Sunday, September 27, 2009

From Farmer's Market to Scottish Festival to Corn Maze in One Weekend

Let's face it - I needed to get out of town for the weekend, and my sister Sue was bored and wanted somebody to do something with.  So on Friday evening, September 25th, I headed to Salina for a weekend of seeing what we could find to entertain ourselves.  We ended up with no less than eight really cool things. 

But then, we are easy to entertain!

(1) First on the weekend agenda:  get up early on Saturday morning, September 26th, and visit Salina's Farmer's Market on its second-to-last weekend for the year.  Really fresh vegetables at a reasonable price were nothing to sneeze at - nor were the steaks, pork chops, and watermelon.  A good time was had by all; so much we went home to deposit our booty and came right back for more!

(2) Then it was 9:00AM and time to hit the annual book sale at the Salina Public Library.  I came away with everything from Reader's Digest: Great Biographies to Old Santa Fe: The History of New Mexico's Ancient Capital to The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  The last is everything you ever imagined it to be.

(3) To the west of Salina the cowtown of Ellsworth was throwing a Cowtown Festival, which sounded like it might be worth a visit.  We arrived in town at 12:10PM and decided that we had best eat first and then tackle the Festival.  So we headed for KC's Cafe on the north end of Ellsworth, across from the state penitentiary.  As we parked the car the bear of a cook came out the front door, glared at us, spit into an old coal bin by the side of the door, and disappeared back inside.  You gotta admit, the place was already showing plenty of atmosphere in terms of location and colorful characters.

And then the food!  Sue ordered a hot ham sandwich, and it was no thin slivers of ham, but hot, succulent hunks that I was enviously told did indeed taste evenl better than it looked and smelled.  Myself I ordered the buffalo burger and fries, and did my very best to devour them as fast as I could.  The bear of a cook needn't continue to glare at us from the kitchen as he did indeed continue to do; we were won over.  Attention, all Kansas Explorer Club members:  KC's Cafe, open Tuesday thru Saturday 7AM-2PM & 5PM-9PM, and Sundays 7AM-2PM.  Try it.  You WILL like it.

(4) After that satisfying lunch we figuring on heading downtown and taking in a few of the no doubt many Festival events, only to discover that there were virtually no major events scheduled from noon through 3:00PM.  Sigh.  So following a jaunt through the Ellsworth Antique Mall  and a couple of other Explorer-type haunts we folded back into the car and started back east to Salina on Kansas Highway 140.

(5) Only to discover along the way something to soothe our disappointed Explorer souls - several llamas enjoying an nice day at a farm pond and dam.   Still an odd site in the Sunflower State, the llamas had to share the pasture with a burro that lay curled and contented on the far side of the pond to the left in both of the above pictures.


(6) The day was not over, as we later headed for supper at Salina's Napoli's Italian Restaurant on South Ohio Street.  Really fresh rolls, pasta, Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin crooning in the background.  Highly recommended!

(7) Then it was up again on Sunday, September 27th, and with my niece Katie in tow with us, we took a drive south on Interstate 35 to McPherson for the annual Scottish Festival, often reported to be one of the top 100 small town events in all of America.  It was a perfect day to take in the sights and the ongoing Highland Games.   The two competitors above were trying to heave an iron ball over the high bar. 

Later the McPherson Pipes Band paraded on the Parade Ground to the delight of the crowd. 

They were followed by the annual Dogs on Parade.  If you had a dog, you got to show it off.

Being a true Explorer, I took it upon myself to try a Haggis Pup - a sausage made from the official food of Scotland. 

Okay, so after two or three chews I was considering that this might NOT have been the best choice to make . . . but I persevered and can now say that I have tried it!

We then viewed the sheep dog demonstrations, took in the many Scottish & Irish clan genealogy booths, spent some time perusing the vendor tents, ate homemade ice cream & shepherd's pie, and then it was back to the Highland Games and the Tossing of the Caber.  Just getting it balanced, as the guy in the photo above demonstrated, seemed to no small feat in itself.

This competitor flung the Caber fairly well . . . .

But this competitor really flung the Caber!  The winner!

There was a concert by the McPherson Pipes Band with some members of the Wichita Caledonian Pipes Band to take in before we called it a day and started back north.

(8) But we weren't done yet!  At Bridgeport we forsook the Interstate and turned onto rock roads to find the Smoky Hill Bison Company, who had a full Fall Family Adventure setup going.  The first thing for us to do was to brave the Great Corn Maze.  There were ten Stops inside, at which if you had your cell phone with you, you could call for hints.  Somehow we went from Stop 1 to Stop 3 without ever finding Stop 2, but with only 8 or 9 dead ends we managed to traverse the entitre course (without cheating!) in about 25 minutes. 

(8) Then it was time to try the Zip Chute, just a short swing across a gully.  Sue went first, and then I somehow worked my way into the harness and took off.  Fun, fun, fun.  Katie followed and all were satisfied with a great day and a great weekend of finding lots to do in Rural Kansas!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quarter Programs for the Next Decade

I've been a fan of the recently-completed decade-long U.S. State Quarters Program, building my collection the old-fashioned way, by going through my change day after day and year after year.

Only recently I've been apprised of the news of what the United States Mint has in mind for the next ten years, and so thought I  might share it with those lucky enough to read it here.  Even if you are not a coin collector, you might want to take a second look at your change over the next few years, as we are all sure to learn more about America itself.

First, in 2009, the Mint has been and will be releasing quarters honoring the District of Columbia and all five U.S. Territories.  The quarters are being released in this order:
o The District of Columbia
o The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
o Guam
o American Samoa
o The United States Virgin Islands
o The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Then, starting in 2010, the United State Mint will launch the America is Beautiful Quarter Program.   By 2021 56 quarters will celebrate the spectacular preserved scenery of the entire country, and will feature sites from all 50 states, the five territories, and the District of Columbia.  Alas, Kansans, we must wait until 2020 to see our coin!   The release schedule for the 56 quarters is as follows:

Year:    Location - Site - Date Established (m/d/yyyy):

2010     Arkansas  Hot Springs National Park  4/20/1832
             Wyoming  Yellowstone National Park  3/1/1872
             California  Yosemite National Park  10/1/1890
             Arizona Grand Canyon National Park  2/20/1893
             Oregon Mt. Hood National Forest  9/28/1893
2011     Pennsylvania  Gettysburg National Military Park  2/11/1895
             Montana Glacier National Park  2/22/1897
             Washington Olympic National Park  2/22/1897
             Mississippi  Vicksburg National Military Park  2/21/1899
             Oklahoma  Chickasaw National Recreation Area  7/1/1902
2012     Puerto Rico    El Yunque National Forest  1/17/1903
             New Mexico  Chaco Culture National Historical Park   3/11/1907
             Maine   Acadia National Park    7/8/1916
             Hawaii  Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park   8/1/1916
             Alaska   Denali National Park  2/26/1917
2013     New Hampshire  White Mountain National Forest  5/16/1918
             Ohio   Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial    3/3/1919
             Nevada   Great Basin National Park  1/24/1922
             Maryland  Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine  3/3/1925
             South Dakota  Mount Rushmore National Memorial  3/3/1925
2014     Tennessee  Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5/22/1926
             Virginia   Shenandoah National Park  5/22/1926
             Utah    Arches National Park   4/12/1929
             Colorado   Great Sand Dunes National Park  3/17/1932
             Florida  Everglades National Park   5/30/1934
2015     Nebraska Homestead National Monument of America   3/19/1936
             Louisiana  Kisatchie National Forest  6/3/1936
             North Carolina   Blue Ridge Parkway  6/30/1936
             Delaware  Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge   6/22/1937
             New York Saratoga National Historical Park  6/1/1938
2016     Illinois  Shawnee National Forest  9/6/1939
             Kentucky  Cumberland Gap National Historical Park   6/11/1940
             West Virginia  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park  6/30/1944
             North Dakota  Theodore Roosevelt National Park 2/25/1946
             South Carolina  Fort Moultrie (Fort Sumter National Monument)  4/28/1948
2017     Iowa   Effigy Mounds National Monument 10/25/1949
             District of Columbia  Frederick Douglass National Historic Site   9/5/1962
             Missouri    Ozark National Scenic Riverways  8/27/1964
             New Jersey  Ellis Island National Monument (Statue of Liberty)  5/11/1965
             Indiana   George Rogers Clark National Historical Park 7/23/1966
2018     Michigan  Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore  10/15/1966
             Wisconsin  Apostle Islands National Lakeshore   9/26/1970
             Minnesota  Voyageurs National Park  1/8/1971
             Georgia  Cumberland Island National Seashore 10/23/1972
             Rhode Island  Block Island National Wildlife Refuge 4/12/1973
2019     Massachusetts  Lowell National Historical Park   6/5/1978
             Northern Mariana Islands    American Memorial Park  8/18/1978
             Guam  War in the Pacific National Historical Park   8/18/1978
             Texas  San Antonio Missions National Historical Park   11/10/1978
             Idaho   Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness   7/23/1980
2020     American Samoa   National Park of American Samoa  10/31/1988
             Connecticut  Weir Farm National Historic Site 10/31/1990
             U.S. Virgin Islands  Salt River Bay National Historical Park
                                            & Ecological Preserve   2/24/1992
              Vermont  Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park 8/26/1992
              Kansas   Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve  11/12/1996
2021      Alabama  Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site  11/6/1998

For further information, see the United State Mint's formal website at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

8 Wonders of Kansas Customs Nominees Announced!

It's that time again to make sure your pen works, sharpen your pencil, or warm up your mouse clicker, and get ready to chose the eight best from among 24 nominees in the Kansas Sampler Foundation's latest contest - the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.  Sixty representatives on Thursday, September 10, 2009, gathered at the Kansas Sampler Center near Inman, Kansas to hear the official list of potential winners announced.

The 24 finalists were selected from a pool of public nominations.  The Foundation's criteria required that a Custom be interpreted at or near the site and that it be available live or told about in a display at least 40 out of 52 weeks of the year.

"This list gives a wonderful overview of our quirky humor, cultural traditions, and our history but it also reflects our hobbies, entertainment, and recreational activities. More than anything, the customs help tell the story of Kansas communities from a unique angle," stated Foundation director Marci Penner.

Therefore, in alphabetical order,
the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs finalists are:

Bringing musicians together: For a decade, there's been a lively jam session almost every Friday night at the Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls.

Building wide Main Streets: The widest Main Street in the United States is in Plains.

Chanting a school fight song: The University of Kansas's (Lawrence) Rock Chalk Jayhawk cheer is one of the best in the nation.

Checking the weather: In Harper, townspeople watch the red fish weather vane at the top of the watertower for weather changes.

Clicking your heels three times and saying "There's no place like home": Oz attractions in Wamego and Liberal tell the beloved story of the Wizard of Oz.

Commemorating Veterans Day: An Emporiaman helped change Armistice Day into Veteran's Day and made Emporia the Founding City of Veterans Day.

Connecting underground businesses: The Underground Tunnels of Ellinwood are open for tours of a mysterious past.

Converting rails to trails: The first in Kansas was the Prairie Spirit Trail. Started in 1996, it now spans 51 miles from Ottawa through Garnett and other small towns to Iola.

Cruising Main: It happens a little differently in Blue Rapids as they have the only round square in Kansas.

Displaying an ethnic handicraft: Traditional and pop-art Dala Horses can be seen throughout Lindsborg.

Eating dinner prior to watching community theater: This custom has been going on longer at the Topeka Civic Theatre than anywhere else in the country.

Ordering a soda fountain treat: Go while you can to one of the 37 operating soda fountains left in Kansas.

Putting shoes on a tree: A giant cottonwood near Wetmore is famous as The Shoe Tree.

Racing Greyhounds: This custom started in Kansas and is told well at the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene.

Racing motorcycles: The Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette tells about this intriguing culture.

Racing on a dirt track: The oldest continuously-used dirt track in the U.S. is High Banks in Belleville and the High Banks Hall of Fame and National Midget Auto Racing Museum tells all about it.

Reciting and chanting the Psalms: The Benedictine monks at St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison do this four times a day seven days a week.

Recognizing those who came in second: The "They Also Ran Gallery" in Norton features those who came in second in the presidential race.

Riding a carousel: Ride - and learn about - the famous C.W. Parker carousels in Abilene and Leavenworth.

Saving a seat: It's been going on in Concordia since the 1960s, most recently at the Kearn Auction House.

Saving twine: Frugality led to the World's Largest Ball of Sisal Twine in Cawker City.

Swimming in the summer: Garden City has the state's oldest continuously-open and largest municipal hand-dug swimming pool. See a year-round exhibit about this 1922 pool at the Finney County Museum.

Using natural material for fencing: Learn the story of these hardy fence posts at the Post Rock Museum in LaCrosse.

Walking to school: In 1936, walking to school became much easier as the longest sidewalk in the U.S. to connect two towns opened between Franklin and Arma.

To the top eight, people are encouraged to vote online at www.8wonders.orgYou can also call 620.585.2374 for a ballot or pick up a ballot at any of the 24 finalists. Voting has begun and will end October 20 at midnight. The top eight will be announced before the end of October.

Educating the public about Kansas and encouraging travel in the state is the purpose of the 8 Wonders series organized by the non-profit Kansas Sampler Foundation. The overall 8 Wonders of Kansas and contests for Architecture, Art, Commerce, and Cuisine have been completed. The rural culture elements yet to be showcased are Geography, History, and People.

Go get to work!  Vote for your eight favorites and show the rest of the world just what Kansas has to offer!