Norton
Pie Capital, Washington
Pinto Bean Capital, Leoti
Plow Capital, Kingman
Post Rock Capital, Lincoln County
Prairie Chicken Capital, Cassoday
Prairie Hay Capital, Yates Center
Printing Capital, Girard
Purple Martin Capital, Parsons
Rocking Chair Capital, Cuba
Spinach Capital, Lenexa
Stained Glass Capital, Cloud County
Stock Trailer Capital, Waterville
Stone Bridge Capital, Cowley County
Storytelling Capital, Downs
Sunflower Capital, Goodland
Sunshine Capital, WaKeeney
Terra Cotta Capital, Salina
The Capital, Topeka
Threshing Show Capital, Jefferson County
Trails Capital, Marshall County
Water Sports Capital, Osage County
Watermelon Capital, Clyde & Thayer
Wheat Capital, Sumner County
White Tail Deer Capital, Longton
Wind Farm Capital, Montezuma
Wiper Fish Capital, Norton County
The newest capital of Kansas is Marshall County - the Trails Capital of Kansas! They went through the Kansas Sampler Foundation process which consists of sending facts in bullet points to prove that the nominee deserves the designation. The news appeared on the front page of the latest We Kan! newsletter and a news release will be sent out in the next few days. To read those bullet points, click here.
Now, the big question. Did the list help you "Get Kansas" or help you learn something? Designations are great at helping identify special characteristics in Kansas cities. Which "capital" made you most curious?
KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Kansas Day!

I love this day. Love concentrating on the great state we live in.

To me, it's the little things that make it great. Things like...

...putting my foot on the brass rail at Brant's Meat Market and chatting with Doug before I buy some sausage

...shouting my name at Echo Cliff (near Dover) and hear it come bouncing back

...sticking my toes in the clear waters at Shoal Creek at Schermerhorn Park and closing my eyes to imagine early-day Route 66 travelers stopping here to do the same

...climbing to the crest of Point of Rocks at Cimarron National Grassland and imagining Santa Fe Trail wagons coming in to view

...standing beside the Brewster Higley cabin north of Athol and running my fingers over the words to his poem (now state song) etched on the side of the cabin

...tracing the outline of home plate at Walter Johnson's country birth site near Humboldt

...climbing the steep path to the top of the bluff on the Kansas/Nebraska line near White Cloud to find the survey marker

...staring in awe at the Father Kapaun memorial near the church at Pilsen and thinking of the love and compassion he gave his fellow POW's

...walking inside the St. Mary's Church at St. Benedict for the predictable jaw-dropping view

...having a picnic at the base of the Monument Rocks

...swinging on the tree swings at the Hays city cemetery

...taking the trail below the iron truss bridge at Elk Falls to splash around on the big flat stones

...going in to any small town and just talking to the people.

I adore what this state offers in its architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people. It's the total package. It's won my heart a million times and I look forward to enjoy every step of the journey yet to come.

Where do you want explore this year?

To explore the state is to "get" her, is to love her.

Happy Kansas Day.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Symbols of Kansas

Feel free to cut and paste this and use it as you wish
to help celebrate Kansas Day, January 29

On January 29, 186, President James Buchanan signed the bill that admitted Kansas as the 34th state. This was one of the precipitating events that led to the Civil War. Three months after Kansas became a state, the first shots of the Civil War broke out at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

It was a painstaking process for Kansas to become a state. In 1858, James Buchanan recommended that the Lecompton Constitution be adopted for Kansas, which would have allowed slavery in the state. Congress voted it down. Battles, massacres, deception, angst, fiery speeches, arson, and passionate pleas are just a few of the events that occurred to gain statehood as a free state. Kansas state seal, adopted 1861. On May 25, 1861, the Kansas State Legislature adopted the state's seal.

Kansas state flower: Wild Native Sunflower, adopted 1903.
Nearly 3,000 years ago, the sunflower was domesticated for food production by the Native Americans.

Kansas state bird: Western Meadowlark, adopted Kansas Day 1925.
The Western Meadowlark was selected the state bird after a vote by over 121,000 school children. Western Meadowlarks are ground nesters and ground feeders.

Kansas state flag, adopted 1927.
First flown at Fort Riley by Governor Ben Paulin for the troops at Fort Riley and for the Kansas National Guard and officially adopted by the Kansas State Legislature on May 21, 1927.

Kansas state march: The Kansas March, adopted 1935 and Here’s Kansas, adopted 1992.
Duff Middleton wrote the music for “The Kansas March” and it was adopted by the legislature in 1935. Bill Post of Geuda Springs wrote the words and music for “Here’s Kansas” which was adopted as a second Kansas state March in 1992.

Kansas state tree: Eastern Cottonwood, adopted 1937.
Cottonwoods can be either male or female. It is the fluffy white seeds produced by the females during early summer that give the tree its name.

Kansas state song: Home on the Range, adopted 1947.
Dr. Brewster M. Higley originally wrote the words in a poem called "My Western Home" in the early 1870s in Smith County. The music was written by a friend of Higley's named Daniel E. Kelley.

Kansas state animal: American Bison, adopted 1955.
A single herd of bison in 1871 located southwest of what is now Dodge City was carefully estimated to have over 4 million members! Bison bulls may weigh a ton, cows top out around 1,100 pounds. They can run 35 MPH for long distances.

Kansas state insect: Honeybee, adopted 1976.
There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees.

Kansas state reptile: Ornate Box Turtle, adopted 1986.
The word "ornate" means elaborately decorated. The 1985-86 6th grade class in Caldwell, Kansas did a massive campaign to get the ornate box turtle named state reptile.

Kansas state soil: Harney Silt Loam, adopted 1990.
Harney soils are recognized as prime farmland and have excellent properties for producing food and fiber crops. These soils occur on about 4 million acres in west-central Kansas.

Kansas state amphibian: Barred Tiger Salamander, adopted 1994.
The Barred Tiger Salamander are the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world – up to 14 inches in length.

Knowing our Kansas symbols help us "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do you know all the words to "Home on the Range"?

Happy Kansas Day Week!

In 1947 the state legislature adopted "Home on the Range" as our state song. The words were written by Brewster Higley in his cabin in 1871 or 1872 and the music was composed by Dan Kelly, who lived in southern Smith County for awhile.

If you are looking for a perfect way to commemorate Kansas Day you might travel to Smith County to Mr. Higley's cabin on Beaver Creek. The cabin is located on private property but we all have permission to walk around the (deteriorating) cabin and read the words to the song on the side of the building. Hopefully you can pick up a brochure which tells the whole fascinating story about how the song came to be.
The cabin is located 8 miles north of Athol on K-8, then 1 mile west. Follow the mile-long, narrow driveway to the 1872 cabin and former home of Brewster Higley.

When you stand by his cabin you'll understand why he wrote the words.

He didn't know he was writing words to "Home on the Range" but rather a poem called "My Western Home."

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.

A home, a home where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.

Oh, give me the gale of the Solomon vale,
Where life streams with buoyancy flow,
On the banks of the Beaver, where seldom if ever
Any poisonous herbage doth grow.

Oh, give me the land where the bright diamond sand
Throws its light from the glittering stream
Where glideth along the graceful white swan,
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.

I love the wild flowers in this bright land of ours;
I love too the wild curley's scream,
The bluffs and white rocks and antelope flocks
That graze on the hillsides so green.

How often at night, when the heavens are bright
With the light of the glittering stars,
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds this of ours.

The air is so pure, the breezes so free,
The zephyrs so balmy and light,
I would not exchange my home here to range
Forever in azure so bright.

To stand here and softly sing the song to yourself is to "Get Kansas."

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, January 11, 2010

The 24 Geography finalists according to physiographic region

Greetings to the World!

Today I am going to share with you 24 of the most unique geographical sites in Kansas -- in fact, they are the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography! And, indeed, they are a fine representation of the diversity of Kansas.

In fact, raise your hand if you've heard of the eleven physiographic regions of Kansas. Ah, I don't see many hands up. The Sci-Tec online dictionary defines a physiographic region as "a landform considered with regard to its origin, cause, or history."

So, here's your geography lesson for today. I'll list the 24 finalists under descriptions of the physiographic regions. Note that some finalists fit into more than one region. Region descriptions come from information on the Kansas State (KDOT) map and the hyperlink takes you to more detailed information at the Kansas Geological Survey site.

ARKANSAS RIVER LOWLANDS: The river that produced the Royal Gorge 240 miles to the west cuts the High Plains of southwest Kansas, leaving sand and gravel deposits, irregular hills, and sand dunes over a wide area.
  • *Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Plaine
  • Brenham Meteorites (the meteorites happened to fall hear), near Haviland
CHAUTAUQUA HILLS: A sandstone-capped rolling upland that extends into the Osage Cuestas from the southern Kansas border. Approximately 10 miles wide.
  • Cross Timbers State Park, near Toronto
CHEROKEE LOWLANDS: Bituminous coal veins are near the surface in this region where thousands of acres have been strip-mined.
  • Mined Land Wildlife Area, Cherokee, Crawford & Labette counties
FLINT HILLS: Stretching north and south across the state, this is an area of beautiful scenery and unexcelled pasture land. Elevation differences vary from 100-400 feet. The area is named for the chert or flint rock that covers the bluestem slopes.
  • Konza Prairie, Manhattan
  • Native Stone Scenic Byway, Wabaunsee & Shawnee counties
  • *Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area, near Manhattan
HIGH PLAINS: This region comprises almost all of the western one-third of the state. It is an area of vast flatlands and gently rolling hills, with topographic relief largely restricted to streams and river valleys.
  • Arikaree Breaks, Cheyenne County
  • *Big Basin Prairie Preserve, Clark County
  • Cimarron National Grassland, Morton County
  • Lake Scott State Park, Scott County
  • Mount Sunflower, Wallace County
GLACIATED REGION: This area is bounded by the Kansas and Blue rivers. There are rounded hills and broad valleys with glacial deposits of quartzite on some of the hills.
  • Alcove Spring, near Blue Rapids
  • Four-State Lookout, White Cloud
  • Kaw Point Park, Kansas City
OSAGE QUESTAS: This is a hill-plain or broad-terrace panorama with the eastern slopes of the hills steeper than the western slopes. These is a plentiful limestone supply here.
  • Elk River Hiking Trail, western Montgomery County
  • Native Stone Scenic Byway, Wabaunsee & Shawnee counties
  • *Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area, near Manhattan
OZARK PLATEAU: The Ozark region begins in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas. Crinoids, trilobites, and other fossils may be found in this area.
  • Schermerhorn Park, near Galena
RED HILLS: Located along the state's south central boundary, this province has sandstone and shale stained red. Also included are areas of rugged hills, buttes, and mesas.
  • *Big Basin Prairie Preserve Preserve, Clark County
  • Gyp Hills Scenic Drive & Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, Barber & Comanche counties
SMOKY HILLS: There are three hill ranges. Dakota sandstone makes up the first hill range. Greenhorn limestone makes up the middle hill range, an area known as Post Rock Country. The third range, chalk bluffs in the Smoky Hill River valley, produced some astonishing rock formations in Logan and Gove counties. A large sea once covered the area. Fossils found in the rock made the area famous for paleontology studies.
  • Coronado Heights, near Lindsborg
  • Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States, Lebanon
  • Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, near Canton
  • Mushroom Rock, Ellsworth County and Rock City, Minneapolis
  • Post Rock Scenic Byway, Ellsworth, Lincoln & Russell counties
  • Sternberg Natural History Museum, Hays
WELLINGTON-MCPHERSON LOWLANDS: Permeable sand and gravel and a large quantity of high-quality water in the Equus beds underlie some of this area. Salt mines and marshes are nearby.
  • *Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Plaine
*on the cusp of a region

I'm not sure about Kaw Point Park. Should it be in the Glacial Hills region or Osage Cuestas?

If you're lucky enough to have a 2003-2004 Kansas State (KDOT) map, the whole state will be color coded showing the regions. In more recent years, there is a small section on the map that shows these color coded regions.

Have fun getting to know the diversity of Kansas geography!

And, make sure to vote for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography.

The contests are designed to help you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner