It’s finally stopped snowing, and the rains have come, and the kids are getting out of school. You’re starting to plan your summer vacation. Part of our mission is to encourage Kansans to get out and learn more about our state, so we’ve put together a new travel episode series (that we’ll post every once in awhile) that allows you to listen to locals share places to see and things to do in their towns in order to give you ideas for your travel plans. For summer 2019, we are going to highlight 3 great towns for a summer vacation: Hays, Dodge City, and Manhattan.
In our first episode, we talk with Melissa Dixon, Executive Director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau. There are lots of things to do in Hays, and it makes a great base camp to explore the surrounding attractions. Whether you visit Fort Hays to see how the soldiers lived before there was I-70 to get us across the plains, or the world famous Sternberg museum for its amazing fossil collection, or spend the day at the aquatic park, you’ll enjoy yourself in Hays. If you go to Hays this summer, share pictures with us on our Facebook Page!
Hays Tourism Website
Gella’s Diner and LB Brewery
Hays Aquatic Park
On The Bricks
Larks Baseball Games
Hays Art Walk
Wild West Festival
Ellis County Fair
Tour die Kapellen
Side Trips from Hays:
Cathedral of the Plains
David Hanzlick is a native Kansan who has written a book titled Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality: Women’s Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940. Most of us have forgotten that the women’s movement started long before we started burning our bras in the 1960s. In the early days of Kansas City —when we were still a frontier town and a newly forming society— the women of Kansas City had a national voice in the push for equality under the guise of moral reform. This was the generation that brought child labor laws to the mainstream, introduced the concept of public kindergartens, and was successful in getting women seated on school boards for the first time.
We should never take for granted today the hard fought progressive milestones won in the days when Kansas City was beginning to be a railroad hub for the nation. David has brought together the story of how these women fought for equality, with the objective of ensuring a safe and positive home environment for their families.
[Update and disclosure: During the interview of David, Rachel mentions her (then upcoming) plans to climb Mount Sunflower as part of the 2019 Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT). Due to two serious events affecting two different family members, she and Geoff were unable to attend the 2019 BKRT and they have yet to climb Mount Sunflower. A travel scheme meant to rectify this situation is being developed.]
Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality - Women's Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940
Belleville High Banks Track
North Central Kansas Free Fair
Works Progress Administration
Worlds Largest Concrete Prairie Dog – now closed, but check out Prairie Dog State Park instead
Pawnee Indian Museum
Carrie Nation Home in Medicine Lodge
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
Angie Pickman is a Kansas artist with a national reputation. Angie imagines and creates artwork in her Lawrence studio that is a modern twist on the traditional Chinese art form of paper cutting. Her love of nature is front and center in her work and growing up in Kansas provided her with a wealth of inspiration. In this Uncovering Kansas episode, Rachel talks with Angie about her round trip journey from Kansas to New York. While travelling her creative path Angie built both her talent and her fanbase, her career flourishes as a result. Rachel and Angie discuss how several stereotypes about Kansas aren't true.To learn more about Angie, please visit her website, Rural Pearl.
Other things we talked about:
An Example of Lotte Reiniger’s work
Lawrence Art Walk
The Sallie House – Haunted Home
Amelia Earhart Birthplace
The Smallest Presidential Library
Chalk Pyramids (aka Monument Rocks)
Andy Wise found himself unmotivated by the conference rooms at his office filled with blank walls. He longed to see whiteboards at his workplace covered in art. A trip to his local library gave him an idea to create a robot that could be attached to the white board and draw whatever picture it was asked to draw.
And, so Andy created what he calls a drawing robot.
He is an example of someone participating in the Maker Movement – a DIY movement that started to gain momentum in 2005. Technology is often a component of this movement but it doesn’t have to be. We discuss Maker Spaces, locations designed for people to come together and work on projects. There are many of these found across Kansas: Andy refers to the Johnson County Library Makerspace in Overland Park. (Other examples are MakeICT in Wichita, and 712 Innovations in Topeka, and Fort Hays State Makerspace in the Forsyth Library.)
Listeners with certain Kansas interests, will note my conversation with Andy Wise includes the following:
Liberty Hall, Lawrence Kansas
Kansas State Fair
John Steuart Curry
If you want to see the drawing robot in action, check out these links:
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.
On this episode, we uncover a unique program in Johnson County Kansas that enables and encourages commercial art-making by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Papercrete Works is a program created by Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS) that marries art, commerce, and recycling to create an opportunity for clients of JCDS to earn an hourly wage. I learned of the program’s existence when I visited their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse.
The term Papercrete is used to describe a mixture of cement, water, and recycled paper that gets poured into molds to make flower pots, picture frames, paperweights, decorative bowls, and other art objects. The process requires a wide range of skill sets, and allows people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to put their skills to work for an hourly wage. Some people shred the recycled paper, some mix the concrete, others fill the molds, use fine motor skills to paint the items, and even learn sales and marketing skills when the items are sold at art shows or other events.
One of my goals for Uncovering Kansas is to help educate Kansans about interesting and innovative things going on in Kansas and to start conversations that discuss and challenge stereotypes. And I think Papercrete Works art studio does this. There are many ways to look at programs like this, but as soon as I walked into the Papercrete Works art studio, I knew this would be an enlightening interview for me. I sat down with Micah Wickstrom, Ben Koontz, Jaimie Cureton, and Deb Bartholomew to talk about the program. Michah is the Papercrete Works Program Coordinator, Deb is a JCDS Team Lead, and both Ben and Jaimie are clients of JCDS who are working for Papercrete Works.
I enjoyed learning about the success the program is having in just 2 ½ years. The program assists people like Ben and Jaime with necessary skills development to participate in the the community. To learn more about the program, check out their website. If you are in Johnson County, their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse is on the 3rd Friday of each month.
The podcast about culture, travel, people, history, and enterprise in Kansas.