Thursday, April 28, 2011

8 Wonders of Kansas ~ The Guidebook, and an Exhibit

Left: spiral ring, lay-flat edition; Right: limited edition hard bound

With the spiraling price of gasoline, this spring and summer will find more of us looking for places to go and see that are closer to home. That, plus the on-going Kansas Sesquicentennial celebration, made for perfect timing the recent release of the 8 wonders of Kansas! Guidebook.

I give this book two hearty thumbs up, and not only will use it 
extensively in my future travels, but have picked it up 
from time to time just to enjoy the photos and stories.

Over the last couple of years, thousands of Kansans and fans of the Sunflower State have participated in elections sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation* to select first the Original 8 Wonders of Kansas, then the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture, Art, Commerce, Cuisine, Customs, Geography, History, and People. All finalists from each category are represented in the guidebook, with special emphasis on the winning entries.

The organization and layout of the 8 wonders of Kansas! Guidebook are first rate, resulting in a very readable, easy-to-use book. The text is written by "Kansas' Number One Cheerleader," Marci Penner, who has the gift of writing engaging, succinct commentary. And who better to provide the photo illustrations than Harland Schuster, a farmer/stockman from Morrill, Kansas, an accomplished photographer who knows Kansas? This book contains over 800 (yes, 800) photos of the 216 entries, many of which provide a unique perspective on the subject at hand.  

8 wonders of Kansas! Guidebook is available online from the Kansas Sampler Foundation, and at a number of locally-owned Kansas book stores. My numerous KC metro area readers should be able to find it at Rainy Day Books within a few days of the posting of this blog. It's already available at the Raven Book Shop in Lawrence and several locations in Topeka.

* The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities. It is not to be confused with the Kansas Sampler chain of t-shirt shops


If you are passing through Abilene this spring or summer, I encourage you to visit the Eisenhower Center, even if you have done so in the past. Between now and September 5, the Eisenhower Library is hosting an exhibit featuring the 8 Wonders of Kansas. I was surprised and impressed at the collection of Kansas artifacts made available to the Kansas Sampler Foundation and the library for this exhibit.  The photos below give a brief introduction to the exhibit:

Helmet and shoes belonging to Amelia Earhart, photo of Carrie Nation behind bars

Artifacts from the Dragoons at Fort Scott
Exhibits honor famous black Kansans George Washington Carver (above) and Gordon Parks
Gemini space suit and helmet from The Cosmosphere, Hutchinson

Antique horse from C.W. Parker Carousel, Big Jay


Nancy and I timed our exhibit visit to coincide with the kickoff ceremony for the 8 wonders of Kansas! Guidebook, as did quite a few other folks. Many were people associated with the sites featured in the book, some were book store owners eager to pick up their first stock orders, and there were ardent Kansas Explorers like us.

Harland and Marci happily signed numerous guidebooks.


For lunch, we went to one of Abilene's signature eating establishments, the Kirby House. The Kirby House is an elegant, 1885 Victorian mansion built by one of the city's first bankers. Lunch and dinner are served daily in the eight main rooms of the house. Located downtown at 205 NE Third Street. (no web site)


Mark your calendars, reserve the dates ~ The 2011 Kansas Sampler Festival is almost upon us. It takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 7 & 8, at Ray Miller Park, Leavenworth. The YouTube video above is from last year's event, also held in Leavenworth. My favorite part is the food concessions, but I'm certain most of my friends will be far more interested in learning about places to see and things to do in Kansas, and the educational stuff. Right. Leave a bieroch and a piece of pie for me, please. (Sour cream raisin, rhubarb or gooseberry preferred, definitely not coconut cream.)

If you live in northeast Kansas and think you will put it off until next year, you should know that the 2012 and 2013 festivals will be held in Liberal. I've made the drive many a time and can tell you it's a long ways from here.

All content except Kansas Sampler Festival's YouTube video
© 2011 Frank Thompson