Friday, November 30, 2007

Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. holds Retreat

The Officers and Board of the Kansas Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. held a planning retreat at the Grand Central Hotel and Grill in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

All those able to attend had a great meeting and enjoyed the Grand Grill Menu for lunch.

Thanks to Suzan and staff for a great retreat setting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pottawatomie County Tourism Developments

Below I am sharing a letter from Pottawatomie County, that may be of interest:

Thought you might like to know the status of three tourism/quality of life projects we've been working on here for some time:

1. Heritage Tourism Project - Self-Guided Tours; St Marys, Oregon Trail, Westmoreland: We had considerable historic research done by Dale Nimz (the same historian who researched and wrote the feasibility study for the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area) on the most important historic personalities and events associated with our "early exploration, territorial and early settlement" history. Some of the research was then used to create the first three of approximatly 25 interpretive and directional signs to be placed in the downtowns of St Marys and Westmoreland and along the old Oregon Trail in between the two. Our first 3 interpretive signs were designed by Don and Susan Traub, , have been approved by the local design committee, have been approved for payment by teh county commission and are currently being manufactured. They will be placed in downtown St Marys, at the Old Louis Vieux Elm site on the trail, and in downtown Westmoreland.

Preliminary conceptual design has begun on teh other 18 or so, and we are applying for a Ks Humanities grant to finish them. If we are successful - I would expect that a high quality self - guided heritage walking/driving tour of the old Oregon Trail in Pottawatomie County to be in place within a year or so.

2. Recreational Trail Project - The first segment of the proposed "WAMSAGMAN" (Wamego - St George - Manhattan) trail route has been scoped on public land roughly paralleling the Old Military Trail Road, and preliminary design and cost estimates have been prepared by LandPlan Engineering of Lawrence, Kansas. The route has been officially dedicated by our county commission, for a period of 99 years, for the 7.3+ miles between Wamego and St George, . In addition, the county has applied for TEA-21 funds to finance completion of the the first 1. 5 - 2. miles of the trail. In the meantime, volunteers are searching for a "pro bono" surveyor to go ahead with survey and staking of the route, while a fairly prominent group of interested enthusiasts is working up an organized capital campaign. Whether we get the grant or not - some work will be done on the trail this coming spring, and once people actually start using it - we fully expect additional sections to be opened, even if in a temporarily somewhat "primitive" state, over the next year.

3. Recreational River Landing at Wamego: This project is one of several projects being undertaken up and down the Kansas River to make it accessible as a recreational corridor throughout its length from Junction City to Kansas City. Recent landings have already been built at St George, LeCompton, DeSoto, the Highway 177 bridge south of Manhattan, and Edwardsville. Others now in proces include ours in Wamego and another at about the juncture of the Smoky Hill and Republican near Junction City. Ultimately there will be a landing about every 10 miles along the length of the river. Final Engineering and Permitting for our river landing project was completed last summer. The site has been surveyed and staked. Ebert Construction has moved its bulldozer backhoe, and dump truck to the site. Bayer Construction has donated the rock and gravel. Construction Inc., will pour the concrete ramp, City crews will operate the equipment, Mike Calwell, Friends of the Kaw, will provide technical assistance. Volunteers will assist. This project is funded by $22,000 from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and $10,000 from the City of Wamego. Construction will begin next Monday and continue until it is completed. The project is immediately west of the Kansas River Bridge at Wamego. It includes a 20 foot wide boat landing ramp, turnaround area, parking, bathroom facility, and a small park, with a few camp sites and picnic tables.

So - things are moving along finally - after years of preparation, scoping and design work, fund raising, etc.

Once finished - these assets will add to the attractiveness and usability of our immediate area for hikers, walkers, roller bladers, bicyclists, canoeists, kayakers and river runners alike. While the self-guided tour will add to the attractions available to Heritage Travelers.

Lots of fun finally seeing some closure on these long-duration projects. Hopefully we'll hit the tipping point in the minds of our public and our elected officials before long and futher developments will really take off. Adding to the value of the Flint Hills as a destination.


Bob Cole

Bob Cole
Robert L. Cole
Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Calendar for Council Grove - Kansas Flint Hills

Saturday evening, December 1: Winter Wonderland Talent Show at 7 o'clock at the High School Auditorium exhibiting the best of local talents for all to enjoy. Visit local merchants for Weekend Gift Bag Drawing. Visit Santa at his Cottage on Main Street.
Thursday evening, December 6: A Kaw Mission Christmas - experience a Christmas season evening like early settlers enjoyed in the mid-1850s at the historic Kaw Mission. Enjoy vintage food and entertainment at 6:30 in an historic environment.
Saturday, December 8: Holiday Bake-Off where local amateur bakers fix and display their holiday fares for judging. After these exquisite baked goods are judged they will be sold to the general public at 2 o'clock. Enter your favorite holiday baked goods or purchase and sample some of the best from the local community. Visit local merchants for another Weekend Gift Bag Drawing.
Saturday, December 15: Visit with Santa and shop local stores to participate in the Stamped-Coupon Drawing
Saturday, December 22: Mrs. Claus' Sidewalk Bake Sale - stock up on Christmas Holiday goodies made by members of Morris County Community organizations
For more information, check the website or phone the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office at 800-732-9211-

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Flint Hills Tourism Coalition meets in Abilene

The monthly meeting of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. <> was held in Abiliene at the Old Depot:

The group was welcomed by the Mayor Leyerzapf (far right):

The featured speaker of the day was Dick Carter of TIAK, Travel Industry of Kansas executive director, sharing with the group the latest informtion on KTI (the Kansas Travel Initiative).

For more information on KTI, check out their website at <>; registration required, but interested persons are welcome to register.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chase County Country Christmas Announcment

This is the press release from the Chase County Chamber of Commerce:
COTTONWOOD FALLS - It will be a cowboy Christmas in Chase County during this year’s Chase County Country Christmas.

“Chase C unty has been described as the place where the West truly begins,” said Deb Zeiner, director of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of Country Christmas. “We couldn’t think of a better way to honor our Western heritage than by having a Cowboy Country Christmas.”

Several new activities have been planned around the Cowboy Christmas theme, Zeiner said, including a cowboy-themed coloring contest, sponsored by Strong City Pizza Hut; Little Miss Cowboy Christmas contest; Meet a Cowboy with local cowboy Bruce Brock demonstrating rope tricks and leather-working; an ugly cowboy boot and hat contest; a Touch the Tack table, where children can touch a saddle, bridle and brushes used in caring for a horse; and a Blessing of the Animals at 10:30 a.m. in Swope Park in Cottonwood Falls.

“I think the Blessing of the Animals is a sweet idea,” Zeiner said. “After all, Jesus was born in a barn. I just see this as a way to acknowledge the love we have for the furry, or scaly, friends in our lives.”

Another new activity will be the first-ever Fabulous Fruitcake Toss, at the Millstream Motel in Cottonwood Falls.

“We’ll have a fruitcake toss set up for children,” said Richard Clute, co-owner of the Millstream. “And a fruitcake launch for adults. We’re going to see if we can launch them across the river. But if we don’t make it, the fish and ducks will have a special treat!”

From 2 - 5 p.m., the 2007 Holiday Homes Tour will showcase four spectacular Chase County locations - the historic Duehn Ranch home of Josh and Gwen Hoy at the Flying W Ranch near Clements, west of Strong City; the newly-restored St. Anthony Church at Strong City, a Western-themed home high on a hill east of Strong City and the historic Pioneer Bluffs homestead at Matfield Green. Admission to the Homes Tour is just a $5 donation that includes admission to all four locations.

“These are absolutely spectacular places on the tour this year,” Zeiner said. “They include glimpses in to the large ranch homes of our Chase County founders, an absolutely beautiful gem of a church and a home that you might call a cowboy’s palace!”

In the past, Country Christmas has included a dance at the Community Building in Cottonwood Falls at the end of the day of events. But this year, there will be a contra dance on Friday, Nov. 23 from 8-10 p.m. at the Community Building instead.

“We thought it would be more fun to have the dance on Friday night, while we still have some energy left,” said Chamber president Kevin Ireland. “The dance is free and everyone is invited.”

At 4:45 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by carriage in downtown Cottonwood Falls, where they will visit with children until 7 p.m.

“At 7 p.m., we’ll light the courthouse and this year we’re also lighting the newly-restored Cottonwood River Bridge,” Zeiner said. “It’s going to be beautiful. And after all of that, we’ll end the day with the Christmas carol singalong at the Prairie Coffee Company.”

There are many more activities scheduled for the 2007 Chase County Cowboy Christmas and local businesses will be open extended hours that day. For a complete schedule, see or contact the Chase County Chamber of Commerce at (620) 273-8469.


Hope some of my readers can take part - Enjoy! Share your experience with a comment here!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Kansas Flint Hills Monument Dedication

The four Kansas Flint Hills Monuments on I-70 (Junc City and West of Topeka) and I-35 (S. of Emporia and Cassoday) were dedicated this morning at a ceremony at the Konza Prairie Overlook Park on K 177 north of I-70 (where there was safe parking for all participants!).

[Sept 21 photo of monument southbound I-35, marker 119]

The Mill Creek Middle School singers opened the program:

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller opened the program by discussing the partnerships behind the Kansas Flint Hills Monuments project and a little history. Carried out by Scott Shields and his team at the DOT, input was critical from the Kansas Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Division and the Kansas Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc., a 22-county coalition stretching from the Nebraska border in the north to the Oklahoma border in the south. A mock-up of the monuments fit the program perfectly, representing each of the 30 ton monuments strategically placed on the Interstate Highways to remind tourists that they are in the Kansas Flint Hills - a premier tourism destination in America.

Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Kerr summarized the history of the Travel and Tourism Division, Becky Blake, Director, partnership with the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. and the joint accomplishments to date, including the distinctive logo and the Traveling Exhibit based on the National Geographic magazine 22-page spread of Jim Richardson photographs of the Kansas Flint Hills.

Linda Craghead, Executive Director, Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc., spoke of the history of the coalition, including the Fermata, Inc. strategic plan that has guided priorities the past couple of years. Looking to the future, the strategic plan urges the Coalition to continue to pursue National Heritage Area designation while building recognition of the Kansas Flint Hills as a tourism destination as part of the the overall Kansas Tourism Initiative.

Mill Creek singers closed the program with a fine rendition of "Home on the Range" - the state song.

Members of Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. were among those in attendance at the dedication.

See news coverage:
Topeka NBC

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Kansas Flint Hills - Matfield Green Service Center - I-35

Retuning to Emporia from a meeting in Wichita, I finally took the time to read and photograph the signs at the Matfield Green Service Center on I-35, in the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills.

This shows the vastness of the nearby prairie, entering the winter dormant season.

The Historical Marker is most descriptive of the ranching impact in the area:

[Double click the photo for a larger image]

Also of interest is an "earth, wind, water, fire" sign (the prairie burning is a distinctive characteristic of this part of America!):

Some say this is the "real cowboy country" - there are certainly still many cowboys doing the same tasks they did one hundred and fifty years ago, on the very same ranch lands.

Some unexpected recognitions are also interesting to see - The Purple Heart Train in Kansas:

This rest stop sits on the 38th Parallel! The same one that separates North and South Korea!!

And, finally, the Knute Rockne memorial inside the Service Center, not unexpected.
His plane crashed nearby, and many folks from around the country pilgrimage here each year!

Kansas, and especially the Flint Hills, are filled with fascinating things to see and hear. Check out the links, on the right, below, if you haven't already. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Tea and Talk" Kansas Flint Hills Presentation

I really enjoyed the opportunity this afternoon to speak at the "Tea and Talk" group meeting in the ESU Sauder Center - an enthusiastic group of 20 or so, mostly retired faculty - on the accomplishments of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. as well as the economic benefits of tourism in the Kansas Flint Hills as an economic development tool.

The particular PowerPoint slide, above, as I speak to the group, is my concluding slide for this presentation - a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can with what you have where you are" - perfect for our rural development efforts in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flint Hills Heritage Conference - Fall 2007

The Heritage Task Force of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc., held a very successful Heritage Conference at the Cottonwood Falls Community Center of Friday, Oct 19. This Fall Conference is the first of what is expected to be a series of semi-annual conferences moving toward eventual Congressional recognition as a National Heritage Area.

17 of the 22 counties in the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition had booths as presented ten minute of material about their counties for the benefit of all the rest of the county representatives in attendance. Among the participants were county officials, and representatives of a variety of local attractions in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The Conference opened with a photo montage compiled by Master of Ceremonies and Heritage Task Force Co-Chair, Dennis Toll, of the CVB in Manhattan.

Dr. Bill Smith, (yours truly) ESU School of Business, President of the Flint Hill Tourism Coalition, Inc., next shared "What is a Heritage Area?

This was followed by folk-loreist and Flint Hills native son, Dr. Jim Hoy, ESU English Department, speaking about the Kansas Flint Hills in his distinctive style, sharing real stories and encouraging the promotion of the heritage area concept.

State Senator Nick Jordan spoke to the group about the Kansas Travel Initiative (KTI) and encouraged the group in their endeavors.

Kansas Travel and Tourism Director, Becky Blake, shared with the group useful research and marketing information from the state level, that supported the KTI approach.

These photos also give a brief view of the county displays, around the edges of the room.

Here is a great representative sample of the county "booths," from Chautauqua County:

The Marion County presentation included the Harvey House, in Florence, with the building on the screen from the PowerPoint presentation, and a "Harvey Girl" in costume, on stage.

We did have a nice lunch, catered by "Bad Ol' Berns BBQ and Ice Cream" of Emporia - delicious!

To the right of the lunch line, above, are Linda Craghead, Executive Director, Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc., and, far right, Suzan Barnes, Conference Coordinator, of the Grand Central Hotel, in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

The Conference closed with an excellent marketing presentation by Richard Smalley, Marketing Director, Kansas Travel and Tourism.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ag Hall of Fame and US Hwy 24 – 2nd of 3 parts

We ended last time as I approached US Hwy 24, and was reminded I had never visited The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame. I had seen signs for it along I-70 so many times! It was just east of the intersection, so I decided to make a visit.

The first surprise was to realize the Renaissance Festival site is right there, as well. Turning south off US 24, it was just a short distance, past more Festival site, to the Hall.

The first thing you see is this mural/sculpture – the National Farmers Memorial:

Behind the memorial is The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame:

The left wing has the Hall of Fame, the right wing (in this view) is an auditorium with the Ag Broadcasters Hall of Fame on the walls, and a gift shop in the center (along with offices). BEHIND the building are other buildings (see below) and a large open space. To the right, from the building above, are two fields, one full of “honors placques” and the other with telephone poles where they conduct national “line man” competitions.

The Ag Hall of Fame has many notables from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Norman Borlaug ( and Bob Dole ( I was also please to Roswell Garst ( – he was from Coon Rapids, Iowa, my home town!

In the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, I recognized both Herb Plambeck and Keith Kirkpatrick, central Iowa farm broadcasters as I was growing up on the farm and at Iowa State Universty!

I enjoyed this photo on the wall as I was going out back to look around:

And, this blacksmith shop is recreated out back!

Here is the view, right of center, out the back door:

The blacksmith shop, by the way, is the grey building right in the center, behind the green machine… ;-) The farmhouse is on the right, of course.

Before we go out into a couple of these building, we will explore the large building to the left, not in the photo above.

This building houses the larger machinery.

One example of a tractor – 1924 Farmall Regular:

Over in the Blacksmith shop (the better photo didn’t come out!)

And, in the one-room school, much like I went to through 7th grade in Iowa.

And just one of several from the house… note the throw rug.

A very nice visit… but - as we always say in my family - Save something for next time! was time to get back on US Hwy 24 and head west!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leavenworth and US Hwy 24 – 1st of 3 parts

Saturday I dropped by wife off at the Kansas City airport at 8 a.m. (so she could fly to Austin to visit our grandson and help them move to their new house – I’ll drive down next weekend, for a week of vacation through Labor Day!) With nothing else on my schedule, I decided this was a good day to visit Leavenworth and drive across US Hwy 24 that parallels I-70, rather than rushing home to Emporia!

I’ll share the eastern part of the trip today and in the next entry, and get to the Flint Hills portion in the following entry. ;-)

We have lived in Kansas for over thirteen years now, and have not yet visited Leavenworth… Time was up! Up to Platte City I went, from the airport and caught highway 92 – same number in MO and KS! Across the impressive Missouri river bridge, and I was in Leavenworth, with the Army base on my immediate right. I made the right turn into the base, but… the entrance was intimidating… one car was being searched in the right hand lane… and four were waiting to go in the gate.

I spotted the turn around opening, and exited the base, took a right, and continued west, to see if the historical sites I wanted to see were out there, or, if I needed to go on the base. Shortly, I was driving past the U.S. Penitentiary… now, THAT is intimidating!!!

I turned around, and decided to go into the Army base. The guard at the gate confirmed I did need to enter to see the historic sites – I had noticed he was checking in ID cards, in the cars ahead – so, I was not surprised at the next thing he said: “You need to have your car inspected to enter the base.” Therefore, I got to swing around, the other way, through that turn around, and get in the far right hand lane, to be inspected: driver’s license first, then, I was “requested” to open all the openings on the car – all four doors, trunk and hood! Really reminded me of those days, long ago, when I went through ROTC summer camp and three years of active duty – in the Air Force; I was in the Army, now!

They kindly gave me, upon my request, the sheet of paper with the driving tour. I pulled in on the left, in a bit, where the sign said: “Welcome Center” – though it wasn’t on the map. Walking into the building, it was obvious this was the lobby of a “hotel” like building – with visiting officers sitting reading their newspapers and continental breakfast off the lobby. Acting like I knew clearly where I was going, I made my restroom visit and exited quietly, picking up a couple of information pieces from the displays on my way out.

A little further, per map, I came to the first site of interest, the Buffalo Soldier Monument.

Colin Powell narrated the story at the pedestal on the right, above.

I really like the statue at the far end:

There were informative interpretive signs up and back as I walked around the memorial.

Further up the road, a right, and near the end of that road, I got to see the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. For any military person, this is the ultimate training site. I stood there, just imagining the long, long line of well-known military leaders who have walked in and out of the building and on these grounds, over many, many years!

At the end of that road, and to the left, just a bit, the Mighty Missouri River – the Gateway to the West - appeared on the right:

The plaque is of Lewis and Clark, camping on that island in the river, 200 years ago – a great drawing, and fascinating to compare…

Right behind here, is a row of officer housing:

Again, I pondered the long string of career military officers, notables from WWI, WWII and all other conflicts that have lived in these houses – they all came through here!

As I turned back toward the main road, I got my one disappointment from the brief visit – it was just 9 a.m. and the Frontier Army Museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m. on Saturday!

In our family, we always say on vacation visits: “Save something for the next time!” Well, we’ll come back and visit the Frontier Army Museum, and perhaps some of the other Wayside 16 on the list they gave me!

Out of the base, I headed south on K-7 through Leavenworth, the city. I was curious to see their “Preserve America” signage – they are the only Kansas city, so far, to earn the designation – there is was, along the right side of the road.

As a tourism guy, I was both impressed and disappointed in the “welcome” building, near the sign. The little building actually had public restrooms, but the brochure display was very disappointing… had a few B&Bs, and real estate ads – but NO Leavenworth brochures!! Unbelievable!

Following K-7 highway directly south for several miles, I approached US Hwy 24, and was reminded I had never visited The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame that I had seen signs for along I-70 so many times! It was just east of the intersection, so I decided to make a visit – but more on that in the next entry!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Elk Falls in Elk Falls, south east edge of Kansas Flint Hills

While we were visiting the Elk Falls Pottery to pick up our mugs, we were sure to also visit the Elk Falls, and the 1893 Iron Truss Bridge (on the National Historic Register) nearby.

Elk Falls Pratt Truss Bridge

Here is my photo of the plaque and the bridge:

The bridge surfaced had been redone by the Kansas Wildlife & Parks / Americorps 2001 - names of donors of materials are on the logs:

Here are the Elk Falls, from the bridge:

A few miles west of Elk Falls, it was obvious we were in the Flint Hills. We caught K99 and headed north, back to Emporia!

Dr. Bill ;-)

Elk Falls Pottery, Elk Falls, Elk Co, Kansas

The Mugs I ordered from Steve and Jane Fry at Elk Falls Pottery were ready, so I arranged to stop by the Pottery and pick them up! Quite an experience, our first visit to Elk Falls, Kansas. Elk Falls bills itself as a "living" ghost town, because, "We ain't dead YET!" Population about 120... Coming from the east, on US 160, it certainly looked like the Kansas Ozarks. One writeup I read said it was in the Chautauqua Hills, but our map shows it on the very eastern edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. In any event, the mugs made from Kansas clay and hand thrown by professional potters, with the official logo of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition was very attractive, to me.

Here is a photo of the mugs I ordered, the gray ones on the left, and a sample of green, for future consideration:
Here is a photo of Elk Falls Pottery, exterior:

Here are Steve and Jane, wrapping our mugs:

Here are some sources of information on the Elk Falls Pottery:

A nice story…

Scroll down a bit…

Good coverage at Kansas Travel Site…

We had a great visit! We also went to the Elk Falls. That will be the next blog.

Dr. Bill ;-)