Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Good Economic News for One Small Kansas Town

Arizona Undertaker Seeks to Revive Dying Kansas Town

By ROXANA HEGEMAN (AP) – Oct 11, 2009

PRESTON, Kansas — Like hundreds of small towns across rural America, Preston has boarded-up storefronts lining its Main Street. The roof has fallen in at the long-abandoned high school, while peeling paint and broken windows disfigure once stately, now vacant homes. This central Kansas farming town of 170 people is dying — and an Arizona undertaker has a plan to bring it back to life.

Two massive concrete grain elevators mark this as an iconic Kansas farming community, a cluster of homes tucked among undulating fields of wheat, corn and soybeans in Pratt County. For all its simple beauty, the county has slowly hemorrhaged residents: Since 1930, nearly 30 percent have left, making it an all-too-common anecdote of a fading prairie population.

But for Arizona transplants Ken and Donna Stanton, it's the perfect place to build a mortuary and crematorium, the unlikely cornerstone of an ambitious community revitalization plan that features Old West-styled building facades, old-time street lights and faux-board sidewalks.

Joining the couple are more than 30 relatives and friends who plan to establish their homes, businesses and a non-denominational church in the town.

"What is happening to Preston is truly a godsend," said Mayor Wayne Scott, who graduated from the high school's last class, in 1966. "I don't know too many towns in rural America, across the country, that are having an opportunity like this take place for them. I personally consider it a blessing this is happening in our town."

For the Mesa, Ariz. couple, Preston has become a labor of love borne of deep-seated family roots. Donna Stanton's late father, Don Cox, grew up in Pratt County, and her uncle, Dean Cox, still lives in Preston. The Stantons have taken family vacations in the town for 30 years.

"My father-in-law loved it here. He had a dream to see this little town revitalized and we kind of caught the vision," said Ken Stanton, 53. "It was kind of dwindling and drying up. I thought this was an opportunity to provide a service."

In its 1960s heyday, Preston boasted a post office, restaurant, hardware store, drug store and two grocery stores. Today the only businesses left are the grain elevators and a butcher shop, along with City Hall and a senior citizens' center.

Like other small towns, many of its residents left for jobs in bigger cities, and small businesses dried up along with its population. The advent of cars made shopping in Pratt, 12 miles away, or Hutchinson, 41 miles down the road, an easy drive.

In November, the Stantons bought a shuttered bar and grill — a brick building built in 1915 — to remodel as a funeral home that they hope to open in December — the first new business in their ambitious plan. The crematorium will be the only one in the area and they expect it to draw business from a 50-mile radius.

The family also bought two residential city blocks for homes, a second downtown lot, and are looking to buy another downtown building for a '50s-style restaurant.

They said the biggest expense — labor — will come from family.

Preston is the latest Kansas small town to get the makeover treatment. The Kansas Farm Bureau started its Kansas Hometown Prosperity Initiative in 2008, picking as its pilot projects the towns of Sedan, Onaga and Atwood.

"We've had government work on rural development for nearly 100 years and look what we have: We've had 100 consecutive years of 'out migration' in rural America. It is time we stood up and did something about it ourselves," said Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau.

The bureau's stimulus program aims to develop community leadership, promote small business entrepreneurship, engage youth and staunch the transfer of wealth that leaves rural counties when aging residents die.

Ken Stanton said that amid the excitement some in the community are apprehensive about his plans.

"I hope people will see it is not our heart or desire to invade or take over," he said. "We just would like to see the town come to life."

Mike Schmidt, who has lived in Preston for 35 years, is happy about the redevelopment.

"That will be a big boost for Preston," the 54-year-old said.

Most people left in the town are old and there is nothing there now to draw young people, Schmidt said.

"Our Main Street right now is pretty run down ... anything we do on Main Street is going to be an improvement."

The irony of a mortuary as the cornerstone of a community revival plan is not lost on Ken Stanton or his family.

"This is a place people are dying to get into," he quipped.

His wife added, "We are coming to Preston to raise the dead."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Exploring Kansas: A Weekend of Lucas to Inman to Hillsboro & Back

Last Friday I rediscovered that running away from home when you're an adult with no one immediately dependent on you can be a lot of fun.  And as October 23, 2009 was a dreary and depressing day anyway, I decided that it was time to go forth and do a little Exploring in Kansas.  Besides, I had not been out of the house alone in well over a month and therefore needed a respite from the daily grind.

Heading south on US Highway 281 out of Osborne can be both lonely and relaxing - sometimes too relaxing.  This particular 22-mile portion of the highway from Osborne to Luray was last rebuilt in 1953, which means that the roadway is more than a bit narrow by today's standards and accidents are, shall we say, not unknown.  You listening, Kansas Department of Transportation?!!!

My first stop was in Lucas, where in the Chamber of Commerce I found both Connie Dougherty and Lynn Schneider hard at work at last plans for the upcoming Haunted Night in Lucas the next evening.  We had a quick conversation and then I let them get back to work because they are that dedicated to what they do.  You listening, Lucas Chamber of Commerce members?!!!  From there I stopped and paid homage to that 8 Wonders of Kansas Art icon, the Garden of Eden.

Located just south of the Garden of Eden was another of Lucas' iconic attractions, the World Headquarters for World's Largest Things,  Inc. - you know, the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum.  The fine director of this unique institution is one Erika Nelson, who was home for once on this dreary day.  We caught up on a number of items incomprehensible to most people and then it was time for me to be once again on my way.

I passed on south over the Wilson Dam and along the Post Rock Scenic Byway and into the Czech capital of Wilson, where I stopped by Wilson Family Foods, the local grocery store.  As usual the odor of homemade sausage and other succulent thngs that are probably bad for you in the long run assailed me as I opened the door.  In the back I ordered a pound of homemade summer sausage and a pound of Smoked Swiss cheese as a gift basket for later and hightailed it out of there before I completely unloaded the ol' bank account, which is easy in a place like that.   And before the good folks at Lucas begin inhaling their lungs and start asking why I did not stop and buy All Things Kansan in their community, I wish to point out that I had stopped and ordered sausage and cheese there the weekend before, and so as a good Explorer I believe in spreading my money around to deserving Kansas attractions.  You listening, Kansas Travel & Tourism?!!!

Traveling east on old US Highway 40 led me into the legendary cowtown of Ellsworth, the stock photo of the downtown of which is shown above.  The good folks there are in the middle of replacing their downtown curbing and sidewalks for a new look sure to enhance the local businesses.  In Ellsworth I called upon Linda Denning, longtime editor/publisher of the Ellsworth County Independent Reporter.  After spending some time catching up we talked over at length the state of the newspaper business in the North Central region of Kansas. 

From there a stop down the street at the Ellsworth Antique Mall provided me with a much-needed homemade ice cream cone to keep up my strength, and then it was back on the road down Kansas Highway 14 to Lyons, Kansas.

Something I had never done before was to just drive at random around Lyons.  I started with the downtown square and managed over the next hour to pretty much acquaint myself with the community, a stock photo of which can be seen above. 

From Lyons I headed east on US Highway 56 to the now-ghost town/gas depot community of Conway, and then 15 miles south via county paved roads through Inman to the headquarters of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.  There Director Marci Penner and Assistant Head Honcho WenDee LaPlant had already spent a busy day announcing the winners of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs contest in addition to holding a board meeting of the Foundation.  I delivered my Wilson gift basket and Marci was kind enough to spend a few minutes of chat before she headed back into the fray.  Once again, a stock photo of the Sampler Foundation headquarters can be seen above.

 Wandering east from the KSF I took county roads and eventually arrived at Interstate 35.  My stomach overcame my sense of adventure and I therefore turned north on I-35 to Salina, where I spent the night at my sister Sue's home.  This worked out well, for when I ran away from home I really did just that and left without packing anything, and so I need to spend some time shopping for clothes and other essentials.  A late drink out with my sister and niece Katie it drew the curtains on another day in the Sunflower State.

The next day Sue and I headed back south on Interstate 35 to McPherson, where we met Sue's friend Elsie for a great lunch at the Main Street Deli.  Before that we shopped in town, spending much time at the Cook's Nook and also at The Cake Lady.  Did you notice that food quickly became the theme of the day?

After lunch we headed east on US Highway 56 to Hillsboro, where at Dale's Supermarket we stocked up on Dale's homemade sausage.  Yes, you out-of-state skeptics, you really can eat your way across Kansas without culinary regret.  Actual weight-gain regret, we cannot be held responsible for.

Wandering around northeastern Hillsboro turned up several architecturally-interesting homes.  The one above employs one of the more interesting roof designs I have ever seen.

   "Reflective of a prosperous midwestern family in the early years of the century, this home of Lutheran immigrant, William F. Schaeffler from Germany, was constructed in 1909. Part of the reason the house is now a museum could be attributed to its "modern" construction, making it modern then and interesting to visitors today. The house features an open staircase, wrap-around front porch, pocket doors, servants' staircase, dumb waiter, carbide gas running to each room for lighting, strictly decorative fireplaces, inside bathrooms probably used only at night and for the sick, and a carriage house.
   Much of the charm of the Schaeffler House Museum comes from the items left by the family and those added by the historical society. The family left a beautiful 12-place china set which is set on the dining room table and stored in a china cabinet that highlights its beauty. The office cabinets are stackable oak shelving, which run at several hundred dollars per stack and there are 10 stacks.
   The master bedroom houses an exhibit of Hillsboro Business and Industry containing pictures, portraits, a vintage Zenith television, and High School memorbilia.
   Hear the history of the famous Schaeffler Mercantile Store while guided through the home.
Admission: Adults $3.00, Students $1.00, Pre-School Children with parents, free
Hours: Open by appointment only
Address: 510 South Ash, Hillsboro Kansas
Phone: 1-620-947-3775"

The above description comes courtesy of the City of Hillsboro LASR website.  The photo comes courtesy of my poor lense-challenged camera.

Yet another architectural style home found in northeast Hillsboro.

To the west of the previous home we found a fantastic grouping of bushes in full fall color!

Wandering into the northwestern side of Hillsboro we were greeted with a most unusual site: the remains of a historic truss-style bridge sitting in the backyard of a seemingly innocuous residential home.   Talk about a conversation piece!

Then just down the street to the south we came upon a former church being renovated and used as a greenhouse.  In Kansas recycling was never a late 20th-Century innovation; its' been a way of life since day one. 

Homeward bound at last we headed back west to Canton, then turned north and via county roads passed through Gypsum and back to Salina.

That night I experienced what Katie later termed a true "Hot Pocket."  We were sitting playing a card game when I felt something hot and sharp, like something biting me on the leg, or perhaps a small stick poking me from inside my front pants pocket, which held my change and other items.  I  adjusted the change and went back to concentrating on the game.  About twenty minutes later the sensation hit again, and this time I put my hand in  my pocket to try and locate whatever was poking me.  My fingers encountered something hot enough to make me withdraw with a yelp.

This mystery had to be solved.  So I reached in again and quickly pulled everything out of my pocket and onto the table.  There amid the quarters and nickels and dimes and pennies were two small AA batteries - backups for the ones I normally carry in my camera.  I could find nothing else in my pocket to explain the poking or heat.  And then I picked up the batteries.  Both were hot - way past the warmth they should have been for being in my pocket all day.  But how did they get that way?

And then I discovered that several of the coins were equally hot.   We arrived at the theory that the coinage - especially the pennies - had acted as conductors for the electrical charge held in the batteries.  Lucky for me my pants never caught fire!

Back in Salina on Sunday it was still overcast and dreary and depressing out, but fairly warm.   So Sue, Katie and I went to the city park to see if we could take some photos while there were still flowers about.  In the photo above it is evident that Katie is not quite ready to have her photo taken just yet, or something to that effect. 

So of course I went ahead and took it.  And publicly published it here.  Katie will be so pleased with me.

We also wanted a "formal portrait both for the blog and for Halloween," so Sue and I sat on her front porch while Katie took over the photographical duties. 

And then we both heard a weird and ominous CREAK, and instinctively looked up at the old cottonwood there, sure that a branch was coming down on us.  No, Katie assured us after taking our photo (and thus getting back at me for the previous photo), the CREAK came from across the street behind the tree, where a neighbor had opened his oil-deprived car door.

After that brief  adventure something told me that it was time to head back to Osborne.  So I packed up and headed on west on State Highway 140 through Ellsworth and on back to Wilson, where I had a date with more sausage and cheese - for me this time.  Being overcast and dreary and depressing out there were few other travelers on the road with me the rest of the day.

I then headed back on north up State Highway 232 to Lucas, and quickly discovered the lone place of interest for the populace on a late Sunday afternoon - the movie at the Lucas Community Theatre.  All About Steve sadly did not hold much interest for myself and therefore I headed on out of town west on State Highway 18.

At Luray I turned north once again on US Highway 281 and definitely had the road to myself.  Thank goodness for the music of Billy Idol, Joan Jett and Bon Jovi; I was certainly not bored. 

Just ten miles south of Osborne is the crossroads where the old community of Twin Creek was once located.  Here I met my first car in what seemed like hours; the incident was exciting enough for me to take this photo of the opposing car's headlights.  Hey, you do anything to stay alert when driving 281!

A half mile south of Osborne one can still see the remains of an old gas station, dating from the 1910s and 1920s when this junction was part of the Midland Trail highway.

The southern entrance into Osborne sadly has to be one of the more uninviting entries into any Kansas county seat community.  A lot of discussion about improving it has occurred over the years but to date nothing concrete has come to pass as yet.

It was in Osborne that I finally found some traffic.  Actually, for six p.m. there was an abnormal amount of traffic!

Passing by the future home of Blue Hills Bikes on South First Street I noticed that their new sign had been put in place while I was away.  The business is scheduled to be opened at this location by January 31, 2010. 

Downtown Osborne was dark and dreary and depressing - just like I left it.   Sigh.

Taking in the above and below photos of modern Osborne is something to behold when comparing them to this 1917 photograph of the same location, when the town's east water tower was in construction.  That's right, Osborne's two municipal water towers are now 92 years old. 

The west side of the 100 block of North First Street, now also US Highway 281, has seen numerous businesses come and go since the previous photo was taken.   Who knows what the future will bring?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Announcing the most-voted-for 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs ! ! !

On Friday morning, October 23, 2009, after almost six weeks of voting, the Kansas Sampler Foundation announced the eight winners of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.

The 12,396 votes submitted came from across Kansas, from every state in the Union, and from many foreign countries. Each voter had to select eight from the 24 finalists and could only vote three times.

The Customs contest is the 5th in a series of 8 such contests.  Earlier contests determined the Overall 8 Wonders of Kansas (The "Great 8") and the Top 8 each in Architecture, Art, Commerce, and Cuisine. Geography is the next contest with public nominations being accepted during the month of November.  History and People contests will wrap-up the one-time series.

A project of the Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation, it is designed to educate the world about what there is to see and do in Kansas, encourage travel, and help Kansans see their state with new eyes.

Therefore, without further ado, we present the Eight Customs of Kansas - in alphabetical order, of course:

(1) Bringing musicians together: For a decade there’s been a lively jam session at the Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls almost every Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

(2) Chanting a school fight song: The University of Kansas’s Rock Chalk Jayhawk cheer is one of the best in the nation. Learn about the chant in the student union in Lawrence.

(3) 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.

(4) Commemorating Veterans Day: An Emporia man helped change Armistice Day into Veterans Day and made Emporia the Founding City of Veterans Day.

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

(6) Ordering a soda fountain treat:  Go while you can to one of the 38 operating soda fountains left in Kansas.

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

(8) Using natural material for fencing:  Learn the story of these hardy native limestone fence posts at the Post Rock Museum in LaCrosse and see them throughout the Smoky Hills and North-Central Kansas.

Kansas Sampler Foundation director Marci Penner released this statement on the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs:  “This was the closest race we’ve had to date and though it was the hardest to explain, it won my heart. If you go to and click on pictures of all the 24 finalists, you can read some of the most fascinating and endearing stories and facts about our cultural traditions.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HEY, KANSAS EXPLORER CLUB MEMBERS: Share Your Kansas Exploration Songs!

For years its been a tradition of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to invite various celebrities to list their Top Ten songs they would like to have with them if they were ever stranded on an deserted island.

Now, I'm not asking each Explorer to list their Desert Island Discs here.  Rather, what I want to do is to ask every Explorer to list their Top Ten songs that (a) either get them in the mood for Exploring, or (b) they actually play in the car while Exploring.   And then send their Kansas Exploration Songs to me at from now until December 15th, I will post them this blog.

What will we learn from this? Probably nothing. But we might, just might gain a little insight into the already interesting minds of the average Kansas Explorer, and thereby hopefully maybe quite possibly learn a little more about ourselves and this great state. The variety of songs alone mentioned should be incredible.

To kick this off I've created my own list of inspirational Kansas Exploration Songs, after a lot of soul-searching and also a little searching of the actual music in my car. Oddly, of all the songs possible, the following showed up over and over:

(1) Don't Pass Me By, the Georgia Satellites.
Talk about an adrenalin rush! One listen to this high energy remake of the old Beatles tune is the equivalent of downing three cups of coffee, of guzzling a 64 oz. of pop, of seeing that first look of yourself in the mirror each morning. Guaranteed to get me motivated to do just about anything.

(2) I Got a Name, Jim Croce.
Visons of the road abound with this song. Best to watch the accelerator while playing in car.

(3) Runnin' Down a Dream, Tom Petty.
Sequel to the above. Watch that Speedometer. No need to get to know your local Kansas State Trooper on a business level.

(4) Matthew, John Denver.
Denver's ode to his uncle "born just south of Colby, Kansas" always provokes an honest feel for Kansas both in theme and in spirit.

(5) In My Car, Joe Walsh.
This native Kansan is obviously an Explorer at heart, and this song proves it.

(6) Downstream, the Rainmakers.
The Kansas City band tells of traveling down the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond - in other words, a spiritual journey, which is actually very Kansan.

(7) Looking for Space, John Denver.
Again, the spiritual journey is Explored. After all, Kansas IS a state of mind.

(8) Along the Road, Dan Fogelberg.
This quiet ballad is excellent when contemplating St. Jacob's Well, or the Blue Sky Sculpture, or a particularly succulent piece of Crawford County chicken. It's the little things that makes Kansas a great place to Explore.

(9) Walking Where the Roses Grow, Katrina & the Waves.
Written in England about the memory of a Kansas garden, this bouncy sing-a-long will give a you great feeling as you wander Kansas.

(10) Two For the Road, Bruce Springsteen.
It's always more fun to have someone else to Explore with. Words of wisdom from the eternally- wise Boss.

HALL OF FAME:  Kansas . . . Come and Get It!
This one is already at the top of all lists.  Let's all go out there and Get It!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scenes From the 2009 Sunflower State Book Festival

Back in 2006 a number of Kansas state agencies led by the Kansas Center for the book staged the first ever Kansas Book Festival in Wichita.  The event drew thousands to meet and greet authors, publishers, illustrators, and others on the Kansas literary scene.  It was a celebration of the rich legacy of the Sunflower State in word.

The first Kansas Book Festival was held in Wichita, Kansas, in 2006 and brought together authors, small publishers, illustrators, and the public to both celebrate the rich literary legacy of Kansas and to encourage new writers to enter the field and write about the Sunflower State. The event was held again in Wichita in 2007 but not renewed in 2008.

In early 2009 a few Kansas authors called for the Festival to be restarted, and in May Osborne in the Solomon Valley of north-central Kansas was the city asked to do so, thanks to recent work by area volunteers in promoting the books "Sod & Stubble" and "Sod-House Days," two nationally-recognized classic Kansas stories  published in the 1930s and set in Osborne County. Osborne County is also the self-proclaimed "Homestead Literature Capital of Kansas," a designation that factored greatly in the request.

A Festival Committee was quickly formed and by July firm plans were in place and being set in motion.  The Committee consisted of Karen Wallace, librarian of the Osborne KS Public Library, and Sherry Knouf of the Downs KS Carnegie Library; Carolyn Wiliams, Alton KS; Betty Pruter, Natoma, KS; Laura McClure, Osborne KS; and Von Rothenberger, Osborne, KS.   The Committee worked to bring the Festival together under the umbrella of the non-profit Northern Kansas Association of Osborne, with the date of Saturday, October 10th decided upon for the event.

The reborn and renamed Sunflower State Book Festival continued the concept of celebrating the rich literary legacy of Kansas.  Therefore only Kansas authors or books about Kansas were allowed to be part of the Festival.   Authors across the state were contacted and invited to take part.  The Festival would be held in the "New Gym," as it was locally known, at Osborne High School.  Advertising was then put into motion across all of Kansas and through southern Nebraska for this unique event, and sponsors were lined up both statewide and local.  In the end the major sponsors of the event were the Kansas Humanities Council, the Kansas Center of the Book, the Central Kansas Library System, the Osborne Public Library, the Downs Carnegie Library, the State Bank of Downs, Farmers Bank of Osborne, the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, the Sarver Charitable Trust, and the McFadden Charitable Trust. 

For all the work done in preparation of the event, some major last-minute obstacles threatened to dreail the entire Festival.  Some anticipated funding in the form of grants finally appeared only scant days before the event.  Then, on the Tuesday before, tragedy struck the Osborne community when Mark and Deb Morrison, a popular local couple, lost their lives in a traffic accident in Oklahoma.  The only building large enough in the city to hold their funeral was the New Gym, and that meant moving the entire Festival to a new location and inform both the coming authors and the public in general of this in only four days. 

The immediate problem was solved when the school district offered to let the Festival be moved into the "Old Gym," located across the street inside of Osborne High School.  Both the Kansas Center for the Book and the Central Kansas Lybrary System in Great Bend helped spread the word across the state of the new location.

A last obstacle arrived that Saturday morning in the form of freezing rain and even a chance of snow.  This threat kept away any anticipated crowd.

But in spite of it all the Festival went on as scheduled and the doors were opened at 9:00AM, with nearly thirty authors and other organizations in attendance.  The diverse genres of books available to the general public included childrens, poetry, action/adventure, genealogy, Kansas & Western history, and several more.

Admission to the Festival was free, and the concession stand was operated out of the school's Home Economics kitchen by the local DaddyO's Diner of Osborne.

Two views of the Festival from the balcony of the 1929-era "Old Gym" of Osborne High School.   The "New Gym," located across the street to the south, was contructed in 1960.  To date the argument still rages over what to officially call it.

The authors all had a great time mingling and talking with each other, and buying each other's books as well!  Organizations such as the Kansas Center for the Book and the Central Kansas Library System of Great Bend, KS featured displays and even a free book table. 

A number of volunteers from all over the area came to help with the Festival.  Both Ida Terry of Paradise, KS (25 miles away) and Betty Pruter of Natoma, KS (33 miles away) braved the bad weather to man the Sign-In Table.  Those who did attend the Festival each received a souvenir brochure, bookmark, and postcard.

In addition to a small fee for table space at the Festival, each auther was asked to donate a signed copy of their book to be given away as door prizes at the top of each hour.  Here Von Rothenberger and Kathy Bristol are shown choosing books for Laura McClure, foreground, to announce who the lucky winners are.

And the winner of one of the signed books was Eileen Wilson of Osborne. 

Merlyn Brown of Merlyn Entertainment of Osborne  was busy throughout the day taking still photos of each author.

These photos would be made available to the authors for publicity purposes as well as being placed later on the Festival's website of  Here Chris Rippel of the Central Kansas Library System gets his portrait taken.

Merlyn also interviewed each author and allowed them to plug their book and other activities.  These interviews will also be made available both on the Festival website and on YouTube and other Internet locations.

What follows are some of the still portraits taken by Merlyn Entertainment at the Festival.  Seen here is Jim Gray of Ellsworth, KS, who has a book entitled Desperate Seed, concerning the early history of Ellsworth. 

Jerry Engler of Marion, KS has no less than three successful books to his credit.

Mona Kennedy of Luray, KS earlier in 2009 wrote an autobiography of her early life on the family farm.

Current student math teacher Kelli LaRosh of rural Bloomington, KS spent part of her senior year at Sterling College and a military tour of Iraq to write and illustrate her childrens book What's Math Got to Do with Farming

Denver attorney Steven Wood, a graduate of the University of Kansas, is receiving rave reviews nationally for his new book Survival of Rural America:  Small Victories and Bitter Harvests

Construction worker-turned author Richard Luallin of Lincoln, KS had a great time at his first ever event of this kind, touting his very first book, Maroons: A Human Epic.

Jean McKay of Zenda, KS wrote the true story Chronicles of the Farm Woman, the Story of Mary Frances McKinney.  Unfortunately she could not attend the Festival, and so Kathleen Whitmer of Zenda, the daughter of Mary Frances McKinney, agreed to appear in her stead. 

At 11AM the ceremony for the presentation of the inaugural Don Coldsmith Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement began.  Roy Bird of the Kansas Center for the Book in Topeka, KS gave a ten-minute overview of the literary accomplishments of the recipient, professor Dr. James F. Hoy of Emporia State University in Emporia, KS.

Jim Hoy, left, voices his appreciation of receiving the Coldsmith Award, named after the famous Kansas author and a close friend of Dr. Hoy.  Seen at right is Von Rothenberger, co-owner of Ad Astra Publishing of Osborne, sponsors of the annual Coldsmith Award. 

The formal photo, with Von Rothenberger, Jim Hoy, and Roy Bird. 

At about 2:30PM word reached the Festival that the weather was turning worse in other parts of Kansas, and so several authors began to leave in order to beat the weather back to their various homes across the state.  But before they left, all expressed their belief that the Festival was in spite of everything a success and asked to be included in the next year's event as well.  As the Festival closed at 4:00PM all involved agreed that several lessons were learned and that the 2010 Festival will be even bigger and better.