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, marci@kansassampler.org. 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!