I like Wamego.
If I had a published, written-out list of favorite small towns in Kansas, Wamego would be high on it - maybe not at the very top, but a long way from the bottom. Its downtown appears to be alive and thriving, and the residential areas I've seen are welcoming and well-maintained. The city park is graced by an authentic Dutch Mill, a historical museum, and a picturesque pond. Equally important, Wamego has several very nice, locally-owned places to eat.
This was my first visit to Wamego's Tulip Festival, and the city fathers could not have scripted a more pleasant day for this event. As a result, the town was flooded with visitors to the point that available parking was far from the park and the downtown district. I noted car tags from numerous Kansas counties and about a half-dozen states.
Much of the festival takes place on the shaded grounds of the city park. There are the ubiquitous craft booths, a petting zoo and games for the kids, a
One of downtown Wamego's premier attractions is the Columbian Theatre. In its early days this theater hosted drama, vaudeville, masques, balls, concerts, and a variety of community events. At the close of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Wamego banker J.C. Rogers purchased a number of valuable paintings and artifacts to be displayed in his theater. The Columbian remained open until 1950, and eventually the ground floor became the home of a furniture dealership. In 1989, concerned, progressive city leaders began the massive task of renovating the Columbian to its 1890s grandeur, a feat which completed in 1994. The work included cleaning and restoration of the valuable paintings obtained a century before. Unfortunately, I have yet to take any photos of these impressive works.
The Columbian is currently home to periodic dinner-theatre and other productions, and is available for meetings, banquets, and other private functions. It is also open for tours.
Historic Facts: In 1838, the Pottawatomie Indians were forcefully removed from their lands in Indiana and moved to Kansas, a journey now known as the Trail of Death. Chief Wamego was among those transported to the west... Walter P. Chrysler was born in Wamego; his birthplace is being restored and will house the Pottawatomie County Tourist Information Center... Nearby Wabaunsee is site of the famous Beecher Bible & Rifle Church... East of Wamego near Belvue is an area of special historic interest on the Oregon Trail (to be covered in my next Kansas Journeys blog).
Trivia: From 1885 to 1917 Wamego was the sweet potato capital of Kansas.
Getting There: Ten miles north of I-70 on state highway K-99. Makes for an easy day trip from KC Metro, Wichita, etc. There are numerous other places and attractions in the are worth a visit. For more info, see the state's tourism web site, one of the available guide books, or send me an email asking for my recommendations based on your personal interests.
Some Links of Interest:
Wamego Tourism: www.visitwamego.com
The Columbian Theatre: www.columbiantheatre.com
Oz Winery: www.ozwinerykansas.com
The Oz Museum: www.ozmuseum.com