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!