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
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:
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.
Kansas is known, often infamously so, as a flat state. For those of us who have done some exploring, we know that isn’t true. There are plenty of flat stretches, certainly. But there are also areas where the hills undulate and take your breath away. The Flint Hills are spread across the central part of Kansas, and Manhattan is situated toward the upper end the expanse. In this episode, we will talk with Eric Doran, who has spent the last 10 years exploring the Flint Hills. Eric shares some of his favorite places to visit in and around Manhattan for those who love to explore nature and take in the beauty Kansas offers.
Manhattan may not be Hollywood, but it does have a similar sign, right at the top of Manhattan Hill, or Blue Mont Hill. Hike up to the top of this hill for a great view of the Flint Hills.
Though not a name anyone would expect for a Kansas location, Top of the World is another place you can hike to see the surrounding views of Manhattan and the Flint Hills. These well groomed trails are easily accessible, and the trail is a fantastic way to enjoy the company of your dog.
A visit to the Konza Prairie Biological Station gives you a chance to see how the tall grass prairie is being studied and preserved by the Nature Conservancy and K-State’s Division of Biology. This joint venture is primarily focused on long-term ecological research, prairie preservation, and education, but they offer hiking trails open to the public, so everyone has a chance to experience the prairie first hand. The trails range from 2.6 to 6.2 miles and are considered moderate due to the occasional steep climb.
Linear Park Trail is a loop around the city of Manhattan and offers the most urban trail covered in this episode. This is a great option for bikers and joggers since it is about a 9-mile loop.
Manhattan River Trail is a 5.4-mile loop that runs along the river. It is a great option for mountain bikers, but is also good for hiking. It is considerate a moderate trail due to the terrain along the river.
Pillsbury Crossing will give you the chance to see something you don’t see often in Kansas – a waterfall. This is a beautiful wildlife area that is situated at a low river crossing area – a section of a river that is low and allows for crossing of vehicles and, in the good old days, wagons. While you are here, check out the Deep Creek Schoolhouse, build in 1892.
If you want an education in the Flint Hills check out the Flint Hills Discovery Center, whose mission is to inspire people to celebrate, explore, and care for the Flint Hills, a moving landscape Kansas hosts.
If you want to be guaranteed to be surrounded by animals, then Sunset Zoo is a great option and can enjoy both Flint Hills flora and fauna.
The Gardens at Kansas State University offers the opportunity to visit a botanical garden right in the heart of the Flint Hills. The garden gives students the opportunity to develop, maintain, and operate a world class botanical garden and is open to the public.
Liquid Art Winery grows grapes in the Flint Hills, and it is a great place in Manhattan to wind down after a long day exploring nature. Sit outdoors and watch the sun setting below the hills while enjoying a glass of wine.
If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, you can zipline through the Flint Hills at Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park.
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.
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.
The podcast about culture, travel, people, history, and enterprise in Kansas.