The Kansas Sampler Foundation is dedicated to connecting Kansans across rural communities. One way they do this is through the Big Kansas Road Trip. This happens May 2-5 in 2019, and the Road Trip will be in Cheyenne, Sherman, and Wallace counties in northwest Kansas. Here’s how Marci Penner, founder of the Kansas Sampler Foundation describes the event. “Create your own adventure at your own pace the same day that other people are doing the same thing.”
The Big Kansas Road Trip website
Cheyenne County Kansas website
Sherman County Kansas website
Wallace County Kansas website
Kansas Guidebook for Explorers
In 2018, we recorded 2 episodes about our experience during the 2018 Big Kansas Road Trip. Check them out:
2018 BKRT Highlights
2018 BKRT – The Experience
Once upon a time…
That’s a classic way to begin a story. And it’s the right way to begin this episode.
We’re certain listeners will uncover something interesting about this Kansas event. Please note that this year’s event is scheduled for April 26 and 27, 2019.
Kansas Storytelling Festival website
This mini-episode contains on-location interview with Wichita native and Kansas City Developer Dan Clothier, who gave us a tour of the Cedar Point Mill during the Chase County Christmas event (see episode 10). Cedar Point Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most fascinating buildings Geoff recalls ever having come across (Kansas is not immediately thought of as a place of old millhouses constructed of stone). The structure needs restoration. Learn about the process and efforts to restore this piece of history. And if interested in contributing to the efforts, you can donate through the Cedar Point Mill website. More about the history of the Cedar Point Mill, here.
Note: in the episode, I refer to Dan as a volunteer, but he is also the owner of the mill.
In November 2017, on Small Business Saturday, the Saturday during Thanksgiving weekend, we took a day trip to Chase County for their Country Christmas Festival. It was the community’s official Christmas season kick-off. Here’s a fun fact: The very first recordings we did for this podcast are in this episode! We needed to practice. More importantly we knew we’d return to Cottonwood Falls in November 2018—the journey and experience was worth an episode. We’ve appended and updated these first recordings with an interview Rachel did with Toni Schneider, Chase County Chamber of Commerce Outreach Coordinator, in late October 2018. Toni and Rachel discuss details for this year’s celebration. There is a lot happening in Chase County on November 23 and 24 for kids and adults, including the Ugly Sweater 5k Run, the Holiday Home Tour, Arts and Craft Shows, Silent Auction, a visit from Santa, and the parade.
Please listen to the episode, we think you’ll enjoy it. And we hope you not only consider supporting small businesses during the holiday season but that you’ll consider visiting and supporting smaller communities as well. If you live in northeastern Kansas, Chase County is an easy and accessible drive from the suburbs and the community’s Christmas Festival is a great way to spend a day with family and friends.
Links to some key mentions in the episode:
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Ad Astra Restaurant
Grand Central Hotel
Chase County Christmas
While on the Big Kansas Road Trip, I came up with an idea to set up a pop-up restaurant in small towns in Kansas that can't support a wide variety or large number of restaurants. I think it would be fun, but can't pull it off by myself. So if you are interested in joining the effort to establish a pop-up restaurant in Kansas small towns, let me know by sending me a note through the form. We won't use this information for anything else.
This is the second episode of the 3-part series about the 2018 Big Kansas Road Trip. (Part 1 may be found below and the Part 3 is pending.) This episode focuses on the experience we had on the trip. Specifically, the people we (Geoff and I) met. As a reminder, the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) is hosted by the Kansas Sampler Foundation – whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities. And the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) is a multi-day event where people are encouraged to explore 3 Kansas counties that have been selected by Kansas Sampler Foundation.
In the background of the BKRT is a vibe. There’s a rhythm of hospitality offering a consistent experience not typically available to travelers. Because these small towns were expecting visitors from all across Kansas, they were ready and willing to engage. People from Kansas are friendly – but this was more than saying hello as you passed each other on the sidewalk. They were there to represent their town and to talk to strangers and engage in conversations usually reserved for your closest friends.
As suburbanites Geoff and I are aware we are inexperienced about the daily workings of ranch life. Luckily Marti —who manages a ranch— was available to answer questions. The price of admission? The chance to have a great conversation. Living in a rural community has its challenges and we had a great conversation about these. She opened a corner of the ranch to BKRT participants and set up a snack bar for hungry travelers, a port-a-potty, and a photo station with the Gypsum Hills as the background. These may sound simple but they were important to road weary travelers in need of stretching legs.
We met Jack —a man from Mullinville in his 80s. He’s a musician and gave Geoff an impromptu lesson. These type of situations are wonderful and rare because too often travelers just blow on through small towns on their way to some destination. Every person participating in the BKRT did so for the experience. That created social spaces —rare folds of space and time— that allowed intentional interactions. Fellow travelers shared road stories. Visitors were given permission to ask questions. And locals were on hand to talk about their town and share stories (Geoff learned of a ghost story whose setting provided him with some inspiration). We had a wonderful experience.
(Here is a link to the Big Kansas Road Trip Facebook Page)
This is the first in a three-episode series about the Big Kansas Road Trip.
2018 was the inaugural year for the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT), a cultural event conceived by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities.
Three Kansas counties and a specific weekend were chosen as the official venue and timeframe for the BKRT. The 2018 counties were Barber, Comanche, and Kiowa, located in the south-central region of Kansas. The towns within the designated counties rolled out the red carpet for visitors, who explored the area and interacted with locals to get firsthand accounts of places, history and legends. This episode is about the highlights from the trip.
A not-to-be-missed highlight of this region is the Gypsum Hills. The 42-mile Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway drive that spans from Medicine Lodge to Coldwater on US60 will change your idea about the geography of Kansas and will take your breath away.
Uncovering Kansas recommends visiting the Chief Theatre, on the National Register of Historical Places, when visiting the town of Coldwater. The mural on the inside of the lobby was painted in 1947 by Don Nichols. And nearby Protection, Kansas is home to the Stan Herd art gallery. This internationally known agricultural artist is a Kansas native and the gallery includes several his works, including drawings from his days in high school.
Greensburg, Kansas is a destination itself. After being destroyed completely in 2007 by a massive tornado, the town rebuilt from scratch. And when they incorporated green tech concepts and construction that resulted in a green community that includes many LEED Certified buildings. One of these buildings is the 547 Art Center, a creativity and community space that opened about a year after the tornado.
M.T. Liggett left his mark on the town of Mullinville, Kansas. The American folk artist used metals and other farm implements to make sculptures that communicate his strong opinions.
In this episode we uncover an innovation approach to solving one of the issues facing our foster care system. (Note: the podcast is an abridged version of the interview.)
The foster care system in Kansas is facing some pretty big challenges. With about 7,600 children in foster care in Kansas, there are only about 2,700 approved foster families. This means that a lot of foster children are sleeping in a different location every night, or in the foster care offices on couches or cots.
Sarah Oberndorfer has come up with a plan to help address this issue by creating a community of foster homes in Basehor, Kansas, called Joy Meadows. By creating a neighborhood where all of the homes are foster families, there is a built-in support structure that will reduce foster family burnout, increase capacity for foster children, and ensure more siblings get to stay together. In addition, the neighborhood will have a community center that will allow social services to come to the families, reducing the amount of time spent driving to and from appointments.
On this episode of Uncovering Kansas, we talk to Sarah about foster care and her plan for Joy Meadows. We think that you’ll learn a lot about the state of foster care in Kansas and find that another innovative Kansan has come up with a great idea to help improve the system.
To learn more about Joy Meadows, please visit the Joy Meadows website.
In this episode of Uncovering Kansas, we talk with Kate McNair, Managing Editor of Elementia Literary Magazine, a publication written, edited, and produced completely by teens.
In this episode of Uncovering Kansas, we talk with Mike Paget, the founder of Green Guitar Folk House, a music series in Lenexa, KS that brings national touring singer songwriters into an intimate venue for people who love music.
The podcast about culture, travel, people, history, and enterprise in Kansas.