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

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