Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
2000 Kansas Profiles

Dean Kennedy - Leadership Cowley County

You may have heard that old saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But I have a variation on that theme. How about this? When the going gets tough, the tough get together.

What I mean is that adversity sometimes causes us to pull together with others in the face of difficulty. Today we'll meet a group which is pulling together for the good of its people. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Dean Kennedy. Dean is senior vice-president of First National Bank in Winfield, Kansas. He grew up on a dairy farm in southeast Kansas, near the Crawford County town of Walnut, population 212 people. Now, that's rural.

From these rural roots, Dean went to college and then into a banking career in Fort Scott, Wichita, and Hutchinson.

By 1989, Dean and his wife were looking for a smaller school situation for their kids, so when the opportunity came to go to Winfield, they took it. Winfield is a town of nearly 12,000 people south of Wichita.

One of the things Dean found when he came to Winfield was that it had an arch-rival community: the nearby town of Arkansas City. Ark City and Winfield are two similarly-sized towns within Cowley County, and the two towns historically have been strong rivals and are very competitive.

In 1991, Dean Kennedy went through the Leadership Winfield program sponsored by the Winfield Area Chamber of Commerce. This was an excellent program intended to build and encourage new leadership in the community. It included several sessions about leadership and about the Winfield community. Dean then chaired Leadership Winfield, which is a committee of the Winfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, Winfield's rival community, Arkansas City, had its own program too, called Leadership Ark City. If one community had it, then the other one would too, by golly.

Dean and others began to dream of what could be accomplished if there was a unified, county-level program: a Leadership Cowley County. Dean was joined in this dream by Donna Avery, manager of Strother Field Airport and Industrial Park, and Carol Hearne, a banker in Ark City. They proposed that the programs in Ark City and Winfield be combined. And guess what? The idea was shot down.

Dean Kennedy says, "We proposed going jointly, and it got a lot of flak from local people. It just didn't work."

But the ill winds of economic change were blowing in the county. The state proposed to close Winfield state hospital, which was the town's largest employer, at the same time that the town's largest private business was closing its doors.

Dean Kennedy says, "Sometimes tough times make us work together. We rallied together to keep the state hospital and to come back from that."

At the same time, Dean, Donna, and Carol were looking at the leadership programs again. They enlisted the aid of the Winfield and the Ark City chambers and others who shared the unified dream. A steering committee was formed that observed the many similarities in the programs. Instead of a merger, this time they proposed that one of the monthly leadership sessions be held jointly.

Dean says, "We held a joint session on economic development and the speaker did not show. That's a facilitator's nightmare. Both classes were all there, but we had no speaker. So I said, well, I guess we'll have to wing it. We decided to hold a small group discussion. We divided everyone into teams, with representatives from both towns on each team, and asked them to discuss what factors divide the county and what factors unite the county. The steering committee agreed that this will either be a big success or we will get into a brawl."

Fortunately, it was a big success. The next year, two sessions were held jointly. Each succeeding year another and then another session were combined.

Guess what? In the spring of 1999, a new program was offered. Yes, it was Leadership Cowley County, a unified, county-wide program. Dean Kennedy says, "We took the best of both programs and it was highly successful, beyond our wildest dreams. We are seeing a wonderful ripple effect of the communities working together."

Yes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going B but they also can get together. We salute Dean Kennedy, the people of Leadership Cowley County, and the Winfield and Arkansas City chambers for making a difference through a unified approach to building leadership.

And with that, I guess it's time for me to get my act together and get going.

Judy Brzoska

Remember the Alamo. That's a famous statement in American history, of course. Today, we can remember the Alamo for a whole different reason: The Alamo happened to be the source of an idea that has developed into a business for a Kansas entrepreneur. Believe it or not, it has to do with baking cookies. Stay tuned for a delicious Kansas Profile.

Meet Judy Brzoska. Judy lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where her husband is a dentist and she a dental hygienist. Now she has launched a new business involving cookies and college mascots.

But, you may ask, what does that have to do with the Alamo? Oh yeah, I remember the Alamo.

Judy says that, a few years ago, she and a friend were visiting Texas and they went to see the Alamo. Her friend was getting something in the gift shop so Judy was waiting. Judy noticed that among the big selling items in the gift shop were the boxes of Alamo cookies. These were small boxes of cookies that were baked in the distinctive shape of the Alamo itself.

Judy was intrigued to see the cookies selling so well, and she said to herself, "Wow, I wonder if anyone has made college mascot cookies?" In other words, what if the cookies were baked in the shape of a college mascot instead of the Alamo?

Perhaps she thought of this because she has been living for more than 20 years in the college town of Lawrence, where anything with a Jayhawk on it is a hot seller. Anyway, the thought lingered in her mind until she called the Texas company that made the Alamo cookies to see if they were interested in college cookies. They were not, but they gave Judy the name of their baker.

That initial contact has led to the creation of a business, under the name Kollege Kritters B that's spelled with a K as in Kansas. After some research and development work, Kollege Kritters started selling boxes of cookies with college mascots on them.

In year one, Kollege Kritters offered KU and Nebraska cookies. In year two, it offered Kansas State and Ohio State cookies. More mascots are possible in future years.

These cookies are delicious. They are not animal crackers, although they come in a small box like animal crackers, but these are made of shortbread and are quite tasty.

Judy uses the recipe and facilities of the same baker who makes the Alamo cookies. Then Judy does the Kansas distribution, which has expanded over much of the state. Another distributor covers Nebraska for her, and her Ohio State cookies are being sold through the Ohio State bookstore.

In only her third year, Judy is selling cookies from Kansas City to Garden City and far beyond. Of course, the K-State and KU cookies are big sellers in Manhattan and Lawrence. Judy sells in the largest cities, but also such towns as Council Grove and Seneca, population 1,995 people. Now, that's rural.

These sell in gift shops and stores. I found them in Manhattan area stores for two dollars or less, and a percentage of each sale supports the K-State scholarship fund.

Of course, it is the attractive purple packaging that first caught my eye. And here's a scouting report for you. Judy says, "The Powercat is my best cookie, because it doesn't break. But the Jayhawk cookie is my cutest cookie." I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder.

And because fans are fans, Judy has received calls from all over the country interested in the perfect gift or souvenir. Judy has had calls literally from Florida to California, and even from Europe. Judy says, "I'm an ordinary person who dreamed something and worked hard to make it successful."

You can reach Kollege Kritters toll-free at 1-888-383-5665. That number again is 1-888-383-5665.

Remember the Alamo. Yes, that's a famous location in American history, but it also happens to be the place where Judy Brzoska got the idea to bake and sell cookies based on college mascots. We commend Judy for making a difference through her imagination and creativity. I'm sure this isn't a half-baked idea.

 

 

Ed Henry - Part 1, Twin Valley

Popcorn. Hot, steamy, buttery popcorn. Mmm, it sounds so good. A tasty and healthy snack. Just smell the aroma of fresh, hot popcorn wafting through the air.

Now, if you're a popcorn fan like I am, your mouth might be watering right now. Lots of us love popcorn.

Today we'll meet a man who not only helps bring popcorn to lots of consumers around northeast Kansas, he does so while providing much needed employment for people with special needs B and he's doing it in rural Kansas. So grab your bag of popcorn, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ed Henry. Ed is director of Twin Valley Developmental Services in north central Kansas. He grew up on a dairy farm south of Seneca, the youngest of 12 kids. Maybe that explains why he works so hard B if you're the youngest of 12 kids, you really have to hustle.

After college, in 1977, Ed became director of Twin Valley, a private, non-profit organization designed to serve people with developmental disabilities. Ed says, "When we opened our doors, we had 12 people. We thought it might go to 25 people in a few years. People told me I was a dreamer, but it has grown far beyond that."

Today, Twin Valley Developmental Services serves about 90 adults and 15 to 20 children in Marshall and Washington Counties. Twin Valley is a regional provider of community-based services to people with disabilities. Those services range from residential care to vocational development that helps people with disabilities live productive lives in the community.

Twin Valley has living facilities, such as apartments and group homes, and sheltered workshops where these developmentally disabled people can perform certain tasks. For example, one of the sheltered workshops does laundry for area businesses. There are also work crews who work at area businesses such as Landoll Corporation and the horse trailer manufacturers.

And that's where the popcorn comes in. Ed Henry is always looking for projects or work that his developmentally disabled people could do. One day, he was at the post office in Waterville when he learned that the girl who ran the popcorn shop in town was getting married and moving away. Twin Valley bought that popcorn shop and started producing packaged popcorn products for sale.

People liked the products, and started buying more of them. The popcorn business gradually expanded, and Twin Valley ended up buying a couple of popcorn companies. Twin Valley now has a full line of popcorn from unpopped to buttered and flavored, and has gotten into the gift basket business. The most recent acquisition includes the familiar brand name Big Top.

Today, Twin Valley is supplying Big Top popcorn to Dillon's warehouses and other warehouses in Missouri and Nebraska. The company supplies its products to 150 stores in northeast Kansas, and sales this year are estimated to exceed two hundred thousand dollars. Wow.

That's good for the disabled folks as well as area consumers and the stores which sell the popcorn. The headquarters of Twin Valley is where it all began, in the north central town of Greenleaf, population 346 people. One of the sheltered workshops is in Greenleaf, and the other is in the Marshall County town of Beattie, population 221 people. Now, that's rural.

Ed Henry says, "People said it couldn't be done in a rural area, but we've made it very simple and made it work. I grew up in a rural area, and I knew it could work."

Popcorn. Hot, steamy, buttery popcorn. Mmm, it sounds so good. A tasty and healthy snack. But you don't have to wait, you can buy Big Top popcorn in many of your local stores. And if you do, you can help yourself while helping the developmentally disabled as well. We salute Ed Henry and the people of Twin Valley for making a difference through service and entrepreneurship.

And there's more, because the challenges facing this popcorn enterprise are similar to small Kansas-based companies all across the state. What if they could work together to meet those challenges? We'll hear about that on our next program. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go get some popcorn.

Ed Henry - Part 2, ClickKansas.Com

Today let's hit the highway to go shopping for Kansas products. We'll start with some specialty foods, such as venison from a company near Moundridge in central Kansas, cookies from Shawnee Mission in eastern Kansas, flavored popcorn from Greenleaf in northern Kansas, and SandHill Plum Jelly from Plains in southwest Kansas. Then let's buy some special gifts, such as bath soaps from Arkansas City in southern Kansas and an herb growing kit from Seneca in northeast Kansas.

Wow, does this whirlwind trip around the state have you worn out? We've covered a lot of miles on this shopping trip B but guess what? We never left our desk. The highway we just hit was the information superhighway, also known as the Internet.

The virtual shopping trip I just described all took place over the Internet, as we visited a new website called clickkansas.com. It's the latest initiative of the Kansas Marketing Association, and it's today's Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we met Ed Henry of Twin Valley Developmental Services. Ed developed a popcorn business as a work project for the developmentally disabled people that Twin Valley serves. In developing the popcorn business, Ed learned a lot about operating a value-added small business in a rural setting.

Four years ago, Ed and others who were involved in small Kansas value-added enterprises got together and formed a non-profit association. It is called the Kansas Marketing Association, or KMA.

KMA is made up of small and mid-sized Kansas companies working together to develop additional markets for Kansas products. By working cooperatively, each KMA member is able to share in marketing expenses and create a broader exposure than each individual member company would be capable of doing by itself.

Roy Seybert was the first president of KMA. When it came time to elect a new president, the person who was selected was Ed Henry.

Ed says that the organization had a deficit budget in the early years, as many start-up organizations do. Now the organization is in the black and moving forward with ideas for jointly marketing Kansas products.

A perfect example of such cooperative marketing is the new website, clickkansas.com. That's clickkansas, all one word with two k's, dot com.

On that website, you can find a list of Kansas products of various types. You can click on such categories as food products, gifts, apparel, automotive, farm and ranch, computers and internet, health products, and more. Clicking on each category brings up a list of Kansas businesses producing and selling that type of product. The website also has links to bed and breakfasts and visitor attractions around the state, as well as information about KMA.

Kansas companies can join KMA for $50. Members then get a free display ad on the clickKansas website.

That website address again is clickkansas, all one word with two k's, dot com.

Another project KMA is working on is a Kansas Visa credit card. The card comes with a sunflower or wheat field design, and is available for no annual fee. KMA encourages anyone to sign up for the Kansas Visa card. Upon first use of the account, the cardholder will receive a gift basket from KMA containing an assortment of Kansas items valued at approximately $20.

More information about the credit card offer is also available at clickkansas.com.

Ed Henry has lots of other ideas too, including joint promotion to gift shops and a group sales and delivery service which would represent lots of Kansas companies in jointly servicing stores around the state.

We applaud the efforts of these entrepreneurs. These efforts provide a special marketing outlet for businesses in rural places. The website includes businesses from Wichita and Shawnee Mission, but also from such places as Plains, population 988, and Waterville, population 551 people. Now, that's rural.

How exciting that these Kansas businesses are promoted around the globe through clickkansas.com.

Let's shop for Kansas products by hitting the highway -- the information superhighway, that is. We salute Ed Henry and the people of the Kansas Marketing Association for making a difference through innovative and cooperative marketing. Good luck on your virtual travels. And remember, the exit you need to watch for is clickkansas.com.

 

 

Joe & Brenda Rossini

Here's a riddle for you. What do the following have in common? FEMCO Manufacturing company in McPherson; the city of Wentzville, Missouri; Aunt Pat's Doll Shoppe in Gardner, Kansas; a law firm specializing in intellectual property law cases in Overland Park; the county offices of Coffey County in Burlington; and the Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in northeast Kansas.

Wow, what a diverse group. What in the world would they have in common? Do you give up? The answer is that they are all on the Internet with websites designed by an innovative rural Kansas company called Rossini Management Systems. Prepare to download our program, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Brenda and Joe Rossini. Brenda and Joe are president and vice-president, respectively, of Rossini Management Systems. Rossini Management Systems is a company which provides interactive media to the economic development, manufacturing, and business community in the midwest. That includes the remarkably diverse group of entities that I just read.

Brenda Rossini is a graduate of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee. Her career took her to Boeing Aircraft Corporation and Allied Signal Aerospace Company.

Her husband Joe graduated from K-State. He worked in sales, management and marketing with such companies as NCR and Gerber Scientific Instruments.

In 1986, Rossini Management Systems was formed to sell computer software and point of sale systems to the retail, commercial, and business marketplace. Clients included AMC Entertainment, Russell Stover candies, Hallmark Cards, and others.

In 1994, Brenda and Joe launched a new division of the company to focus on multimedia operations. They formed a new division to utilize their combined forty-years-plus experience to develop and market high technology products.

For example, in 94 the Rossinis worked with the Johnson County Partnership organization to produce a 250 page fact book on disk. The Rossinis have gone on to produce interactive electronic media for a diverse set of purposes.

Apparently these technological products are good ones. In 1997, the AEDC voted one of the Rossini projects as best interactive product of the year. The Rossinis have produced interactive marketing disks promoting towns in Missouri, and those disks have won the Governor's Conference Award -- not once but two years in a row.

And where is this innovative company located? Well, its mailing address is Stilwell, Kansas, which I couldn't find on my map. Joe Rossini tells me that they are actually nearest to the town of Bucyrus, which is an unincorporated town in northern Miami County in eastern Kansas, south of Kansas City.

Joe says, "We are the most technologically advanced company in Miami County." He says, "Bucyrus itself has a grain elevator, one other business and us." Bucyrus has a population estimated at about 200 people. Now, that's rural.

Yet the beauty of modern technology is that it doesn't matter where you live, you can communicate electronically around the world. You don't have to live on Wall Street or in downtown LA to do business. You can use the Internet to go world-wide.

Brenda and Joe's company has helped its clients go world-wide by developing products for them such as digital marketing computer brochures, logos, Internet home pages, and data base projects. But just having a website is not enough. The Rossinis can submit their client's sites to search engines so that websurfers will be referred to them.

Joe gets especially excited about seeing his clients succeed. For example, he talks about working with a moving company in Kansas City to automate their warehouse inventory and track movement of products through the Internet. Joe says, "It was a tremendous time-saver. Our computer project was easily paid for within a year in labor savings."

You can find more about the company by going on, guess what, the Internet. Go to www.rossini.com. Or you can call toll-free, the old-fashioned way, at 1-888-533-5368. That number again is 1-888-533-5368.

So that's the answer to our riddle. I found it interesting that entities as diverse as a doll shop, several cities, a law firm, manufacturing companies, and even the Catholic church would be on-line on the Internet thanks to this Kansas enterprise. We salute Brenda and Joe Rossini for making a difference through modern technology and old-fashioned hustle.

Sternberg Museum

Today let's take a walk along a beach. It's a pleasant walk, although we see some strange creatures. And as we come around a bend, we find a giant, 18 foot tall, 40 foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex B which turns its head toward us and shows its giant teeth with a roar.

Wow, did we step through a time warp? No, we're simply visiting a new museum featuring robotic dinosaurs and educational displays. It's all part of the new Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and it's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet the late George Sternberg. Sternberg is the world-renowned fossil hunter for whom the museum is named.

Our story really begins about 80 million years ago -- give or take a millenium or two -- when central North America was covered by a giant inland sea. Dinosaurs and other types of prehistoric life were living in and around that inland sea. Over the years, those creatures would leave their remains all over, including the area we now call rural Kansas.

Fast forward a few million years to 1866, when an Army surgeon named Dr. George Sternberg was assigned to a post at Fort Harker near Ellsworth. He noticed that inquisitive troopers, while on patrol in western Kansas, would sometimes collect fossils. He showed some of these fossils to early paleontologists in Washington and Philadelphia who recorded them in the scientific literature. The adventure had begun.

Dr. Sternberg was joined by his younger brother and three nephews in a lifelong interest in paleontology. It is said that no other single family has been more important to the history of paleontology than the Sternbergs.

The Sternbergs engaged in fossil collecting all over the western U.S. and into South America. In 1927, young George F. Sternberg, namesake of his uncle, was persuaded by the president of what is now Fort Hays State University to become a curator at the college. Sternberg spent his entire career there, doing his world-renowned paleontological work and setting up a museum.

One of his finds was the famous fish within a fish. This is a fossil of one large fish showing the fossil of a smaller fish within its belly B presumably, a fish that the larger one had just eaten. Gee, I guess the meal didn't agree with him....

Anyway, it is a rare and eye-catching find. It was found in a chalk bed southeast of Quinter, Kansas, population 844 people. Now, that's rural.

The fish within a fish has been part of the Sternberg collection for many years. I remember seeing it on the Fort Hays campus when it and other fossils were crammed into an academic building down in the middle of campus. The setting wasn't very visitor-friendly.

Now, those displays have a new home. It is a fabulous, multi-million dollar facility located just off of Interstate 70 on the north side of Hays. The university acquired a 4.5 story, domed building there and converted it into this museum, which opened in the spring of 1999.

The museum includes many fossils and a diorama simulating a prehistoric beach. Visitors walk through and see life-size, animated dinosaurs B including that giant Tyrannosaurus Rex. It also includes a simulation of undersea life, including giant mosasaurs and fish.

There is an interesting lifesize model of George Sternberg at work on a fossil dig, many educational displays and changing exhibits, and even a restaurant and Museum Store.

I especially like the discovery room, which is great for kids and others. Unlike most museums, this is one where visitors are encouraged to touch the things inside. Kids can climb on a giant spider and visitors can use computer stations or actually handle and examine various specimens from nature.

And I haven't even mentioned what greets you first at the museum. When you walk in the front door, you are nose-to-nose B or maybe nose-to-tusk B with a casting of a skeleton of a giant, 10,000 year old Columbian mammoth. Wow, what a greeter....

The Sternberg Museum of Natural History is a real gem. It has already attracted some hundred thousand visitors. It's a great place to visit and bring the family.

It's time to end our walk on the beach, so we'll say goodbye to this giant dinosaur -- with thanks that he hasn't eaten us. We commend the people of Fort Hays State and especially of the Sternberg Museum, for making a difference by providing this wonderful new fun and educational resource for our citizens. It's beachfront property like you've never seen before B and you've got to see it.

 

 

Mike McReynolds - Taylor Products

Here's a story about a company that is tailor-made for success B and I mean that literally. It is tailor-made because its products are made by a company called Taylor Products. But aside from the name, this is an innovative and growing company. I'm pleased to say that we find it in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Mike McReynolds. Mike is President and CEO of Taylor Products, and he told us the company's history.

Our story really begins nearly three decades ago, with a man named Murland Taylor. Mr. Taylor had a seed cleaning plant in southeast Kansas. He was something of an innovator, and he was looking for a way to improve the seed cleaning equipment that he had on hand. He tinkered with the machine and made some improvements B so many, in fact, that soon his competitors wanted a new machine like that too.

After the seed was cleaned, the next step would be to have a machine to put it in a bag. And of course, you would want it to fill the same amount every time. Beyond that, you would want it to be reliable and clean.

Mr. Taylor started working on such machines, and that's how it all began. As I said, the first machines were used to package seed, but it became apparent that this packaging could apply to other types of products too. A company was formed to produce such equipment, and it grew and diversified.

Today, the company known as Taylor Products manufactures a wide range of equipment used in packaging and handling of dry, bulk, solid materials. Taylor Products offers a broad range of modular packaging components and works with customers to solve unique packaging needs.

Taylor Products is also involved with the Southeast Kansas Manufacturers Network. This is a group of manufacturers in the region that first got together 10 or 12 years ago to discuss common problems and work for solutions.

Mike McReynolds came to the company four years ago. Sales have nearly doubled in that time, and so has employment. When Mike started, there were 41 employees, and now there are 74.

And boy, has the company diversified. These packaging systems aren't just for seed anymore. In fact, the Taylor Products website offers equipment for the following types of industries: Chemical, conveying equipment manufacturing, consulting engineering, cosmetics, feed & seed, food & snack, milling & baking, nut & nut processing, powdered coatings, paint & pigments, pet food, petrochemical, and plastics & plastic compounding. Wow. And to achieve the maximum accuracy in these packaging machines, Taylor Products now offers digital weighing controllers and electronic scale controls.

Mike McReynolds says that about 15 percent of their products go to agricultural use, while 30 percent goes for handling chemicals and 27 percent each go for handling food and pharmaceutical products.

These products are even in demand overseas. Taylor Products has sold to customers from New Zealand to Canada and from China to South America.

It's exciting to see a Kansas business like this have international success, from its location in Parsons, Kansas; population 11,316 people. Now, that's rural.

This is a company that is tailor-made for success. In fact, it's literally taylor-made because the name of the company is Taylor Products, and this company makes high quality equipment which is marketed world-wide. We salute Mike McReynolds and the people of Taylor Products for their entrepreneurship, innovation, and hard work in the packaging industry. All in all, it makes for a great package deal.

Jon Hotaling - Southeast Kansas Inc.

How do you spell the word team? That's easy, right? Everyone knows how to spell team.

Would you believe that team can be spelled with the letters S-E-K? That's not what your grade school spelling teacher taught you, but in southeast Kansas there is a group of people which is taking a team approach to solving regional problems. Their team approach could be described by the letters S-E-K. It's being led by citizens from rural Kansas, and it's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jon Hotaling. Jon is director of economic development for Coffey County in eastern Kansas. He is also involved in creating this new regional organization serving the southeastern part of our state. That effort is bringing together the strengths of several entities in the region.

Jon points out that in 1957, an organization called Mid-America Inc. was formed in southeast Kansas to strengthen the manufacturing base of the region through industrial recruitment. That organization did a lot of good. Over time, its mission changed, and the organization declined during the tough times of the 1990s.

Meanwhile, other leaders in the region saw the need for additional efforts to strengthen the area. At Pittsburg State University, Phil Halstead became director of the Business and Technical Institute. Phil had a vision of a regional approach to problem-solving, and he helped mobilize it. It was called the Southeast Kansas Economic Alliance.

Jon Hotaling says, "Phil Halstead was instrumental in trying to get new ideas in to help our area."

In 1998, an initial meeting was held in Pittsburg. 120 community leaders from all economic sectors attended the meeting. Discussion centered on the fact that southeast Kansas has lost 30 percent of its population since 1930, and according to a state study has the highest level of economic distress of any region of the state.

To address these problems, these leaders agreed to work together. They formed the Southeast Kansas Economic Alliance, which has continued to meet. The alliance has organized a set of councils within its group to address regional needs on a variety of topics, including agriculture, economic development, chambers of commerce, education, manufacturing, legislation, transportation, tourism, and housing.

Mid-America Inc. was one of the sponsors of the alliance, and over time it became clear that there would be benefit from merging the legal entity of Mid-America Inc. with the energy of the new alliance. In late 1999, voters approved a merger of the alliance and Mid-America. And in February of 2000, the new organization was unveiled: Southeast Kansas Inc.

Southeast Kansas Inc. is composed of nine member counties in the southeastern part of the state. It has a steering committee and a large board of directors representing the entire region.

The vision of the new organization is a southeast Kansas with a rising standard of living for all its citizens. The mission of the organization is to develop and implement a regional economic development strategy, campaign, and organization. Southeast Kansas Inc. has specific objectives for raising income, reversing the population decline, and retaining and creating higher value-added jobs. The various councils have specific strategies to help in their sector of the economy.

When Southeast Kansas Inc. elected its first chairman of the board, the person selected was Jon Hotaling. Jon works in the Coffey County town of Burlington, population 2,719 people. Now, that's rural.

I believe rural people understand the need to work together. Jon Hotaling says, "We want to bring all these regional assets and organizations together to focus on stemming the tide. This will require both a strong volunteer effort and a financial commitment from both public and private sectors." Southeast Kansas Inc. will even have a presence on the Internet, with a website at sekinc.org.

How do you spell team? That's easy, right? Well, in one region of the state, leaders there are spelling team Southeast Kansas Inc., or SEK for short. We commend Jon Hotaling, Phil Halstead, and other leaders of southeast Kansas for making a difference by pulling together. However you spell it, Southeast Kansas Inc. is making teamwork happen.

 

 

Randy Rundle - Fifth Avenue Antique Auto

Today let's go to the finish line of the 1999 Great American Race -- that's the name of the annual cross country race for antique cars. We're here at the finish line in California, and here comes the winning car. It is a 1911 Veelie vintage automobile. And just as in years before, a key part of the electrical system inside this champion car was produced in rural Kansas. It has even made its way to Hollywood.

How did this happen? Start your engines, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Randy Rundle. Randy is the owner of Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts. He is the remarkable entrepreneur who has been now been internationally recognized for his work with the electrical systems on antique cars.

Our story begins in Clay Center, Kansas, where young Randy Rundle used to tinker with cars, as many young men tend to do. His first project was an old 1948 Chevrolet pickup. He soon found that it had electrical problems. The lights would be dim or it wouldn't start. Those old cars and trucks used generators which were known to be unreliable.

But Randy knew that in the mid-1960s car manufacturers started using alternators, which used more reliable components to power a car's electrical system. So Randy decided to apply the new technology to the older style automobiles.

He invented a 6 volt alternator that would replace the generator in these old car's electrical systems. His newly designed alternator produced an electrical output that is 60 percent greater than that of the old generator style systems.

This makes for an invaluable addition to the reliability of an antique automobile. Today he sells his alternator and other antique parts to old-car enthusiasts from coast to coast and around the world.

In 1989, Randy got involved with the Great American Race, which as I mentioned is the transcontinental road race for vintage cars. Randy's alternator was first used in a 1936 car called a Cord, which I had never heard of. That 1936 car with Randy's alternator finished in the top 10.

In 1993, Randy's alternator was used in a 1929 Dodge Sport Roadster which placed first in the 4,500 mile Great Race. Since then, Randy has had his alternator in cars with two firsts and two second place finishes.

This technological advance has not gone unnoticed. In 1998 the Great Race started in California, and a movie director who happened to be there saw the benefits of the alternators and was referred to Randy.

MGM Studios bought one of Randy's alternators to install in a 1953 Ford it was using for filming. It worked so well that they told Columbia Pictures who bought 6 volt alternators to go in the two 1947 Pontiacs used in the movie "Devil in a Blue Dress" starring Denzel Washington, and in 1997 Warner Brothers bought some for the movie "LA Confidential" starring Danny Devito.

All this Hollywood stuff is pretty exciting, but Randy remains based in his hometown antique auto parts store in Clay Center, Kansas, population 4,692 people. Now, that's rural.

But Randy's store isn't just your typical downtown store either. It has lots of interesting features, starting with the front end of an actual 1949 Chevrolet that is mounted on the front of Randy's building. In other words, it looks like someone is driving this car toward the street from his second floor. And to make it even better, that car's lights still work and the horn still honks.

Inside the store, the walls are lined with old barn wood covered with metal highway signs and antique road maps. The seats at the counter are made from Model T car rear ends.

This is a guy who is ingenious, who has great mechanical skills, and who appreciates classic automobiles. He has written two books about restoring cars. So why remain in Clay Center?

Randy Rundle says, "I grew up here. The quality of life is a lot better here."

It's time to say goodbye to the Great American Race in California. We're glad to find that a rural Kansas company could play a role in helping these champion cars. We salute Randy Rundle and Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts for making a difference through innovation and entrepreneurship. Compared to the hassles of living in congested urban areas, Randy has chosen to win the Great Race instead of the rat race.

Dr. Brian Hunt - Health Care in Linn County

2000 is an election year, in case you haven't noticed. Imagine a political rally that sounds like this: "Our candidate is the best. What has he accomplished? Well, he raised your taxes...."

Oops, doesn't sound like a very popular platform to run on. But sometimes there is such a crisis that the elected officials and the people step forward together to respond with the needed investment. Today, we'll learn about such a case in rural Kansas. It involves something that is vital to all of us, and that is quality health care.

Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Brian Hunt, M.D. Dr. Hunt was involved in a major debate involving health care in his county. Brian lives in eastern Kansas now, but he was originally from Arkansas City in south central Kansas. He grew up on a farm and went to K-State, but he says he always wanted to be a doctor.

He says, "I love taking care of people." Ultimately, he went to medical school at KU, concentrating on internal medicine and pediatrics. He graduated in1994 and spent two years practicing emergency medicine in Lawrence.

At that point, he was getting married and he found an opportunity to do family practice in a smaller town setting. So he ended up practicing medicine at a clinic in the Linn County town of LaCygne. Linn County is on the eastern Kansas line, bordering Missouri. It is due south of Kansas City.

The Shawnee Mission Medical Center of Kansas City owned two clinics in Linn County. One was at LaCygne and the other was at Mound City, population 840 people. Now, that's rural. In rural towns everywhere, it is tough to maintain medical service in the face of rising medical costs and lower government reimbursements.

In 1997 the parent company of the Linn County clinics was involved in a merger, and guess what: the new company decided to streamline and downsize. In January 1999 came the public announcement from the merged health company in Kansas City: We're going to shut these Linn County clinics down.

As you might guess, this generated a lot of concern in the county. Linn County is already medically underserved. There is no hospital in the county, and only one other full-time physician. There was a public outcry about the potential loss of local health care.

At that point, the leadership of the county commission stepped forward. The commissioners, led by Marty Reed, began a search for alternatives. At one point Marty Reed asked the doctors, would you stay if the county could keep these clinics open?

Dr. Brian Hunt agreed to stay, and then the real work began. After a lot of debate, the county commissioners proposed to raise the mill levy so that the county could purchase and support these two clinics, and the plan was adopted. The tax increase took effect at the beginning of the new year, and the Kansas City health company agreed to keep the clinics open till that time.

Today, the medical clinics in Mound City and LaCygne are serving patients with support from the county. Dr. Hunt and his nurse practitioner take turns staffing these clinics on alternating days.

Dr. Hunt says, "If the county wouldn't have stepped in, these clinics would have shut down." He is really proud of the way the county reacted to this potential loss of health care.

Increasing taxes is never an easy task. Dr. Hunt says, "When people saw that the increased cost of this plan would be less than the cost of gas to drive out of the county for health care, people set aside their political differences to make this happen."

He says, "The county commissioners recognized that health care is one of the keystones of any community. All I want to do is take care of folks, and I look forward to the growth of medical care here."

Yes, 2000 is an election year. You won't likely hear some candidate say, "Yes, I raised your taxes." But in Linn County, we found a case where the people and the elected officials together recognized the need to invest to maintain local health care.

We salute the people of Linn County, Dr. Brian Hunt, and the Linn County Commissioners for making a difference through this innovative step to support health care for their citizens.

Imagine a political rally where the candidate says, "I helped maintain local health care service in our county." Now that would get my vote.

 

 

Ron Ensz, FuturePro

Today let's go to Chicago where they are filming a commercial with basketball star Michael Jordan. Wow! The lights are on, the cameras are rolling, and there is Michael Jordan...with a basketball goal that came from a company in rural Kansas.

How in the world did a rural Kansas company get its basketball goal in with Michael Jordan? Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ron Ensz. Ron is the owner of FuturePro Incorporated, the company which provided the basketball goal for this commercial with the infamous Michael Jordan. This company offers a full line of equipment for basketball, volleyball, football, and track and field. Yet the origin of this company reflects its rural roots.

Our story begins with Loren Balzer, who's from Buhler in south central Kansas. Loren was a custom cutter who traveled across country during wheat harvest.

One year as Loren was preparing to leave for harvest, his wife had a request. They had three boys, all different ages and sizes. The boys wanted to play basketball but each needed a different height basketball goal. That was a problem for Loren's wife, so he devised a basketball goal which could be adjusted by hand to fit each of the boys.

It worked so well that a neighbor wanted one, and then another. Before long, Loren and friends were building basketball goals in the winter and cutting wheat in the summer.

Ron Ensz was one of those friends and neighbors who was helping build these basketball goals in his spare time, and he came to Loren and said, "I think these have real potential."

So in 1990, Ron and Loren decided to add a portable stand to one of their basketball goals and take it to a trade show held in conjunction with the final four. Ron says, "We finished assembling it late one Tuesday night and took off early Wednesday morning for the final four." There they put up their new goal, but there was one problem: In their haste to get it done, they hadn't built it with enough weight on the back of the stand.

Ron says, "Part of our sales pitch was that these were farmer-built so they were strong and tough." They would demonstrate by jumping up and holding the rim, showing that it could support their weight. But when they did so, the goal fell over.

So much for strong and tough. What in the world to do? But Ron and his friend were entrepreneurs. When someone came by for a demonstration, one of them would sit on the back of the stand and pretend to take notes, which weighted down the goal so that the other could show how strong it was. This ingenuity worked, and Syracuse University ordered 10 basketball goals. Ron was careful to tell them that the goals they received might look a little different, which gave him time to get home and fix the problem.

From this humble beginning the company got its start. Ron Ensz bought the company, known as FuturePro Inc. Today the company sells backboards, rims, nets, stands, pads, and practice equipment for basketball and other sports. Ron Ensz has been to every final four since that first time. His company is selling to schools and universities from coast to coast and even the NBA. Churches are a rapidly growing market now. Most sales are through catalog, word of mouth, and now the Internet at www.futureproinc.com. The company has even made sales to six foreign countries.

Sales have exceeded more than a million dollars, and FuturePro goals have been used with such celebrities as Spike Lee and Michael Jordan. But the company remains in the Kansas town of Inman, population 1,126 people. Now, that's rural.

Ron Ensz says, "I go to about 15 trade shows a year, from Orlando to LA. I love to travel, but it's nice to come home."

He says, "If my forklift breaks down at the business, the lumberyard will let me use theirs. Out here, rural people will help each other out."

It's time to say farewell to Michael Jordan in Chicago, where he is filming a commercial with a basketball goal from a company in rural Kansas. We salute Ron Ensz, Loren Balzer, and the people of FuturePro Inc. for making a difference through entrepreneurship. They've made a slam dunk for rural Kansas.

Ralph Goodnight

Today let's go to the League of Kansas Municipalities, the state-wide association of towns and cities. It's headquarters is near the state capitol in Topeka. One might assume that the League is dominated by the bigger cities in the eastern end of the state. Sure enough, if you were to look at a list of the recent presidents of the organization, you would find they are from such places as Kansas City, Salina, Topeka, Wichita, and Lakin.

What was that last one? Yes, I said Lakin. Lakin is a far southwest Kansas town of 2,172 people. Now, that's rural.

How did a small western Kansas town come to have such a leadership role? Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ralph Goodnight. Ralph is the mayor of Lakin, Kansas.

Ralph Goodnight is well-grounded in Lakin. On his mother's side, his family goes back almost five generations in the community. Ralph went to Lakin schools and Garden City Community College. He is involved in the family farming business, and especially involved in city government.

Ralph was elected mayor in 1989 and has been re-elected twice without opposition. In 1991, he joined the Board of the League of Kansas Municipalities.

In 1995, Ralph's name was being put forward as a possible nominee for vice-president of the state association. But first, it had to go through the League nominating committee.

Ralph says, "If it was the mayor of Topeka or someone like that who was being nominated, they probably wouldn't even bother to go to the meeting." But Ralph figured he should attend. When he did, there was Bob Knight, the mayor of Wichita. I'd think that might be a little intimidating. Ralph wasn't sure how a big city mayor like Bob Knight would take to an officer candidate from a small town.

But when the meeting began, it was Bob Knight who said, "Let's set aside this other business so we can get Ralph in as vice-president." Ralph thought to himself, "Wow, I've just been endorsed by the mayor of the largest city in the state."

And so it was. Ralph received the nomination and was elected. A year later, Ralph was nominated and elected to the association's highest office, that of President.

It had to be a high honor. For sure it was the first time that a President of the League had come from Lakin. Lakin is truly western Kansas. It is west of Garden City, only 15 miles from the mountain time zone.

So it is a major commitment for someone from Lakin to attend meetings in Topeka. Ralph says, "It is exactly 320 miles from my driveway to the League building in Topeka." When the speed limit was still 55 miles an hour, it took nearly 6 hours for Ralph to make that drive one way.

Western Kansas people tend to feel that they are underappreciated by the rest of the state, and you know what? They're right. Statewide meetings are held in Topeka all the time, and folks from western Kansas drive hours to get there. But those eastern Kansas agencies seem to think it is a hardship if they have to travel to a meeting way out in Hays, or - perish the thought - Garden City. So I think the western Kansas people have a point.

But in this case, it was a western Kansas person who got involved in his state association and earned his way to the top position. It is possible to do so, even from a small western Kansas town.

Of course, it is not so unusual to have League officers from smaller towns. After all, the League represents all cities, large and small. John Zutavern of Abilene was another recent president. I commend the League for providing this opportunity.

There is one last part to our story. The League's national affiliate is the National League of Cities. That organization holds its meetings all across the nation, and Ralph says he doesn't usually go those meetings. But last fall he went to the National League of Cities annual meeting for one specific reason: The organization was installing its new national president B none other than Wichita mayor Bob Knight.

I love it when things come full circle. Ralph Goodnight was supporting Bob Knight just as Bob had supported him before.

It's time to say goodbye to the League of Kansas Municipalities. We commend Ralph Goodnight, Bob Knight, and the leaders of all Kansas communities large and small for making a difference by working together.

 

 

RANS Part 1 - Bicycles

Remember when you were a kid and you could hop on your bike and ride like the wind? I like that phrase, "ride like the wind." That's the way it felt when I was a kid and could get on my bicycle and go speeding down the driveway.

Today we'll meet an innovative company which began by making vehicles that literally did ride like the wind. Now that company is producing modernistic bicycles which provide an outstanding riding experience for young as well as old. Pedal over to the radio, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Paula Schlitter. Paula is vice-president and partner in the company known as RANS Incorporated.

Let's begin our story in the early 1970s, with a young bicycle enthusiast named Randy Schlitter. He loved to ride his bicycle. He and his family lived at Hays, Kansas, which at that time had a population of about 15,000 people. Now, that's rural.

What do we have in the wide open spaces of rural Kansas? Well, for one thing, we have lots of wind. Apparently Randy had the idea of harnessing that wind-power for his bicycle.

He created something called a sail-trike. A sail-trike was a three-wheeled vehicle with one or two seats that has a sail attached to it. It was like a wheeled sailboat that could go on land. Randy built the sail-trike with pedals so that you could pedal it yourself if the wind was down.

On a windy day in western Kansas, riding one of those must have been a blast. They say the sail-trikes could go at highway speeds and pass cars. The RANS company was set up to build the sail-trikes, which were improved and modified over the years.

The company no longer builds sail-trikes, but that history led to the bicycle business they have today: Namely, recumbent bicycles.

What is a recumbent bicycle? Recumbent refers to the position of the rider, in that recumbent bicycles have cushioned seats with backs on which the rider can lean back. This is in contrast to the typical ten-speed bicycle, on which you sit hunched over forward.

Thus, a recumbent bicycle offers a higher level of comfort. And using the innovative designs and quality engineering produced by RANS, these are high performance bicycles. Just listen to the names of some of the models produced by RANS: Rocket, Stratus, Screamer, and Velocity. Sounds like a sports car, doesn't it?

This combination of comfort and high performance has led to expansion in the recumbent bicycle industry. Paula Schlitter says, "As the baby boomers age, they find other bikes are uncomfortable, but they can ride recumbents. Our largest market is people over 40."

Paula says, "At the turn of the century B (I guess that would have been Y1K) B bike racing was a big sport in this country. Racing authorities found that recumbent bicycles had an unfair aerodynamic advantage, and so they banned them from competition." Now, a century later, recumbent bicycles have come into their own.

Randy Schlitter is a designer by trade, and he and the company engineers have modified and improved the bikes with time.

In 1997, RANS sold about 600 recumbent bicycles. By 1999, sales had tripled. These bicycles are sold literally from coast to coast, and even overseas.

The company even builds tandem models, which two people can ride. Paula knows of some couples which took their bikes to Portugal to ride around Europe.

She says, "People who ride `em love `em."

Remember when you were a kid and you could hop on your bike and ride like the wind? Guess what, today you can get on a modern recumbent bicycle and have a high quality, high performance riding experience with more comfort than ever. We commend Paula Schlitter and the people of RANS for making a difference through innovation and entrepreneurship.

And there's more, because the RANS company has a second major product line. Besides products that will go on land, this company has products that will literally fly through the skies. We'll hear about that on our next program.

RANS Part 2 - Airplanes

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's.....Well, it's not Superman after all. It IS a plane. But this is no ordinary plane. This is a lightweight, single engine plane built from a kit that is produced in rural Kansas and sold around the world. Buckle your seat belt for take-off, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Today is our second and final program in our series about the RANS company. On our last program, we learned how RANS produces recumbent bicycles for biking enthusiasts around the world. Today, we'll hear about how RANS takes its business into a whole new dimension: The sky. Here is the story.

Ray Schlitter was a long-time flight instructor and agricultural spray pilot in Hays, Kansas, so his son Randy came by his interest in aviation naturally. Randy was a bicycle enthusiast, and in 1983 a friend talked Randy into building an ultralight airplane.

It sounds kind of like Orville and Wilbur Wright to me. After all, the Wright brothers were bike repairmen before they flew at Kitty Hawk.

But Randy Schlitter is a different kind of pioneer. He wasn't the first to build planes, but he has built an airplane business in rural Kansas.

Apparently Randy enjoyed building that first airplane, because he got formal training in aircraft mechanics and, within a year, was producing and selling kits to build airplanes.

His company, known as RANS, produces a line of these airplane kits. The FAA puts these in a category called experimental airplanes. It really means these are airplanes that are built by the purchaser of the kit, usually amateurs. But these are not toys, they are the real thing. They are life-size planes that carry real people.

Today RANS sells kits for eight models of airplanes, in various styles and sizes. Of course, the craftsmanship and testing must be very precise. Computer-operated machines do much of the machining. The kits include metal frames built by RANS with engines, tires, and the fabric skin of the plane, ready for the customer to assemble. They come in a very large box. And listen to this: 70 percent of the RANS airplane business is overseas.

This is largely due to the fact that other countries have more flexible aviation rules, and probably less air traffic, than does the U.S. RANS airplane kits provide an opportunity for foreign flyers to get a less expensive start in the airplane business.

And business has, pardon the pun, taken off. Since 1983, RANS has sold more than 3,000 airplane kits to 45 countries around the globe. They have even done a couple of projects for NASA, one of which was a remote piloted vehicle. RANS products have sold from Germany to Argentina. Yet the company remains in Hays, Kansas where it was founded.

Employment has grown from a handful of people when it began to 60 people today, which benefits the whole region. Workers at the company commute in from nearby towns such as Victoria, population 1,226, and Ransom, population 351 people. Now, that's rural.

I think it is great that a Kansas business is generating jobs for rural people while serving a world market in aviation.

RANS vice-president Paula Schlitter says, "The most interesting and most fun part of the business is dealing with people from all over the world." On the day I visited, there was a group coming in from the Netherlands. A map of the world in one hallway is marked with dots showing the location of customers world-wide.

Why be in Hays? Paula Schlitter says, "We were at the point, in the early `80s, that we had to either build the business to stay here or move to the big city. We were having kids, and we chose to stay here." She says, "This is a great place to raise a family, and we have great people in our company."

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's....not Superman, but it is a Super idea: the concept that a Kansas business could build these innovative, attractive airplane kits to serve a market around the world. We salute the people of the RANS company for making a difference through international entrepreneurship. I hope the idea continues to fly.

 

 

Jere White - Kansas Corn Growers

Today let's go to the head office. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? This is the headquarters office of the Kansas Corn Growers Association. You might expect the head offices of most state associations to be located in the state capitol of Topeka, and you would be right. Most of them are.

But today, we'll meet a group whose head office is located in a rural setting. It's good for the association as well as rural Kansas. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jere White. Jere is Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association. These are the trade associations representing corn and sorghum producers across the state.

Now, if you looked at a list of the major trade associations in the state, you would find that most of them have an office in Topeka. It's logical, because those groups do government relations, and Topeka is where the state agencies and the legislature are located.

But the corn and sorghum growers are an exception. Their head office is located in the Anderson County town of Garnett, population 3,244 people. Now, that's rural.

Why Garnett? Jere White tells the story. His roots are found in rural Kansas.

Jere's family came from a farm near Garnett. Ironically, however, Jere moved around a lot growing up since his stepfather was in the military. Jere began kindergarten in Garnett and graduated high school in Garnett, but in between he attended 17 different school districts. Wow.

Jere went on to community college and non-farm work which eventually gave way to getting started in the cattle business and later diversified into crops. His farming operation expanded over time.

In 1979, Jere was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Kansas Corn Commission. These commissioners are responsible for giving direction to the use of the monies which corn growers assess on themselves to promote their product.

Jere served on the corn commission for eight years. That experience was to serve him well.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Corn Growers Association had been operating for some years with volunteers. By 1988, the organization was wanting some staff support. They looked for someone to serve as a part-time director, and the person they selected was Jere White.

Jere says, "I was the very first employee of the corn growers. I started out doing this on a limited basis from my house near Garnett, spending a few days out of the year doing basic representation work for the corn industry."

Apparently the representation worked well. The corn growers asked Jere to take on more and more projects and responsibilities over time. Meanwhile, the grain sorghum producers recognized that many issues were similar between corn and sorghum. Six years ago, they asked Jere to be director of that association also. Eventually the operation outgrew the space in Jere's house and moved to an office in town.

Jere says, "When we started, the corn growers had about 100 members statewide. Today, there are about 1,250 members statewide." The staff has grown to five fulltime people, doing a variety of member service, promotional, and informational jobs on behalf of the corn and sorghum industry.

So why remain in Garnett? Jere says, "Our operating costs are more moderate than if we were downtown in a big city. We're an hour and fifteen minutes from Topeka when we need to go there, and I like having that time to sort out my thoughts. We're an hour and 20 minutes to KCI airport. And every one of our staff has a background in production agriculture, and that's something that's hard to find in a bigger city."

Jere says, "Every day I drive through my member's backyard. If all you see is asphalt and concrete every day, you might not know what your constituents are experiencing and what they need."

It's time to say goodbye to the head office B that is, the headquarters for corn and grain sorghum producers in the state. It's located in a rural setting, and as a result, is perhaps closer to the concerns of its members. We salute Jere White and the leaders of the corn and sorghum producer associations for making a difference by giving leadership to our vital grain industry. By locating in a rural setting, we think they'll come out ahead.

Doug Lindahl

Recently I heard the saying, "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." I like that saying. It reminds us that we should be thankful to our forebears for many of the benefits we have today, and we should also think about providing for future generations.

Today we'll meet a man who fits this model. No, I don't mean that he is sitting in the shade. He is honoring his legacy and helping build one for future generations. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Doug Lindahl. Doug is a rural leader of which we can be proud.

Doug grew up on the family farm between Abilene and Chapman. His great-grandfather was a blacksmith at Fort Riley who homesteaded in Dickinson County. Doug earned a economics degree from K-State and a master's from Southwest Missouri State. He began his career as a Group Home Director with the DuPont back in Delaware.

Doug and his wife then moved back to Kansas. He worked nine years for the state rehabilitation service in Topeka and then transferred to the Abilene office in order to be closer to home. Doug and his wife now live in that first family home which was built in 1873. You'll be relieved to know it has been remodeled several times since.

In 1993, Doug decided to go to work for himself. With a partner in Topeka, Doug set up a professional employment consultation company of his own called Lindahl and Santner. Doug says, "There are probably only a half-dozen private sector vocational counselors like me around the state."

When someone is injured on the job, they may need help returning to work or finding alternatives. Vocational counselors are called in to help provide information or help find a way to get that person back to work in some capacity. Doug gets a number of referrals from insurance adjusters and attorneys to help individual clients. He also assists with the welfare to work process.

Doug meets with clients all over the state, but his main office remains in his home near the Dickinson County town of Enterprise, population 875 people. Now, that's rural.

Being in a rural setting, Doug believes in the ethic of community service. He has been president of the Chapman school board and president of the county Quality of Life Coalition. As a school board member, he went to a countywide economic development planning meeting a few years ago. After a lot of strategic thought, the group decided the most important issue facing the county was leadership.

That has led to several outstanding initiatives in Dickinson County. First, the county organized a leadership development program through the county extension office. Then the Kansas Health Foundation sponsored a pilot program in the county called Developmental Assets, which is a program to assess and build on the various assets in the community that support child health. And after that, the Kansas Health Foundation made some major grants to the Leadership Dickinson County program.

These grants are part of the Health Foundation's Community Leadership Initiative. As the foundation president says, "The Kansas Health Foundation hopes to make Kansas the best place in the country to raise a child in 20 years. To achieve this lofty goal, the state will need good leadership."

The Health Foundation is seeking to build and support that leadership through grants to 19 community leadership programs across the state. Representatives of those programs are going through an outstanding training program. Among those representatives are Dickinson County Extension agent Marsha Weaver and volunteer Doug Lindahl.

Doug says, "It's fun to work with leadership and work with outstanding people."

Yes, I like that saying, "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." It means that someone had the leadership and foresight to improve the environment for future generations. Doug Lindahl has done so, both literally and figuratively. Doug says, "My father planted about 500 walnuts in 1975. In 1994, I planted about 1800 trees." So Doug is making a difference by improving the home place, while also serving in various capacities to build leadership for a healthy community in the future. That's a legacy that will stand for a long time to come.

 

 

Monument Rocks - part 1

When you're driving across country, do you ever stop and look at the monuments along the road? I like to do that, when I have time. You can learn a lot about local history when you stop and look at the monuments along the way.

Recently I stopped and looked at some monuments as I was driving through rural western Kansas. But these were no ordinary roadside statues. These monuments had their origin about 80 million years ago. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

As I was driving on Highway 83 south of Oakley, I came to a sign that pointed out the location of these particular monuments. It's not some man-made monument at all, but rather an ancient geological landmark called Monument Rocks. These are also described on the map as chalk pyramids. Somehow that doesn't have the same ring to it as Monument Rocks.

Anyway, our story begins millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and a giant inland sea covered western Kansas. At the bottom of that sea, geologists say, was a chalky ooze. Eventually the waters receded, and that ooze turned into a rock-hard formation.

The towers of rock were formed over the centuries from erosion. The tougher rock remains in place, making these remarkable stone landmarks.

Imagine the pioneers traveling across miles of flat, open grassland, and happening upon these remarkable stone formations. What do you suppose they would have thought? I'll bet it created some interesting entries in someone's pioneer diary.

One writer described the monument rocks as markers deliberately placed upon the great plains. Now that was a construction job.

Of course, these really were landmarks for travelers in the pioneer days. This was along the route of the Smoky Hill Trail and the Butterfield Overland Despatch route from Atchison to Denver. A small stone post to mark this route was placed nearby by Howard Raynesford of Ellis, Kansas.

Historians have written that this route developed a reputation as the most dangerous route to Denver. It was first traversed in 1844 by explorer John C. Fremont. Fremont went on to become a general, and - little known fact - was the first Republican nominee for president.

As I was driving south on Highway 83, I saw the sign and decided to stop by and see these rocks. They are not visible from the highway. In fact, they are on private land, but an unpaved road will take you there if you don't mind going over a cattle guard or two.

To get to Monument Rocks from I-70, you take Highway 83 south from Oakley about 20 miles and then take the marked road about 7 miles east.

As I approached the rocks, it made me think of Stonehenge. Here are these big rock formations appearing out of nowhere.

Some of these outcroppings are 60 feet high. They stand in various shapes and sizes. One has a big vertical opening which has been nicknamed the keyhole. If that's a keyhole, it must have been Paul Bunyan's key that opened the lock.

The ground around the rocks is dry and sandy. Geologists say the rock is relatively soft. People have left their names over the years. One inscription is dated 1885. Gee, I think my desk in school had that on it...

I think these monument rocks are remarkable. They are in a truly rural setting. Oakley is about 25 miles north and Scott City is 23 miles to the south. The nearest town, as the crow flies, is the town of Healy. Healy is unincorporated, but is said to have a population of about 300 people. Now, that's rural.

It's good to see that rural Kansas offers such a remarkable, natural landscape.

When you're driving across country, do you ever stop and look at the monuments along the road? I like to do that, when I have time. You can learn a lot about local history when you stop and look at the monuments along the way.

The local history we've learned about today goes back a long way, because this history goes back to the dinosaurs. We salute the people of the community for making a difference by sharing with the people this monumental landmark.

And there's more. Near the monument rocks is a remarkable art gallery. We'll hear about that on our next program.

Keystone Gallery - part 2

Here's a slogan for you: we're conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. Now don't you find that intriguing?

That's just one of the intriguing facets we find about the remarkable place we recently encountered in rural western Kansas. It's the Keystone Art Gallery and Kansas Fossil Museum, and it's today's Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we heard about the chalk outcroppings in Gove County called Monument Rocks. Just eight miles to the west of this geological wonder is the Keystone Gallery.

The Keystone Gallery is owned by Barbara Shelton, her husband Charles Bonner, and their son Logan Bonner.

The Bonner family has roots in this rural area. Charles - known as Chuck - was born in Scott City and grew up in the town of Leoti, population 1,731 people. Now, that's rural.

Because of the geologic history of this rural region, it is a natural for fossil hunting. The Bonner family has collected Kansas fossils since 1928. Chuck's father was a fossil collector and his mother was an artist.

Chuck went to Fort Hays State University where he received an A.B. in art and an M.A. in painting. There he met and married Barbara Shelton.

Chuck worked at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, helping to prepare fossils and other scientific exhibits. That helped prepare him to open a gallery of his own.

In the 80s, the Bonners found this location along Highway 83 near Monument Rocks where there was a house and an old church. The church has an interesting history of its own.

It goes back to 1917, when it was built of native limestone as a community church. It was titled the Pilgrim Holiness Church, but it was commonly known as the Keystone church. Services were held there till 1953, and then it was used as a community building until 1964.

By the time the Bonners bought the old church building, it was what a realtor might politely describe as a fixer-upper.

Barbara Shelton is a little more direct. She says, "This was a trash pit." The building had been virtually abandoned. Barbara says, "It was a pigeon hunting paradise." She means that literally. If you look closely at the stone, you can find some bulletholes. Gee, we ought to tell the tourists those are from Indian battles.

Anyway, the Bonners and friends restored the building. It retains its wood floors and rustic feel. The house and windcharger are nearby, and a sleepy cat greets you on the front step.

But inside is a six by 24 foot mural of what the fossil sea may have looked like millions of years ago. It's surrounded by actual fossils from around the world, from shark's teeth and fossil fish to flying and swimming reptiles to trilobites from China. The art gallery features Chuck Bonner's artwork, including landscapes, portraits, abstract paintings, buffalo and other wildlife scenes. There is also an exhibit of Barbara Shelton's photography, and lots of gifts and souvenirs for purchase.

One day Barbara thought of a slogan for the Keystone Gallery: conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. Indeed, their location is nearly 25 miles from the nearest town. In fact, the gallery is located off the utility company's electric power grid. Solar and wind power are their only source of electricity. A herd of 200 buffalo graze nearby.

So does anyone ever find this place? Well, I signed the guest register, and on the same page were signatures of recent visitors from Colorado, South Carolina, and Canada. In looking back through the 1999 register, you could find visitors from all over the country and such places as Rangoon, Burma, Paris, and Yugoslavia. Wow. If you want to find Keystone Gallery, it is located 26 miles south of Oakley or 18 miles north of Scott City, just off of U.S. 83 Highway.

Chuck and Barbara's son Logan Bonner is involved in the business. He will soon be a Freshman at Fort Hays State University, and he was recently named a National Merit Scholar. Logan designed the website for the facility, which is at www.keystonegallery.com.

Now there's a slogan for you: conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. But this is a location which has been found by people from around the country and around the globe. We salute Chuck, Barbara and Logan Bonner for making a difference through their contribution to rural America. And in using the Internet, the younger generation of the Bonner family is virtually taking this location from the middle of nowhere to the middle of everywhere.

 

 

Chingawassa Springs

Today we're going to spring into a fascinating bit of Kansas history and Kansas fun. And I use the word spring for a good reason. Today's story starts with a historic springs near a rural Kansas community, and it comes full circle into modern times. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Bob Reinke of Wichita and Bud Hannaford of Marion. These two were the first to tell me about this historic springs. It is located north of the central Kansas town of Marion, population 1,863 people. Now, that's rural. Margo Yates and her son at the Marion Chamber of Commerce were also very helpful with the information they provided.

Let's begin our story with Zebulon Pike, who described these springs in his journal of his expedition across what is now Kansas.

The springs became known as Chingawassa Springs. Chingawassa was an Osage Indian chief. The word Chingawassa means Handsome Bird. Perhaps he was too handsome for his own good. Legend has it that he was murdered by a jealous chief of another tribe and buried near the springs.

There are several springs in the area, and some of them are mineral springs -- particularly strong in sulfur. During 1888, five Kansas State University faculty members visited the springs to make a scientific test of the waters. Their chemical analysis was published, and it was suggested that this could become a famous health resort rivaling the Hot Springs of Arkansas.

A group of businessmen wanted to promote the springs, as well as the nearby stone quarries. In 1889, a charter was filed for the Marion Belt and Chingawassa Springs Railroad Company which would connect the springs with the Rock Island Railroad. One of the railroad's founders was the brother of Bud Hannaford's grandfather. Local citizens were asked to support a bond issue to pay for construction of this railroad, and despite opposition from the governor, the bond issue was approved.

A 16 mile railroad was built to the site, which would ultimately have a health spa, eating house, hotel, and dance hall. It became a location for many 4th of July celebrations and other gatherings. One testimonial compared Chingawassa very favorably with beautiful parks in America and Europe. An early day promoter wrote that the waters were Aso pure and clear that a newspaper lying at the bottom of the deepest of them can be read with perfect ease."

Of course, the medicinal properties of the water were a drawing card. An 1888 newspaper notice from the M.D. in charge declared that the springs were for the treatment of Achronic diseases, such as rheumatism, dropsy, paralysis, skin and blood diseases, kidney and liver complaints, chronic constipation, hemmorrhoids, catarah, nervous and general debility, and something called "female weakness." Wow.

This all-purpose cure brought thousands to the springs, but the financial panic of 1893 hit hard. In August of that year, the local newspaper reported that the Chingawassa Railroad was no more. Eventually the resort was torn down, the railroad ties were used for fenceposts, and the land passed into other hands. Today it is private property and is used for grazing.

But even after its closure, for many years the springs was a popular spot for camping trips, hay rides, steak frys, and other gatherings.

Fast forward to 1997. The Marion Chamber of Commerce was wanting to hold a three day summer festival, but the question was what to call it? Someone suggested the name Chingawassa Days, and I'm pleased to report that the name stuck.

On the first weekend of June, some 8,000 people will participate in festivities in the downtown park in Marion. There will be fun for the entire family, including music, games, artwork, belly dancing, a carnival, and other entertainment. The Kentucky Headhunters will perform, along with another band with the name Free Donuts. How's that for an ingenious way to get people to come to your show?...

Today we've had the chance to spring into some interesting Kansas history. In calling this festival Chingawassa Days, the community is bringing this story full circle. It is connecting its modern day event with this historic springs of more than a century ago. We salute Bob Reinke, Bud Hannaford, Margo Yates, and the others who are making a difference by caring for their community and remembering their heritage. So go to Marion, Kansas on June 2, 3, and 4 to have a good time and remember Chingawassa Springs.

Benton Antique Mall

Today let's go to the mall B but this is not your big city shopping mall. As you walk in the door of this mall, the first thing you see is a beautiful, 1940 Ford coupe in mint condition. Beyond that are row upon row of antiques and collectibles. Out in front is a one-row horsedrawn plow. On your right is a 1934 Ford highboy, and on your left is a red 1952 Packard. Wow. Nice cars, and lots of antiques. No, this is no big city shopping mall, it is an antique mall that is located in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jack Perry, owner of the Benton Antique Mall and Restaurant in Benton, Kansas. Benton is a small town on Highway 254 between Wichita and El Dorado.

Jack grew up around Wichita. He had been in the restaurant business in Wichita for 20 years when a friend asked him to put a restaurant into an antique mall that the friend was opening in the nearby town of Towanda. Towanda is a town of 1,409 people. Now, that's rural.

Having an antique mall and restaurant in a small town near Wichita sounded like a good idea to Jack, so he gave it a try. But then Jack's friend had a bout with ill health and the building was sold.

But having an antique mall and restaurant in a small town near Wichita still sounded like a good idea to Jack, so he decided to do one on his own. He built a 19,000 square foot building in his hometown of Benton and opened the Benton Antique Mall.

Now, this is a mall in the sense that it is big, has lots of choices, and several sellers, but the real focus here is antiques B antiques and collectibles from tin cookie cutters to fabulous classic cars.

There's an old-time Red Crown gasoline pump and a metal sign with a thermometer advertising Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco. Another thing that caught my eye was a Friday the 13th edition of the Wichita Eagle Beacon newspaper from 1945. There are dishes and tools and artwork and signs and everything under the sun.

In the center is the restaurant. There are no walls around this restaurant, just a roped off area where diners and loafers can enjoy the atmosphere. It's called the Ol' Guys Café and Soda Fountain, specializing in homemade food and pan fried chicken on Sundays. Yum. You've gotta like a place where the motto on the menu is "fabulous classic cars, wonderful antiques, and darn good grub."

And then there are the cars B beautiful, mint condition classic cars inside and outside the building. Jack Perry is buying and selling these classic cars.

Folks are friendly at this mall. I met a Bob Johnston while asking about the cars, and he told me about his daughter Andrea who is a student at K-State. She lives at Boyd Hall, coincidentally, which is named for Mamie Boyd who is the mother of the Huck Boyd for whom our Institute for Rural Development is named.

The people at the Benton Antique Mall are helpful and friendly. They also have a lot of, shall we say, maturity. Jack Perry says that among his employees are a 77 year old lady and a 75 year old man who have worked for him from the early days.

Benton is a great place for this antique mall, because it provides small town life but access to the big city. It is only 25 minutes from downtown Wichita.

Jack Perry says, "I've always wanted to live out in the country. It's quiet and we think it's safe. We really like it. I can lock the door of the building and be home in my recliner in about 2 minutes." Doesn't that sound like a good commute?

It's time to say goodbye to the mall. No, it's not some big city shopping mall. This mall is about antiques. It provides a comfortable, climate-controlled setting to see lots of antiques and enjoy a good, hearty meal. We salute Jack Perry, Bob Johnston, and the people of Benton Antique Mall for making a difference through entrepreneurship in a small-town setting.

And there's more. The classic cars are a major part of this enterprise, and now they are being sold around the world via the Internet. We'll talk about that on our next program.

 

 

Benton Mall - classic cars

The world is a smaller place today. For example, let's go across the Atlantic Ocean to Belgium. A delivery is being made there. It's a car, a classic American car. Would you believe that this car was sold through a company halfway around the globe in rural Kansas? Park yourself by the radio, this is today's Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we met Jack Perry of the Benton Antique Mall and Restaurant in Benton, Kansas, northeast of Wichita. Eight years ago, Jack opened a big building in which to buy and sell antiques, including antique cars.

Jack says, "I've always enjoyed old cars, and I like the horse tradin' aspect of it." So old cars became a part of the line of products sold at the Benton Antique Mall.

Then six years ago, Jack decided to try selling these cars over the Internet.

Jack's website address is www.kars B spelled k-a-r-s B dot com.

If you go to that web site, you would find a logo with a checkered flag and the name Classic Auto Registry Service. Note that the acronym for Classic Auto Registry Service is CARS - what else?

And this is indeed the place for cars, as the logo says, from classics to street rods. The website has a link to cars for sale, cars for sale to be rebuilt, cars wanted, a vendor showcase, and a car of the month.

This is like heaven for someone interested in classic cars. For example, the website has photos and descriptions of four featured cars B a 1934 Ford streetrod, a `35 Ford pickup, a `36 Ford 5 window coupe, and a 1932 Ford hi-boy. Then there is the car of the month, which is a 1936 Chevy Cabriolet Roadster, complete with rumble seat. You can view the pictures and read the description, in which you would learn that this beautiful car is in North Carolina.

The cars for sale are categorized by make and updated daily. It's not just Fords and Chevys. In fact, there are 82 different categories of manufacturers, from Abarth-Allemano to Volkswagen and Willys. The list includes such names as Austin Healy, Bandini, DeSoto, Edsel, Hupmobile, Studebaker, Stutz, and many more.

When you click on the category, you get a display of photos and descriptions of the cars listed by year. And it's not just Kansas cars. I clicked on one category and found cars listed from the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington, plus more.

The variety and selection is amazing. For example, through this website, you could buy a 1916 Cadillac hearse for $59,000. You can click on each site and send an e-mail message for more information, or contact the owner directly.

The world wide web offers a virtually instantaneous way to connect with interested buyers and sellers all over the world.

When he first set up the antique mall, Jack says, "I hoped I could sell 4 or 5 of these classic cars a year. Now, between sales at the mall and over the Internet, we are selling more than 200 of these cars a year."

Jack says, "We have shipped cars from one end of the country to the other. We have sold cars to Belgium, Japan, Guam, Italy."

Yet the business which is doing this trading remains based in Benton, Kansas, population 761 people. Now, that's rural.

It is so exciting to find a rural Kansas business which is using the Internet in this way to connect with customers world-wide. It's an example of someone interacting with the world without having to leave their rural setting.

And it's obvious that Jack Perry loves his work. He says, "We've had a Barbra Streisand `57 Thunderbird in here, and a `62 Lincoln that was used by John Kennedy." He knows his cars, and he enjoys trading them.

It's time to say goodbye to Belgium, where a classic car is being delivered that was located via the Internet through this business in rural Kansas. Let me give you that website address again. It is www.kars B spelled k-a-r-s B dot com. We commend Jack Perry and the people of the Benton Antique Mall for making a difference with their innovation and creativity in marketing these products worldwide. Using the technology of the Internet, the world is a smaller place today.

Kansas Leadership Forum

Let's go to the statehouse in Topeka, to the chamber of the Kansas House of Representatives. The representatives are preparing to go into session. They have been gathering from all over the state, and now they are getting ready to start. But wait, there's no legislative staff present, and no media, and no lobbyists.

That's because these aren't legislators that are meeting. They are representatives of various community leadership programs from across the state, and they are using the state House chamber for the annual conference of the Kansas Leadership Forum. We'll learn about the Kansas Leadership Forum on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Becky Wolfe. Becky is President of the Kansas Leadership Forum. She is also director of the Leadership Butler County program and is based in El Dorado.

The Kansas Leadership Forum, or K-L-F for short, is a state-wide association for professionals and volunteers providing leadership development and education. It is a relatively new association, in that the constitution and bylaws were developed in 1993.

KLF provides a network of people doing leadership development and education across the state. It includes representatives of the pioneering leadership development programs in the state which have existed for years, such as Leadership Kansas, as well as people who are interested in starting brand new leadership programs for their county or community. KLF has a strong emphasis on leadership education, so there are several members from educational entities such as K-State Research and Extension and the Leadership program at Southwestern College. KLF includes volunteers and a lot of chamber of commerce and economic development directors who have leadership programs.

One of the things I like about KLF is that it brings together rural and urban people with a common interest in leadership state-wide. For example, Topeka, Lawrence, and Olathe are represented, but there are also members from Colby, Garden City, and Chanute. There are members from Wichita, with a third of a million people, and from Medicine Lodge, population 2,224 people. Now, that's rural.

So what does KLF do? Well, it has done a lot, under the leadership of President Becky Wolfe. KLF publishes a directory of its members, serves as a network for people state-wide, and sends out newsletters with leadership ideas.

The primary activity of the organization each year is to put on an annual conference where ideas are shared, speakers present good concepts, and people can meet their counterparts across the state. Annual conferences have been held in Salina, Manhattan, Hutchinson, Olathe, Wichita, and Topeka.

I have attended most of these conferences myself, and I think they are both fun and educational. Of course, the first one I missed was the one held closest to me in Manhattan. Why do things work that way? I'll drive to Olathe or Hutchinson, but miss the one right here in Manhattan. Anyway, the speakers are good and the opportunity to network with other people is great.

Next fall's program promises to be a good one. The theme is Leadership Ideas for the 21st Century, 2000 - Year of the Kansas Child. Guest speakers include Topeka Mayor Joan Wagnon, Security Benefit Group of Companies CEO Howard Fricke, and Steve Coen of the Kansas Health Foundation describing the Foundation's Community Leadership Initiative. First Lady Linda Graves has also been invited to speak. There will be door prizes, a silent auction, and a session which is an interactive idea exchange titled 60 ideas in 60 minutes.

The annual KLF conference will be September 20, 2000 in Topeka. If you would like to get on the mailing list for the conference or become a member of KLF, feel free to contact Becky Wolfe at 316-321-4108. That number again is 316-321-4108. Or you can contact me at 785-532-7690. Once again, my number is 785-532-7690.

One more thing about this fall's annual conference: As I said at the beginning, it will be held in the historic chamber of the Kansas House of Representatives. Due to special permission from state legislators, the KLF will be able to have its conference in the state House chamber. I think that will be fun. But the conference is only one day long. Talk about term limits....

The House chamber provides an interesting and appropriate setting for people to think about leadership and the future of our state. We salute President Becky Wolfe and all the people of KLF for making a difference by strengthening leadership across Kansas.

 

 

Mark Martin - Brookville Hotel

Have you ever had that feeling of deja vu B where it suddenly seemed you had experienced something before? Let me tell you about my experience of deja vu. When I was a kid, my folks took us to a family gathering at the Brookville Hotel in Brookville, Kansas. We had a fabulous chicken dinner, served family style. I had been back there a few times, but not lately. Last Saturday, I experienced deja vu in a sense. I stopped in to the new and improved Brookville Hotel, which is now located in Abilene but still captures the best qualities of rural Kansas dining. Get ready for dinner, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Mark and Connie Martin. Mark is the fourth generation owner of the Brookville Hotel. He explains how it all began.

In the late 1800s, a hotel was built in Brookville, which is located just west of Salina. The hotel had 10 rooms, a washhouse out back, and a primitive café. Over the years, the building was improved and a restaurant was established inside.

In 1913, the owners started serving family style chicken dinners. By the 1970s, these wonderful dinners became more famous than the hotel itself, and it became entirely a restaurant.

With the dinners you get half a skillet fried chicken with mashed potatoes and chicken gravy, cream-style corn, baking powder biscuits, sweet-sour cole slaw, home style ice cream, and more. Yum. People came from all over to find these meals in the rural town of Brookville, population 226 people. Now, that's rural.

In the early 1960s, the hotel had three dining rooms with a seating capacity of less than a hundred. Over the years, the family bought and expanded into the bank next door and then the old hardware store beyond that. By 1979, seating capacity was about 180 people.

Mark Martin started in the business as a kid in the `60s, stocking shelves and washing dishes. He worked his way up through the years, and after college moved away to a career in the finance business. In 1973 he moved back to be involved with the restaurant, which he bought from his mother in 1982.

But a problem was surfacing during this time - no pun intended. The growth of the restaurant had simply outpaced the water treatment system. By the late 1990s it had reached a critical stage. Mark became so frustrated that he made the public statement that the restaurant would have to close if he didn't find a solution.

I remember being distressed to hear that this historic restaurant might close. But the good news is that other locations could handle the water problem. Many communities called, but when a developer in Abilene offered them a prime lot for $10, the choice was clear.

Last Saturday, I came through Abilene and noticed that the Brookville Hotel was open in its new location, just north of Interstate 70. The first thing that struck me was how the new building presents the historic facade of the old building, complete with the domed false front and the stonework of what was the old bank and hardware store next door. Inside the building is wonderful too. There are a few more seats than existed in Brookville, but lots more elbow room and added features. Some of the back rooms have western style murals, commemorating the early pioneers. And of course, the classic menu remains the same.

Now listen to this. The new restaurant opened on May 4, 2000. I leafed through the guest register of those who signed during the two weeks since, and it is phenomenal. There are people signed in there from all over Kansas and 20 states from New York to California, and even guests from Sweden, Thailand, Japan, and Germany. I guess people are still seeking out those wonderful chicken dinners from all over.

If you would like to check restaurant hours or make reservations, call the Brookville Hotel at 785-263-2244. That number again is 785-263-2244.

Have you ever had that feeling of deja vu B where it suddenly seemed that you had experienced something before? Yes, I had experienced the Brookville Hotel before, but it was great to see it open again. I think it's better than ever. We salute Mark and Connie Martin for making a difference by preserving this heritage and taking it to a new level.

Now, please pass the chicken.

Betty Gibb - Kansas Senior Press Service

Today let's go to Florida to meet your aunt and uncle, who have retired there. There are lots of retirees in Florida. Florida even has its own magazine devoted to senior adults. As we leaf through the magazine, we find all sorts of articles tailored for older people B including an article from the Kansas Senior Press Service.

Now what in the world is the Kansas Senior Press Service? The answer to that question is today's Kansas Profile.

The Kansas Senior Press Service is not a press service for seniors in high school, it is a news service for senior adults. It provides useful information on a wide variety of topics for older Kansans. All this was explained to us by a lady named Betty Gibb.

Betty is manager of information outreach and accessibility for the Johnson County Human Services and Aging Department in Olathe, Kansas. She is also editor of the Kansas Senior Press Service, known as KSPS.

Our story begins nine years ago, when the Kansas Department on Aging was looking for additional ways to get out more information that would be helpful to senior citizens. Knowing that older citizens are avid newspaper readers, the agency made a small, one-year grant to the Johnson County Human Services and Aging Department to write and distribute such articles to local papers.

The service was so successful that it has continued ever since with support from the Kansas Department on Aging. Betty Gibb became editor shortly after the service began.

The mission of KSPS is to make available, through local newspapers, information that is helpful and interesting to older adults. To do so, KSPS provides three articles each week which are distributed to Kansas newspapers through the Kansas Press Association. Articles are also available to newspapers electronically. There is no cost to newspapers for this service.

The result is that lots of useful articles are made available to local papers. These may be articles about health care, money management, family issues, home repair, or anything under the sun as long as it relates to Kansas senior citizens.

But do these articles get used? Yes. They are very popular. About 150 newspapers use the KSPS service. Results from a clipping service show that 50 to 60 KSPS stories appear in Kansas newspapers in an average week. About 30 senior publications also make extensive use of KSPS. Occasionally aging magazines in other states will use articles, such as the one in Florida.

This is a major service. At three articles a week, 52 weeks a year, that means that during its nine years the KSPS has provided more than 1,400 different articles of interest to Kansas senior citizens. Wow.

This is good for Kansas seniors as well as Kansas newspapers. Some articles are used in large metro dailies, but they are especially used in rural papers such as the Scott County Record, Herington Times, Parsons Sun, and the Greeley County Republican. That last one is published in the town of Tribune, population 879 people. Now, that's rural.

Betty Gibb says the grant funds are used for two things: to pay writers for their articles, and to cover the cost of distributing the articles. There are 10 to 12 regulars who write for KSPS, and there are also occasional articles from such entities as Kansas Legal Services and the KU Medical Center.

Betty says, "Most of our writers are retired journalists who live in Kansas." This service provides them some supplementary income, plus the opportunity to continue to use their talents. Betty says, "The average age of our writers is pushing 80." Now, that is truly a senior press service. No wonder they know what they're talking about.

One of Betty's writers had to take time off to care for her husband after he had a stroke. Now she is writing again, and she told Betty, "I feel like I have a new lease on life." Betty says, "That's the part I like the best."

It's time to say goodbye to Florida, where your aunt and uncle retired. We're impressed to find that Florida's magazine for older adults was using an article from Kansas. We salute Betty Gibb and the writers of the Kansas Senior Press Service for making a difference through hard work and creativity, with our senior adults in mind.

 

 

21st Century Alliance - wheat marketing

Let's talk about vision. No, I'm not talking about your eye doctor. I'm talking about farmers with vision. That is a phrase that has been used to describe the farmers who are members of the 21st Century Alliance. What is the 21st Century Alliance? Stay tuned for the answer on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Lynn Rundle. Lynn is CEO of the 21st Century Alliance, which is a business organization of farmers designed to maximize returns by adding value to farm products.

The members of this organization have been called farmers with vision, because they have a vision of a new way of doing business in agriculture. For too many years, farmers have simply raised their crops and dumped them at the elevator for whatever we could get for them. The new vision calls for adding value to those products and capturing more of those returns for the producer.

Specifically, these farmers have a vision of a production, marketing, and processing system that is coordinated by producers and that delivers the highest quality food and non-food products to consumers. Thus, these producers have organized the 21st Century Alliance to achieve that vision while providing profitable agricultural business opportunities to its members.

Lynn Rundle says, "The idea is for farmers to own a piece of the action." That's important to Lynn and to rural Kansas. Lynn grew up on a farm near the northeast Kansas town of Axtell, population 430 people. Now, that's rural.

So how does this alliance work? Membership is for those farmers who want the opportunity to invest with other farmers in value-added business, who contribute $750 to the development of business plans, and who renew membership annually. Members are then entitled to invest in the various value-added ventures in which the alliance is engaged. The alliance is governed by a board consisting of some of the leading farmers in the state.

Four years ago, this program featured the 21st Century Alliance as it was just getting started. And what has happened in the meantime?

The short answer is, a lot. The alliance has grown to have members in 9 states, but mostly in Kansas, and has organized several new generation cooperatives as profit-making enterprises.

The first one is the 21st Century Grain Processing Cooperative. The alliance raised 3.2 million dollars for this project, for the purpose of buying a flour mill in Rincon, New Mexico. Now 375 investors deliver 2,850 bushels of wheat per $5,000 in stock through an identity- preserved wheat delivery system.

Why would a Kansas farm co-op buy a flour mill in New Mexico? Maybe for the same reason that the bank robber gave when he was asked why he robbed banks: because that's where the money is.

After careful study, the alliance concluded that buying the New Mexico mill provided the best opportunity for benefiting producers. It is what's called a destination mill, with access to the rapidly growing market in the southwest. The major customers of this mill are tortilla makers.

A minute ago I used the term identity-preserved. This means that the farmer's wheat isn't just dumped in with everybody else's, but is kept separate so that high quality can be maintained.

This identity-preserved grain marketing is a second enterprise of the 21st Century Alliance. Farmer-members of the grain processing cooperative grow and deliver wheat from among the wheat varieties which ranked highest in K-State's milling and baking trials. Baking companies are interested in such high quality wheat B in fact, the alliance set up an identity preserved delivery system for 3.5 million bushels of wheat for General Mills. Wheat grower members received an average of 28 cents per bushel above the local price for this quality wheat, and the premium ranged from 7 cents to 73 cents per bushel.

This is so exciting. It shows that farmers are seeing beyond the farm gate, thinking about the end user for their product, responding to that market, and being rewarded for it.

Let's talk about vision - no, not your eye doctor, but farmers with the vision to invest in a new way of doing business for agriculture. We salute Lynn Rundle and the people of 21st Century Alliance for making a difference through agricultural entrepreneurship.

And while we're producing flour for the tortillas in a Mexican food meal, how about some pinto beans too? We'll hear about that on our next program.

21st Century Alliance - Pinto beans and dairy

Today's story is on a topic that I don't know beans about. Sorry about that, I couldn't resist. Yes, we're talking about beans B specifically pinto beans B and how they can be part of a value-added strategy that can have big benefits for rural Kansas. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

On our previous program, we learned about the 21st Century Alliance, a business organization of farmers designed to maximize returns by adding value to farm products. The first major project of this group was to purchase a flour mill in New Mexico. Kansas wheat is being shipped to this mill in New Mexico where the wheat is being ground into flour for use in tortillas. The major customers of the flour mill are tortilla makers.

Apparently one of the tortilla makers contacted the alliance about another related food product it was looking for: Pinto beans.

Of course, the 21st Century Alliance is a very entrepreneurial organization that is always looking for opportunities. Perhaps that bit of market feedback contributed to the decision by the alliance to pursue pinto bean processing.

As the alliance considered various possibilities to invest in value-added processing, the pinto bean cooperative emerged as a top candidate. In 1998, the 21st Century Bean Processing Cooperative was formed. The organization purchased an existing bean processing plant in Sharon Springs, Kansas and upgraded the equipment there.

Pinto beans are a very specialized crop. I really don't know anything about this type of production. It's different than harvesting corn or wheat. As I understand it, when the crop is ready you pull the beans. They lie in a windrow and dry as does hay. Then you harvest the beans by picking them up and shelling them out of the pod. Our friends Dick and Jean Pettibone were probably the first to expose us to pinto beans. Through them I learned that there is a small region in the high plains which is well suited to production of this particular crop.

Ron Meyers, plant manager at the bean processing co-op, told me that more than half of their support is within 30 miles of the plant. So it is not a big crop, but it does fit a niche. Today these pinto beans are being distributed to grocery stores in 11 states and in Mexico.

Another big part of the 21st Century Alliance strategy for adding value is milk production. Feeding Kansas grain to cows and selling the milk is a good strategy. These days, the trend is to build very large, sophisticated dairies. To date, two dairies have been formed under the 21st Century Alliance umbrella.

The Washington County Dairy in north central Kansas was formed in 1997. Ninety-six members invested 1.3 million dollars in stock to build a 1,500 cow dairy near Linn, Kansas. The dairy opened in March 1999, milking 750 cows.

The Ladder Creek Dairy raised 2 million dollars in producer equity in 1999. For this project, they are building a 2,800 cow dairy facility at Tribune in far western Kansas.

Each one of these ventures has its own board of directors of farmer-members.

Now think about the location of these various value-added ventures. The bean processing co-op is in Sharon Springs and the dairies are near Linn and Tribune. Sharon Springs is a town of 860 people, Tribune has 879 people, and Linn has 415 people. Now, that's rural.

In towns that size, having a viable processing or value-added business makes a big difference. It generates jobs and income that spreads throughout the economy.

A lot of people talk about value-added agriculture and rural development. The 21st Century Alliance is really doing something about it B and doing it through entrepreneurship and self-help in the private sector. Frankly, I think that is of more tangible benefit to rural Kansas than most government programs.

Today's topic is one that I don't know beans about. I just don't know much about pinto bean production or large scale dairies. But I do know rural Kansas, and I am excited by this private sector, self-help venture to stimulate value-added agriculture. We commend the people of the 21st Century Alliance for their entrepreneurship and diversification of the rural economy.

There is one last enterprise which the alliance is currently operating which we haven't discussed. It's what we might call a fiber forest. We'll hear about that on our next program.

 

 

21st Century Alliance - Ag Fibers

Remember that old saying, sometimes you can't see the forest for the straw.... Wait a minute, that's not how it goes. The saying is, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.

That may be the old saying, but it's not the new way of thinking. Today, progressive farmers are realizing that there is a different kind of forest out there in our state B it's the forest of natural plant fibers, such as wheat straw, produced from agriculture. Utilizing such a forest in high value products is a key part of today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Chris Williams. Chris is vice president of operations for the 21st Century Alliance, a business organization of farmers designed to maximize returns by adding value to farm products. Chris knows these rural issues well. He's an ag econ graduate of K-State, who grew up at the central Kansas town of Little River, population 478 people. Now, that's rural. Chris helped me learn about the 21st Century Alliance's various value-added enterprises which we've described on our recent programs.

There is one more of these enterprises: The 21st Century Ag Fiber Procurement Cooperative, also known as Golden Forest Ag Fibers.

A couple of terms here were unfamiliar to me. Fiber procurement sounds like buying high bran cereal down at the store. What it really means is aggregating a supply of agricultural fiber which can be further processed into some consumer product.

And what is the Golden Forest? It really means a new way of looking at our crop production. We all know that wheat farmers raise wheat and sell the grain. But what about the straw which is left over when the harvest is done? Instead of looking at it as a waste product, let's think about it as a forest of straw -- like trees B which can be processed into consumer goods.

Just as you can make trees into boards and other lumber, you can make straw and certain other fibers into particleboard. Such particleboard could have a whole host of potential uses in cabinetry and construction.

Chris Williams says that the members of the 21st Century Alliance produce about 40 million bushels of wheat, which represents about 10 percent of the Kansas wheat crop. That's a lot of straw too.

David Govert is a farmer in south central Kansas who has taken a leadership role on these ag fiber issues. He first became interested in further processing of wheat straw some 10 years ago. His county extension agent brought him to K-State to visit with resource people on the topic, and they ended up meeting with organizers of the 21st Century Alliance. To make a long story short, David joined the alliance and was ultimately asked to chair the committee which would form this ag fiber cooperative.

Just as some farmer co-ops gather and sell grain cooperatively, so this co-op could gather and sell straw or other ag fibers - such as corn stalks - for new, high value uses.

There have been lots of proposals for straw board plants around the midwest, and not all have succeeded. Fortunately, the 21st Century Alliance has taken a big picture view. Rather than jumping into a strawboard plant, the alliance is working on organizing the source of the raw product. As the name implies, the cooperative would consider all ag fibers, not just wheat straw. And David Govert rightly believes that this development will be a long term process.

Already the co-op has made one delivery of straw to a company in Oklahoma, but it really is positioning itself for the long term.

David Govert says, "The alliance has saved local economic development groups tens of thousands of dollars by providing information on wheat straw processing. In saving these communities money, the alliance has more than paid for the investment in it made by the Department of Commerce Ag Products division and the members of the alliance."

He says, "There's going to be an ag fiber business in North America. It could take several different forms. As the industry matures, Kansas will be in a good position."

Remember that old saying, sometimes you can't see the forest for the straw.... That variation on the old saying represents a new way of thinking about our crop production. We salute Chris Williams, David Govert, and the people of the 21st Century Alliance and Ag Fiber Procurement Cooperative for making a difference with this visionary way of thinking about adding value to Kansas crops.

And there's more. David Govert is also an entrepreneur when it comes to putting farm equipment on-line. We'll hear about that on our next program.

David Govert - Machinery Link

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you walked into a farm equipment dealership and said, "I'd like to buy half a combine."? It's like buying half a car. Do you suppose they'd sell you the back half or the front half? It's a silly question, because you can't buy a vehicle that way. But today, we'll meet an entrepreneurial farmer who not only found a way to buy half a combine, figuratively speaking, he has created a new venture to help other farmers get their equipment more efficiently too. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet David Govert. David is the creative and innovative farmer of which I am speaking. On our last program, we learned that David is chair of the 21st Century Ag Fiber Procurement Cooperative. Today we'll hear about his innovative approach to owning and managing farm equipment.

David is the fourth generation on the farm in south central Kansas. As his farming operation expanded through time, his equipment needs expanded also. By the 1990s, he needed two combines, but they are very expensive to buy new -- like about $150,000 each. Wow. David leased a combine for a couple of years, but when the lease became unavailable he had to find an alternative.

David began to wonder if he could share ownership of a combine B in effect, to buy half a combine. He placed an ad in the High Plains Journal explaining what he was looking for. David says with a laugh, "It was like shopping for a date."

Well, he got one. A corn farmer in Nebraska responded to the ad. They talked on the phone for a couple of hours and followed up with a visit in person. The fact that it was a corn farmer was important, because the farming operations would complement each other. David could have the combine all to himself for wheat harvest, and the Nebraskan could have it entirely for the fall crops.

The match worked. The two farmers set up a separate subchapter S corporation to handle this arrangement. They traded in their used combines and the subchapter S corporation bought a new one. Each of the two farmers then leases the combine from the corporation on an hourly basis.

Of course, by sharing the cost, the newest technology becomes more affordable to them. David Govert says, "It has worked really well. We are on our seventh year and our fourth combine." Even though the Nebraska farmer is 250 miles away, it has been well worth it.

David says, "We have lowered our cost of harvesting our crops by about 40 percent."

Some of David's neighbors saw how well this was working, and they asked if that Nebraskan had some neighbors who wanted to do the same thing. As interest grew, David saw the need for a clearinghouse or match-making service to link prospects on both sides of the equation.

In 1996, he set up a company called Machinery Link. It included a data base and listings of various pieces of farm equipment plus people who were interested in jointly leasing or owning. A person can join Machinery Link and find equipment or have their information listed for no charge.

Of course, the next step was to go onto the Internet. The website address is machinerylink.com, but it is specifically for members. Members get a password which enables them to access this valuable information.

In just four years, Machinery Link has grown to include 300 farmers in 20 states. Wow. David Govert now has partners in Kansas City. But he continues to do his part from his hometown in Cunningham, Kansas B population 530 people. Now, that's rural.

It's great to find this entrepreneurial spirit in rural Kansas. And its preparing to go to another level. In the fall of 2000, they will offer a capital expense management system for farmers, including an on-line farm equipment auction service and more.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you walked into a farm equipment dealership and said, "I'd like to buy half a combine."? No, it doesn't work that way B but the next closest thing just might be machinerylink.com. We salute David Govert for making a difference through the innovation and entrepreneurship to create these linkages, and to benefit farmers through the use of technology.

Come to think of it B half a car would be a lot easier to park.

 

 

Tom Pivonka - BOC Gases

Sometimes you can learn a lot about a company by looking at what is displayed on its walls. One example is the western Kansas company we'll visit today. When we enter the front room of the main production building, we find interesting things on the walls. There are pretty pictures of rural Kansas scenes, such as post rock fenceposts, sunflowers, and a Kansas windmill. Then there's a picture of the NASA space shuttle on the launching pad and a beautiful, intricately-detailed hand-held fan from Japan.

What in the world do rural Kansas, the space shuttle, and a Japanese fan have in common? The answer is a gas -- and I mean that literally. The gas is helium. Stay tuned for a lighter-than-air version of Kansas Profile.

Meet Tom Pivonka. Tom is manager of this plant, which is a helium processing facility called BOC Gases. BOC Gases, headquartered in Murray Hill, New Jersey is a division of the BOC group which is headquartered in Windlesham, England, is the world's largest helium supplier. In fact, the Kansas plant by itself is the third-largest helium refining plant in the world. Wow.

Let's back up and learn a little bit about helium itself. All I knew about helium is that it goes in my kid's birthday balloons. But I learned a lot from Tom Pivonka.

Helium is a by-product of natural gas processing. Because of the high volume of natural gas in the Hugoton gas field, which ranks as the second largest natural gas field in the world, gas processing plants like this one were built in central and southwest Kansas and further south. As people learned more about the properties of helium, it became more than just a by-product. This particular plant was the first commercial helium plant in the U.S. and commissioned in 1965. In 1987, this particular plant was converted to process helium only.

Helium comes into the plant in low-grade form via an underground pipeline, and is refined into higher purity. Then the helium is transported from this plant, in large liquid tankers or high pressure gas containers.

Helium has several remarkable features, which mean it can have a lot of special uses. Helium converts to a liquid at -452 degree Fahrenheit and this is the coldest of any gases. It is widely used in cryogenics.

Have you ever tried to drive a nail with a banana? Me neither. It sounds like something my two-year-olds would try. But the guys at the plant were able to do it, using liquid nitrogen as a substitute to show its cooling power by instantly freezing a banana so hard that it could drive a nail into a piece of wood. They had several other fascinating demonstrations as well.

Helium is also used as an inert gaseous shield for arc welding. If you've heard of MIG and TIG welding, for example, the I-G in those names stands for inert gas, which is usually helium.

The picture of the space shuttle at this plant is very appropriate. Helium is used in some experiments in flight, but it is especially used to detect leaks and purge fuels out of those big fuel thanks which are used to launch the space shuttle.

Helium is used as a cooling medium in nuclear reactors. I hope I'm not giving away any national secrets by saying that I saw lots of helium tanks marked for a government nuclear facility.

Helium is an essential part of the medical imaging process that we know as MRI. It makes a pure setting for manufacturing computer chips. And there are many other uses.

Being the third-largest helium plant in the world makes it worthy of international attention. Some Japanese visitors gave the people at the plant this beautiful fan, which is now on display. But while this plant may be known overseas, I'll bet not many Kansans are aware of it here at home.

The plant is located near Otis, in Rush County in central Kansas. Otis is a town of 371 people. Now, that's rural.

How exciting to find a facility of international importance located in rural Kansas.

Sometimes you can learn a lot about a company by looking at what is displayed on its walls. That's the case with this Kansas company, which has, in its front room, scenes of rural Kansas, a picture of the space shuttle, and a Japanese fan. Together, these demonstrate the many uses of helium, around the world and even into outer space.

But more important than what's on the walls is who's inside the walls B the people who are making a difference by working for this company. We salute Tom Pivonka and the people of BOC Gases. They're taking rural Kansas up to a higher level.

Tom and Linda Burton - Rogler family

In agriculture, those who are successful tend to take the long view. These are people who are seasoned with the wisdom of many years, and who are committed to the long-term. That's the legacy of the families we will meet on today's program. Their growth and success spans more than a century of life in rural Kansas, and continues through today. Saddle up for a rancher's edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Tom and Linda Burton. Tom is manager of the Rogler Ranch and President of the Rogler Corporation in the southern flint hills of Kansas. He maintains the long-term legacy of the Rogler family.

Our story begins in 1853, when a 17-year-old named Charles Rogler left his home in Austria to look for new opportunities in America. After several years in the east, he walked from Iowa to Kansas in search of a place to call home.

In 1859, in the heart of the Flint Hills, he found that home. He settled in an area sometimes known as Pioneer Bluffs. A replica of his original log cabin now stands on the place.

The Rogler family started ranching there. Charles' ranch grew from 160 acres to 1,800 acres before his death. His youngest son Henry Rogler would take over the operation. Henry graduated from K-State in 1898 B more than a century ago. He was active in the state legislature as well as on the ranch. Henry was described as a "legend of ranch management."

Some of you are familiar with the Master Farmer awards that are given each year. Henry Rogler won the very first Master Farmer award in 1927.

In 1905, Henry Rogler's son Wayne was born. Wayne would go on to K-State as did his wife Elizabeth. Wayne also served in the Kansas House and Senate, and continued to build up the farming operation.

In 1961, Wayne was at a local ball-game and he ran into a local man named Tom Burton. Tom told him that his current employer was preparing to move Tom out to western Oklahoma, but he didn't want to go. Wayne told him to come out to the ranch and work for a couple of weeks. Nearly forty years later, Tom is still at the Rogler ranch.

Tom worked his way up the ranks and managed the ranching operation for Wayne in the later years. Wayne Rogler passed away in 1993. By that time, the Rogler ranches had become a huge operation. They own 4,000 acres and lease another 8,000. Wow.

Wayne Rogler's wife Elizabeth is still living in a care home in Emporia. Tom and his wife Linda now live in the beautiful ranch home where the Roglers had been before. The Burton's son Steve went to K-State and went on for a master's degree at MIT.

You can see why Charles Rogler wanted to stop here at this place 140 years ago. The place is nestled in a picturesque and productive rural valley in the heart of the Flint Hills. The nearest town is the community of Matfield Green, population 32 people. Now, that's rural.

Today Tom runs the operation with two full-time employees whose combined service totals over 40 years. Talk about long-term... Two-part time employees, including his son and nephew, work as cowboys and look after the pastures. These are genuine cowboys, by the way. They may spend 50 percent of their time at work on horseback.

Over the years, the Roglers acquired many keepsakes. In the ranch home, there are historic pictures and other souvenirs, including the largest pair of mounted steer longhorns I have ever seen.

I mentioned that the long-term tradition of excellence established by the Roglers continues to this day. For example: On one shelf in the ranch house, there is a trophy cup which Wayne Rogler was awarded for his baby beef in 1918. On the wall across the room is a plaque for having the first place steer of the feedlot division at the Flint Hills Beef Fest in 1999. That spans nine decades of agricultural excellence.

In agriculture, those who are successful tend to take the long view. Today, the long-term legacy of the Rogler family is being maintained by Tom and Linda Burton. We commend the Rogler family and the Burton family for making a difference through a long-term commitment to Kansas agriculture. With that, it's time to go to the barn.

 

 

Greg Smith - Pratt Telecommunity Center

Some time ago we had a delegation of people from Germany in our state. Among the places they visited was Pratt, Kansas. Why would a group from Germany want to visit a rural community halfway around the globe? The answer to that question is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Greg Smith, director of the Pratt Telecommunity Center in Pratt, Kansas. This telecommunity center is bringing Internet applications to rural Kansas and building connections around the globe.

Greg Smith has a passion for what rural communities can do with the Internet. He was a computer consultant in Colorado who was doing research for various communities when Pratt contacted him. Ultimately, he moved to Pratt to put the telecommunity idea to work.

He remodeled an old downtown department store building in Pratt and set up shop. The telecommunity center is a publicly accessible technology center that provides access to advanced technologies and telecommunications. This includes interactive videoconferencing, satellite downlinks, computers, printers, scanners, multimedia devices, and document imaging capabilities - I think that last one is a fancy way of saying making copies.

The real goal is to put the power of Internet technology to work in favor of rural communities. Greg hopes that these technologies can be used to provide local businesses, organizations, and schools in Pratt the opportunity to expand markets and utilize resources around the country.

Part of his strategy was to spark the interest of high school kids in the community. They love this high-tech technology stuff, and he involved them in teaching and learning about the Internet. He launched a project called Youth Go Global, which received an AOL Rural Telecommunications Leadership Award.

With help from the students, Greg started to cover local events and report on them through the Internet. For example, he took a video camera and computer to a local baseball game and put hundreds of images from the game onto the net. Next he did the same for the Pratt High School football team, and then boys and girls basketball. These are live highlights that you can watch over the Internet on a computer. Now the telecommunity center has provided similar live coverage of the Miss Kansas pageant, Kansas Shrine Bowl, and statewide sporting events.

Before the center began, Pratt had the typical telecommunications infrastructure of a rural Kansas town B One Internet service provider, 66 people on the Internet, a single choice for phone service, one computer store and one that went out of business, and zero schools with Internet access. Today, the picture is very different. Pratt has four Internet service providers, 60% of households on the Internet, 2000 paying customers, three choices for phone service, four computer stores which have done more than $1 million in sales in a year, two schools with Internet access, six technology businesses on Main Street, one of the most accessed web sites in Kansas, and a virtual on-line mall. Wow.

The result has been international attention B including those visiting Germans. They said that they had seen the Pratt Telecommunity Center on the web, and wanted to see where this place was.

Pratt is a south central Kansas town of 6,598 people. Now, that's rural. Yet this rural town has become internationally known because of its activities on the world wide web.

During this year's Miss Kansas pageant, nearly 2,000 people attended the pageant live. But another 1,500 people visited Greg's Miss Kansas website. Visitors were able to purchase tickets online and buy photographs taken by a local small business. The pageant ended at 10:15 p.m. By 10:20, the new Miss Kansas had received her first e-mail of congratulations from relatives in Illinois who were watching it over the net.

Ball games are popular too. Greg Smith says, "We've heard of at least one grandmother in Nebraska who never got to see her grandson play football. Now she's seen him play. I'm told she cried."

As mentioned, the center has perhaps the most accessed website in the state. In less than a year, some 75,000 people visited the website. That web address is www.futurekansas.com. Once again, that address is www.futurekansas.com.

Some time ago we had a delegation of people from Germany in our state. I am delighted that one of their stops was in the community of Pratt B due to the electronic entrepreneurship of Greg Smith. We commend Greg and others involved in the telecommunity center for making a difference through innovation, building connections with Pratt worldwide.

Sandy Kuhlman - Phillips County Hospice

Some time ago, the national association of hospice organizations put out an operations manual which gave guidelines for operating a hospice. But to one hospice organization in northwest Kansas, the guidelines were rather ironic: According to the experts quoted in the operating manual, that hospice didn't have enough people in its territory to survive. Well, guess what has happened in the years since. Not only has this rural hospice survived, it has grown significantly over the years.

Maybe the experts said it couldn't be done, but these folks in rural Kansas are doing it anyway. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Sandy Kuhlman. Sandy is director of Hospice Services in Phillipsburg, Kansas. She told me about how this hospice organization has grown.

Let's start with an explanation of what hospice is. In a nutshell, Sandy says, hospice is "end-of-life care." She says, "Hospice helps assure that we live the best that we can with the time that we have left. It typically comes into play when the focus in a person's case shifts from cure to care. Hospice cares about every aspect of a person's life -- physically, spiritually, and socially hospice care doesn't stop there -- hospice also cares for the family."

I first heard of hospice when it was helping someone in the latter stages of a terminal illness like cancer. Sandy says hospice is that plus much more. It helps everyone from newborns with birth defects to medicare-eligible senior citizens.

But in every case, it is dealing with the most sensitive issues of life and death. And it takes a very special person to be able to provide such care. I said to Sandy Kuhlman, how do you and your staff keep going? Sandy says, "It's inspiring to see families get back to core values at that time of life. Less important things just fall away." Wow.

Sandy knows these things first-hand, as a nurse herself. She grew up in the northwest Kansas town of Kensington, population 511 people. Now, that's rural.

Rural areas need hospice care just like urban areas do. In Phillips County, hospice began in 1982. Sandy was the second nurse to join the organization.

Over the years, the organization has grown. In 1992, the local organization was reconstituted as Hospice Services, Inc. Other nearby hospice organizations have joined together. Hospice Services has emerged as a regional entity.

Today, Hospice Services covers 14 counties in northwest and north central Kansas. Board members come from as far away as Goodland.

Sandy remembers when the national hospice organization produced its operations manual with guidelines on staff and population served. Sandy says, "The experts would say you just don't have enough people."

Some years ago, the Association of Kansas Hospices determined that all Kansans would have access to hospice care. Sandy, who has served as chair of the AKH board and as a board member for most of her years in hospice, knew if all northwest Kansas counties were to have hospice care, then hospice services would have to find a way to do it. AKH began looking for a "model" B another hospice that had served such a large geographic area with such a sparse population. "What we found is that such programs didn't exist," says Donna Bales, President of AKH, "and they still don't. Because of leadership of Sandy Kuhlman and the generosity of citizens, Hospice Services, Inc. exists. It is a sterling example of absolute commitment to do the right thing."

But instead of failing, Hospice Services has grown to have 12 regular nursing staff and 10 temporary nurses. Last year 66 families were served.

How has such a rural organization survived? Sandy says, "We have a good board, great support from our communities, and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation has been very supportive also."

And sometimes, being rural has its advantages. When a certification program was offered for hospice nurses, Sandy says, "Some big city hospices were wondering if they could get 10 percent or 25 percent of their staff certified. I am proud to say that 100 percent of our primary nursing staff has been certified."

Sandy's group is trying some innovative approaches also. Hospice Services is involved in a tele-hospice research project with the University of Kansas Medical Center using telecommunications technology to electronically (visually and verbally) connect a patient and / or their families with the staff providing care.

Sandy says, "We have some growing to do. We would like to serve some of our more distant counties even more effectively." Hospice Services has given leadership at the state and national level also, with Sandy serving on the board of the state organization as well as committees on the national level.

On this program, we often talk about making a difference. Well, what a difference it makes to provide love, care, and comfort to a person and their loved ones in the final days of life. We salute Sandy Kuhlman and the people of Hospice Services for truly making a difference in this way B and making it happen in rural Kansas, despite what the experts say.

And in a larger sense, maybe Sandy's description of hospice is a good mission for all of us: To live the best that we can with the time that we have left.

 

 

Brice Libel - Student-Athlete

Student-athlete. That's a term that you hear at this time of year, with the beginning of school and preparation for football season. Coaches and administrators like to use that term student-athlete. But is student-athlete an oxymoron -- a contradiction in terms? Aren't all those athletes just dumb jocks?

The answer to that question is no. Today, we'll meet a young man who exemplifies the term student-athlete, and I'm proud to say he comes from small town Kansas. Stay tuned for a special football edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Brice Libel. Brice is a wide receiver on K-State's nationally ranked football team.

Brice is definitely an athlete. In high school, he lettered three years in football, three years in basketball, and four years in track. He was all-league and all-state as a junior and senior and was a finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman award. In track, he won medals at state all four years, won the high jump as a senior, and set all kinds of school records in various events.

But Brice was coming from a small, rural Kansas high school. He hails from the northeast Kansas town of Wathena, population 1,127 people. Now, that's rural.

So what about college? Brice was recruited by several Ivy League schools, and he visited Yale, but there were a few other factors which influenced Brice's decision.

One was family. Family is important to Brice, and he wanted to be in a place where his family could see him play. At the same time, he wanted to be far enough away to have some independence.

Another factor was academics. He wanted a high quality education.

And the third factor was competitiveness. Brice says, "I didn't want to look back 20 years from now and regret that I didn't try to see if I had what it takes to compete at the top level in football."

So Brice made the decision to come to Kansas State. He began as a walk-on for the football team. Now, being a walk-on means that you compete with the team but you don't get a scholarship for it. That means you have to work as hard or harder than the other guys.

But Brice gave it a try. His position was wide receiver, but he really made his mark on special teams B kick-offs and punts. He did so well that he earned a letter as a special teams player in his redshirt freshman year and again as a sophomore. He was a special teams standout in the bowl games each year.

Then came the first game of 1999. It was K-State versus Temple, and when Temple had to punt, the punt was blocked by none other than Brice Libel. That was exciting to see.

Then came the second game of 1999. This one was K-State versus Texas-El Paso, known as UTEP. UTEP was back to punt. Could history repeat itself two games in a row? Yes. Once again Brice Libel blocked the punt. And K-State's coaches rewarded him by granting him a scholarship.

Brice says, "Coming from a small town, that was a big deal for me. It showed the coaches believed that I did have what it takes."

All this makes me proud of Brice Libel as an athlete. But what about the student part? Well, this gets even better.

In May 1999, Brice graduated with a Finance degree from the College of Business, and he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. That means he had a perfect straight A average all four years. And this is while taking classes like stock analysis, commercial banking, financial theory, economics, and accounting. No basket-weaving there.

Now Brice is a grad student in finance, and he has one more year of eligibility so he will be playing with the top 10 ranked K-State football team again this year.

It makes me so proud to see that a young man can come from small town Kansas and have success at the highest level, not only as an athlete, but as a student as well.

Student-athlete. It's a term that coaches and administrators like to use, and maybe the rest of us should as well. This fall, cheer your favorite team on to victory. But don't forget to celebrate the success of those who have success in the classroom as well as on the field. We salute Brice Libel and others who make a difference as a role model for young people as successful student-athletes. Go team -- and go students.

Lizard Lips Grill and Deli

Today let's visit the campus of Yale University. Here at this prestigious Ivy League school, you might find a student wearing a t-shirt saying "Lizard Lips Grill and Deli, Toronto, Kansas." It's a sign of how far marketing and creativity can take you. Stay tuned for the explanation on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Linda Geffert, brother Glenn, and friend Carlene Hall. They are the co-owners of Lizard Lips Grill and Deli.

Ten years ago, Linda Geffert and Carlene Hall were working in Texas, but they wanted to run their own business so they returned to their native state of Kansas. They learned of a convenience store for sale in southeast Kansas and got Linda's brother to join them.

Linda says, "We signed the papers one day and opened for business at 7 a.m. the next day. We'd figure we would have until noon to practice making sandwiches, but a customer showed up at 7:15 and wanted two sandwiches for his lunch." She says, "That customer got some big sandwiches, `cause we weren't sure what we were doing and we didn't want to short him."

That was the beginning. In 1993, they expanded and improved the facility. A few sandwiches had been sold at the store, but the new owners made it into a grill and deli. They re-named the store Country Junction, but were looking for a more catchy name.

There is a basement apartment under the store, and they found a couple of lizards down there. A friend asked them in jest if lizards have lips, and the name stuck. Today the Lizard Lips Grill and Deli offers burgers, homemade soups, deli sandwiches, salads, pies - and on Sunday a complete meal which includes fresh baked bread, and dessert. Stuffed lizards are found in various places around the store. The store itself sells gas, groceries, bait, hunting and camping supplies, video rentals, and gift items.

But that doesn't tell the full story of the creativity here. For example, the menu has what appears to be the standard language about its meat entrees, until you read the part which says the burgers are made from "the choicest cuts of prime, tender lizard. But if the supply of lizard runs low, we reserve the right to substitute lean, ground chuck." Lizard Lips received a We Kan award from the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 1996.

The Kansas Sampler Foundation and Kansas Explorers Club are creations of Marci Penner. Marci is an inspiration to those of us who care for rural Kansas. Members of her Explorers Club travel state-wide to build new appreciation for rural Kansas culture.

At an Explorers Club meeting in April of 2000, an idea was proposed to target support to a particular rural business. The goal was to have a thousand people visit this business and spend at least 5 dollars each by May of 2001. The business which was chosen as the first target business was Country Junction, home of the Lizard Lips Grill and Deli.

Articles about this have appeared in the Wichita, Emporia, and Kansas City newspapers, and the response has been remarkable. More than 200 people have visited Lizard Lips since the goal was set, and they are from all over Kansas plus other states.

Talk about creativity and marketing. The store sells Lizard Lips t-shirts and post cards and a book by Linda Geffert. The logo shows a lizard in cowboy boots on a windmill eating a hamburger. It also has what looks like a lipstick imprint of a big pair of lips.

As you might guess, the name and designs are eye-catching. Glenn Geffert says those t-shirts have gone from Germany to Guam, and all over the country, including Sea World. One family got shirts for their daughter who is going to Yale.

Part of the charm, as well as the challenge, of this place is its rural location. It is in Woodson County, three miles from the town of Toronto, population 298 people. Now, that's rural.

Linda Geffert says, "It's tough for a rural business to survive. But we're honored to be the first business targeted by the explorers' club. And the response has been amazing. We have met the most wonderful people."

If you would like to visit Lizard Lips, it is on Highway 54 one hour east of Wichita. The phone number is 316-637-2384.

It's time to say goodbye to Yale University, where even here we find a souvenir from rural Kansas. We salute Linda, Glenn and Carlene and Marci Penner for making a difference through creativity and marketing of rural Kansas. And with that, I'll put away my Lizard Lips t-shirt.

 

 

Terry Tietjens - Seelye Mansion - part 1

"I wanted to leave a piece of ground better than I found it." That's a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was asked why he would buy a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania after retiring from the presidency. That simple spirit of wanting to improve things, as well as his rural roots, were a part of Ike's success. Those are also trademarks of the person we'll meet today B who, fittingly enough, now lives in Ike's hometown of Abilene, Kansas. Stay tuned, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Terry Tietjens. Terry's roots go deep in Kansas history. His ancestors were said to be the third white family to homestead in Smith County in northcentral Kansas. Terry was born in Downs but grew up in the Lawrence area. He studied fine arts at KU, McPherson, and Emporia.

In the early 1970s, Terry was singing with a men's chorale group from Emporia when the group performed in Abilene. He noticed a striking Georgian mansion along a main street of Abilene, and it caught his curiosity.

The thought of that mansion was in the back of his mind as he went on to a career in education. He started out by teaching music at the northeast Kansas town of Morrill, population 282 people. Now, that's rural.

He taught in the Sabetha schools for 9 years, and then he and his brother bought a 60 acre recreation area called Sycamore Springs.

But Terry still remembered that mansion in Abilene, named the Seelye Mansion for the doctor who built it in 1905. Terry had an interest in historic preservation, and he was curious about the old mansion. But it was a private home, still lived in by Dr. Seelye's daughters, so one couldn't just go barging in. Terry contacted a friend in Abilene who asked the Seelyes if Terry could visit. And on October 10, 1981, Terry toured the Seelye Mansion.

It was an awesome building, and Terry was intrigued. The Seelye daughters were nearly 90 years old, so they agreed to sell him the building and all its contents. Terry eventually took up occupancy there, and the sisters also lived there the rest of their days. After all, this is a 25 room house, so there was plenty of room.

The furnishings in the house were in mint condition, but the outside needed painting and the plantings were overgrown. Terry restored the house to its earlier splendor. He brought back the scenic gardens outside, opened a museum about Dr. Seelye's business, and began offering tours of this historic house. The guest register now includes people from coast to coast and as far away as Germany and Japan.

And Terry's work in historic preservation didn't stop there. In 1986, he bought and restored another beautiful old home in Abilene, now known as the Kirby House. He renovated it into a fine dining establishment, as it is today.

Next he opened a gift shop in the historic post office block of downtown Abilene, and after that he purchased a 100 year old stone church downtown. He converted this old church into a performing arts center in memory of his brother and parents who died of cancer. Today, the Tietjens Center for the Performing Arts houses the Great Plains Theater Festival. This has been described as Kansas' premier professional theater company. They offer a full season of productions, which in 2000 include Oklahoma, On Golden Pond, Bus Stop, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

For all his efforts, Terry Tietjens has been recognized as citizen of the year in Abilene. He serves on the Kansas Tourism Commission and the Kansas Preservation Alliance.

Terry says, "I had a wonderful experience with my grandparents growing up. I think that gives you a feeling for preservation of our history. And I want to do whatever I can to help our rural communities do more with tourism."

It all reminds me of that quote from that other guy from Abilene: Dwight Eisenhower, who said, "I wanted to leave a piece of ground better than I found it." We commend Terry Tietjens and the people of Abilene for making a difference through their investment in tourism.

One of the newer attractions in Abilene is that museum about Dr. Seelye's business. It was a huge business at the time, but it's the type of business that has disappeared in our modern era. We'll hear about that on our next program.

Terry Tietjens - Seelye Mansion - part 2

It's good for what ails you. Remember that old-time saying? We said it about Grandma's home remedy or your mother's chicken soup. Or maybe it was a sales pitch for those patent medicines which were so popular around the turn of the century.

Kansas had a major role in patent medicines during that time. We'll meet one of the leaders of that industry on today's Kansas Profile.

Terry Tietjens told us about this leader of the patent medicine industry. Terry is owner of the Seelye Mansion and its related facilities, including the Seelye Research Center and Patent Medicine Museum in Abilene, Kansas.

Doctor A. B. Seelye was one of those who produced and marketed patent medicines very successfully. He attended three colleges, and in 1890, founded his patent medicine business in Abilene.

By the turn of the century, the A.B. Seelye Medical Company was the largest employer in town. The company sold more than a hundred products door-to-door over a 14-state-area through salesman who traveled by horse and wagon.

Photos at the museum show Dr. Seelye and his salesmen with wagons with the lettering painted on the sides promoting their products. I guess your wagon was also your billboard in those days B maybe it was the antecedent of the bumper sticker.

Anyway, those salesmen would travel the countryside selling their products. Terry Tietjens says, "Remember, there were lots of isolated farms, and the roads were terrible. Some of these farm wives would only get to town once or twice a year. So these salesmen did something of a service by bringing products to them."

The products that were sold were all manufactured in Doctor Seelye's facility in Abilene. At that time, Abilene was a town of about 3,100 people. Now, that's rural.

Dr. Seelye purchased the old Bonebrake Opera House in 1900, remodeled the building into his medical company, and renovated the opera house area to be the finest in the West including box seats. Among those who were on the opera house stage were John Phillip Sousa, William Jennings Bryan, and "Ike" to get his diploma from high school in 1909. Eisenhower announced from this same stage that he was running for President. Upstairs in the opera house was the laboratory where Dr. Seelye's medical concoctions were put together.

Some 40 years after the opera house closed, Terry Tietjens was able to acquire that old laboratory equipment. Now those products and related collectibles are on display at the museum near the Seelye Mansion.

The museum has original cabinets from the laboratory complete with drawers and drawers full of original, printed labels ready to be put on bottles. And speaking of bottles, there are plenty of them at the museum. Of course, there weren't screw tops or child-proof caps on these containers B they used corks. So there are drawers and drawers full of all sizes of corks. Then there are the funnels they used to fill the bottles, and the mixers they used to concoct the preparations.

Not only does Terry Tietjens have the equipment in mint condition, he has lots of actual samples of the products - which can actually be opened to this day. This company produced cure-alls with such names as Wasa-Tusa, Fro-zona, and Ner-vena. But there were also such products as Insect die, Killa-Germ, Cherry Bark Cough syrup, sewing machine oil, oriental liniment, vanillas, perfumes, laxative herb tea, wintergreen ointment, ideal hair tonic, and universal condition powder B which was said to be used for people as well as horses and hogs.

But back to that question: Were they good for what ails you? Well, I suspect that some were and many were not. But they probably accurately represented the state of pharmacy at that time. Several contained alcohol, for whatever affect that had. And Dr. Seelye was a pioneer in the curative use of camphor, known as mentholatum. Some of his painkillers would be used by aspirin companies today.

But there is no question that Dr. Seelye ran a successful business, and he used part of his proceeds to build a beautiful home in Abilene. Today that home is part of the tourism attractions in that historic town.

It's good for what ails you. Maybe we should apply that statement to communities too. Tourism would be good for what ails many of our rural towns, because tourists bring dollars and revenues which our rural areas sorely need. We commend Terry Tietjens and the people of Abilene for making a difference through their efforts to build on tourism in their community.

And speaking of Dr. Seelye's historic home, we'll hear about that on our next program.

 

 

Terry Tietjens - Seelye Mansion - part 3

You've heard the term "living history." Today, we'll modify that term just a bit to say "living in history." Living in history is one way to describe today's program. Imagine being a resident of a historic, beautiful, and elegant home, nearly a century old. It sounds like being a stowaway in a museum B but this is a genuine and fascinating home, much better than a museum, yet it is open for visitors. Come in for a tour, this is today's Kansas Profile -- the last in our series about Terry Tietjens.

Terry is the occupant and owner of the Seelye Mansion in Abilene, Kansas. Dr. A. B. Seelye and his wife built this mansion in 1905 at a cost of $55,000. That's equivalent to about 4 or 5 million dollars today. And the Seelyes might have spent that much again on furnishings for the house at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

The result was a 25 room Georgian mansion designed by a New York architect. It has features that were incredibly modern for their time, such as underground electrical wiring. It's located on the city block which the Seelyes bought in 1896. Today, it's surrounded by a gazebo, fishpond, and scenic gardens.

Dr. and Mrs. Seelye had two daughters, Helen and Marion, who graduated from Abilene High School and went on to KU. The daughters never married and lived in this house long after their parents passed away in the 1940s.

In 1982, Terry Tietjens bought the mansion and all contents from the Seelye sisters. He ultimately took occupancy there, and the sisters agreed to stay there also.

Terry says, "It was a great opportunity to learn from these remarkable ladies first-hand." And they were indeed remarkable B even in her 90s, Marion would bake fresh bread every day. They told Terry about the history they remember, such as standing next to Thomas Edison at the 1904 World's Fair as he was selling electric light fixtures to their father.

And listen to this: More than 70 of the original Edison light bulbs were still in use in the mansion. Boy, they don't make `em like they used to. Terry has now removed them so they will be preserved for history.

This mansion is beautiful. The entrance has imposing columns and sweeping verandas. The columns are cypress wood and the siding is redwood.

Inside is a Grand Hall with a Tiffany designed fireplace. Nearby is a music room with gold French furniture, a mahogany Steinway Grand piano, and a 1904 Edison phonograph which plays a cylinder with a recording of John Phillip Sousa. The windows are leaded crystal glass. The radiators are custom built. The house was built with inlaid gold furnishings and wall-to-wall carpet B at a time, Terry reminds us, when there wasn't even a car in the town of Abilene yet.

Many of the light fixtures are made using gold over brass, so they never tarnish B in fact, they have never been polished. There are six old-time telephones in the house and lots of classic first edition books. The oldest piece of furniture still in use is a Shaker chair dating back to the 1600s. Wow.

The ballroom has an alcove where a string quartet or orchestra could play. Nearby is a stairway to the rooftop captain's walk which affords a nice view over the city. The 11 bedrooms are tastefully decorated and original artworks dot the walls everywhere you look.

In the basement is a 1904-vintage bowling alley, with 6 solid walnut bowling balls and a counter, which can automatically be reset, in place of pins. It's amazing.

Then there is the formal dining room, where only linen tablecloths and sterling silver are allowed. A button under the carpet let the ladies summon the servants. The Seelyes owned 4,000 pieces of Haviland dinnerware. They bought more than 300 pieces of dinnerware just for the servants. The kitchen has interesting features also.

Of course, this is in Abilene, population 6,520 people. Now, that's rural. But it was also home to a former president. In fact, among those who delivered the ice for the icebox were Milton, Earl, Roy, and Dwight B the Eisenhower boys.

Living history. More than that, today we are talking about living in history. That's the role of Terry Tietjens, who makes this historic mansion come alive. We commend Terry for making a difference by restoring the home to its previous splendor and opening it for tours, and for giving leadership to our state's tourism industry. There are under-developed attractions all around us. In a larger sense, we, as Kansans, are all living in history.

Kansas Sampler Festival in Ottawa

How would you like to get a sample of food, entertainment, and quality of life in more than a hundred Kansas communities B and see all of that in a day? Sorry, I don't have a magic transporter room. But it can happen at the Kansas Sampler Festival B which, this year, is in a new and exciting place. Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Murray McGee. Murray is director of the Franklin County Convention and Tourism Bureau, which is hosting this year's Kansas Sampler Festival.

What is the Kansas Sampler Festival? It's an event designed to celebrate rural Kansas culture, create a networking opportunity for Kansas communities, and provide the public a sample of what there is to see and do in Kansas.

The inspiration for all this goes back to Mil and Marci Penner. This father-daughter team has co-written guidebooks about places to see and things to do in Kansas. In 1990, they hosted an event to bring together and showcase these many Kansas attractions and communities. It was held on their family farm near the south central Kansas town of Inman, population 1,126 people. Now, that's rural.

The event was called the Kansas Sampler Festival, and it was so successful it has been held every year since.

In 1997, the Penners took a bold step: they invited other communities in the state to host the event for two years at a time. Communities were invited to apply, and the city of Pratt was selected for 1998 and 1999.

Murray McGee had attended the Kansas Sampler Festival for several years, and by 1997 he was director of the convention and tourism bureau in Franklin County. His organization made a bid to host the festival, and was not selected. But after two years, it was up for bid again.

Murray McGee says, "We took about 40 people down to Pratt to look at every element of putting on this event. We had people with clipboards taking notes, and taking photos of electrical boxes."

All this work paid off. The 2000 Kansas Sampler Festival will be in Ottawa. It's the first time it's been held held east of highway 81.

Ottawa is a beautiful community on the Marais des Cygnes River. It's the county seat of Franklin County. This is a scenic rural county, but is situated near major cities. Ottawa is thirty miles due south of Lawrence, and thirty minutes from greater Kansas City by interstate.

All this makes for a special opportunity when the Kansas Sampler Festival is held October 7 and 8, 2000, in the town of Ottawa. It is a great chance for other Kansas towns to demonstrate their attractions to those in the east, and a great chance for those in the east to have a lot of fun and learn about opportunities state-wide.

The event features sights, sounds, and tastes of communities across the state. There will be all types of food and diverse types of entertainment, from gospel singing to cowboy poetry. The Mahaffie stagecoach company will be offering stagecoach rides. Communities and regions will be able to showcase their attractions.

This event has generated a lot of local excitement in Ottawa, as well as cooperation in the region. To help transport people, the nearby community of Baldwin is loaning the Sampler Festival the trams it will be using at the following week's Maple Leaf Festival.

Murray McGee says, "We have to have at least 100 volunteers to put this on, and people are so excited they are calling in. Marci Penner and the folks in Pratt have provided us lots of planning information. And based on booth registrations, this year's festival will be bigger than it's ever been."

The event will be held in historic Forest Park on the northwest side of Ottawa. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend.

The dates for the event are October 7 and 8. For more information, contact the Franklin County convention and tourism bureau at 785-242-1411. That number again is 785-242-1411.

How would you like to get a sample of food, entertainment, and quality of life in more than a hundred Kansas communities B and see all of that in a day? Sorry, short of Star Trek, the only way to see all of that in a day is to take in the Kansas Sampler Festival. We commend those who are making a difference by hosting this event in Ottawa on October 7 and 8.

Beam me up, Murray.

 

 

Henry's Candies

Remember the O-Henry candy bar? Yum, a tasty treat. Today, we'll learn that the O'Henry candy bar has origins in rural Kansas. And more importantly, the Henry family is still producing delicious candy today. Stay tuned for a special sweet tooth edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Evelyn Henry Pudden. Evelyn explained to us the remarkable history of Henry's Candies.

Candy making has been in the Henry family for generations. It started with Tom Henry who was born in Boston in 1880. When he came west, he learned the art of candy-making from a Greek candy-maker in Denver. Tom and his son made candy and sold it around the Midwest.

While working in the Ark City area, he developed a candy bar called the Tom Henry. The original recipe was sold to the Curtis Candy Company during the 1920s. After a few years the new owners changed the recipe slightly and re-named it the O'Henry candy bar. Now it is owned and produced by the Nestle company.

Pat Henry Senior traveled around the country with his father and followed in his trade of candy making. In 1956, the Henry and Son Candy Company was started in the south central Kansas town of Dexter.

Today, the third and fourth generation of the family is in the business. Evelyn Henry Pudden says her daughters Tammie and Robyn are now bringing their kids into the operation.

And what an interesting operation it is. More than 100 different kinds of candy are made here by hand, ranging from hard candy to soft chocolates.

Yes, I said by hand. As you might guess, that is a very interesting process to watch. On Sunday afternoons from August till December, Henry's does candy making demonstrations. They make hard candies with designs in the center and other fancy items.

The kitchen is behind glass next door to the retail sales area. Henry's also takes phone orders. Lots of tours and school groups visit the store.

This process has become quite a draw, even for several generations. On the day I visited, it happened that someone had been there that very day who had stopped in before 30 years ago. And take a look at the guest register. On one day in August of 2000, for example, the register showed visitors from Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Missouri, Canada, Costa Rica, Texas, and Austria. Wow.

And all this at a company which remains based in the south central Kansas town of Dexter, population 315 people. Now, that's rural.

Yet Henry's Candies have been sold coast-to-coast. Evelyn says they have even shipped candies to Saudi Arabia.

And what do you think is their most popular product? Gotta be the chocolates, right? No, to my surprise, their biggest seller is the old-fashioned horehound candies. Doesn't that take you back to your youth? Evelyn says they have to buy herbs from a drug company in New Jersey and brew them into tea to make the candies.

I personally like the candies with nuts in them - probably because I'm half-nuts. But it is impressive to see the variety of products which this company produces.

There are various specialty products, including dietetic candy. Of course, there are Christmas candies. And you can even get the original Tom Henry bar, which is now called the Mama Henry.

It's delicious. I think Tom Henry would be proud.

If you would like to contact Henry's Candies, the company can be reached at 316-876-5423. That number again is 316-876-5423.

Remember the O-Henry candy bar? Yum, a tasty treat. Now you know that this candy bar has rural Kansas roots. And now you also know that the Henry family is continuing this great candy making tradition and doing it from rural Kansas. We salute Evelyn Henry Pudden and other members of this family for making a difference by sustaining such a remarkable business in such a rural setting. Your sweet tooth would enjoy this stop in rural Kansas.

Dr. John Markley - Rotary

Today let's go to Singapore to a conference of a service organization -- specifically, Rotary clubs from around the world. There are representatives here from more than 160 countries across the globe. They are all part of Rotary, the world's largest service organization. And among these Rotary leaders is a man from rural Kansas. Stay tuned for a Rotary International edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Doctor John Markley. Doctor Markley is a veterinarian in southeast Kansas who has come up through the ranks of Rotary. Here is the story.

John Markley was raised in Mound City in eastern Kansas. He went to K-State where he received his doctorate of veterinary medicine. While at college, he met a girl from Newton named Lois and went on to marry her. Doctor Markley worked for USDA in Burns, Oregon and then practiced veterinary medicine in Iowa for two years.

In 1960, John and Lois returned to their native state and opened a veterinary practice in Howard, which is located in Elk County in the southern flint hills of the eastern part of the state.

He built up the practice, building a new clinic eight years later. The practice gradually grew to include a lot of small animal work, and clients came from miles around. In 1998, Doctor Markley retired and sold his practice to a young veterinarian.

When Doctor Markley first came to Howard, he had joined the local Rotary club. He says that Doctor Frick, the long-time KSU veterinary professor, encouraged the vet students to join Rotary and get involved in their communities once they graduated. So John did so and was involved locally, even serving as club president in Howard.

With time, he came to understand the global dimension of Rotary. Many people may know there is a local Rotary club in their town, but they may not know that these clubs are part of a world-wide organization known as Rotary International. Rotary has nearly 1.2 million members around the world.

Within the organization, Rotary is organized by districts. For example, Kansas has parts of four districts in its boundaries.

Each year, one member is elected within that district to serve as the district governor. The district governor serves as a representative of Rotary International and as a liaison with clubs in the district.

John Markley says, "For the first twenty years, I was probably typical of Rotarians who are involved only with their local clubs. But in the 1980s, I began to get involved at the district level." The district where Howard is located covers northeast Kansas, including Manhattan. Howard is actually the southernmost community in this district.

After he retired from his veterinary practice, his club nominated him to be district governor. Now as you might guess, district governors over the years have often come from larger cities B such places as Topeka, Leavenworth, Kansas City, Emporia, Overland Park, and Lenexa. The average population of the cities I just named is more than 80,000 people.

But John Markley comes from the town of Howard, population 827 people. Now, that's rural.

Yet the district governor of Rotary for 2000-2001 is John Markley, D.V.M. He has a passion for what Rotary can do. He says, "Rotary is a service organization for business and professional women who are willing to donate time, talent, and resources to alleviate suffering and help the underprivileged around the world." For example, in addition to local service activities, Rotary International has led the fight to eliminate polio around the world. In 1985, polio was endemic to 125 countries. Now, it has been eliminated in all but a handful. Some 2 billion children have been immunized, and an estimated 3 million have been saved from polio.

Rotary also has projects to fight hunger, encourage literacy, prevent blindness, assist small business, support scholarship, build health, and encourage volunteer service, among other things. And through it all is the dimension of making international friends.

It's time to say goodbye to Singapore, where Dr. John Markley is participating in a conference of Rotary leaders from around the world. We salute Doctor Markley and the Rotary organization for making a difference by providing service opportunities for caring people in communities large and small. Yes, this is truly a service organization.

 

 

Gene Latham - Southern Kansas Cotton Growers

Take out a dollar bill. Notice the unique feel of the paper on which it is printed. It is a special paper made with cotton fibers. And there is a chance that some of the cotton inside that dollar bill was produced right here in rural Kansas. Kansas B the Cotton state? Maybe not yet, but stay tuned for this edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Gene Latham. Gene is manager of Southern Kansas Cotton Growers in Winfield, Kansas. He told us the story.

Gene says that old records show that cotton was grown in Cowley County as far back as 1895. In modern times, however, the ground had gone to wheat and corn. But with economic times what they were, change was needed.

In 1984, a group of farmers were going to the same church in Winfield and the talk turned to the economic times. Carl Seeligger told the group, "Wheat won't work." So they tried some alternative crops, including cotton.

Now, once you grow cotton in Kansas, what do you do with it? You can't just dump it at the local grain elevator the way we have done with wheat.

These farmers found a small cotton gin over by Sterling, Kansas, and they began to grow cotton and take it there. After a couple of years, they had to take their cotton to a gin in Oklahoma, which created some transportation problems. The time had come to come together, form a cooperative, and build their own cotton gin.

Southern Kansas Cotton Growers was organized in 1996. The organization built a cotton gin near Winfield, and the first cotton was ginned there in 1997. The first year less than 4,500 bales were ginned. But by the 2000 crop, Gene Latham estimates that they will gin 16,000 bales. Wow.

Gene Latham came on board as the first full-time manager of the cotton gin in October 1999. He is a Texan who grew up in the cotton business and has two degrees from Texas A&M.

Gene gave me a fascinating education about cotton. You know about cotton shirts and jeans, for example, but this plant has so many other uses.

Gene explains that the cotton fiber goes into these huge bales which are graded and classed and packaged for international trade. Each bale is numbered and the producer is paid according to the quality he produces. Cotton is used in textiles and in high quality paper such as that used for currency. There are also medical uses such as Q-tips and cotton balls. I wonder if he was including those little wads they put inside pill bottles in this category...

The burrs, or gin waste, go into cattle rations. The cottonseed is removed from the boll and further processed into meal and oil. The meal makes high protein feed for cattle and catfish. The oil is in demand in the cooking industry. The Heart Association says that cottonseed oil is an ideal, heart-healthy cooking oil. Indeed, Gene says that all Frito-Lay potato products are cooked in cottonseed oil.

With all these factors, cotton has become a growing alternative - no pun intended - for ag producers in south central Kansas. Great credit goes to Carl Seeliger and the other innovative producers who were willing to give this product a try.

Southern Kansas Cotton Growers serves the entire south central Kansas region plus parts of Oklahoma and Missouri.

The members of the board of the cooperative come from Kansas towns such as Winfield, Ark City, and Wellington, plus smaller towns such as Harper, population 1,584, and Udall, population 851 people. Now, that's rural.

And think about the economic development benefits of this initiative. This means growers have some higher-return alternatives to existing crops. Some producers found that they were netting more on cotton than some people were grossing on wheat. Cotton has an economic multiplier of 3.5 to seven. And the cooperative itself hires 40 people during the peak season. Gene says the cotton cooperative has made money every year of its existence, and dividends from the gin and regional co-ops add further economic benefits.

Take out a dollar bill. Notice that it is printed on special paper, made in part from cotton B which increasingly is being grown in Kansas. We salute Carl Seeliger, Gene Latham, and other leaders of the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers for making a difference through the use of this alternative crop. Thanks to them and others, we hope Kansas farmers will have more of those dollars to put in their own pockets at harvest time.

Bryant's Hardware and Collectables

"Yes, we have it." Sounds like a good slogan, doesn't it? Today we'll visit a store which has earned that slogan through lots of inventory and old-time personal service. But we don't have to go back in time to find it, we found it in small-town Kansas today. In fact, this store is using technology while maintaining that personal touch. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Alan Bryant, co-owner of Bryant's Hardware and Collectables in downtown Arkansas City, Kansas. Ark City, as it is commonly called, is in south central Kansas. In fact, it's only about four miles from Oklahoma. It's a town of 12,694 people. Now, that's rural.

The rural setting is appropriate for Bryant's hardware store. Walking in the door is like a step back in time. There are old-time cabinets and cash registers, high tin ceilings, and even ladders on rollers which can be moved to reach the things on the high shelves. But look closely -- newer things are mixed in with the old.

And just how old is this business? Alan Bryant says, "It is as old as the town." He has a picture of a man in a derby hat who sold bicycles, harness, and other things at the store when the town first organized. Alan's grandfather came here from Wichita where he had been a bookkeeper and stepped into the business in 1926. Now Alan and his brother John are the third generation in the business B and this business is a sight to see.

One of the first things you notice at the store is a great big, solid cast brass cash register. Alan Bryant has an ad showing that this cash register sold for $750 in 1911. That was the cost of two cars in those days! But it was sure enough well-made, because it is still operating today.

Mixed in with modern displays are old cabinets such as a unique one with triangular drawers. Alan says that goes back to the bolts which were used to bolt tires on wooden rims. There are cordless drills for sale, not far from the drawer marked "hog rings." Some modern items are displayed on a - believe it or not - buggywhip holder.

As I mentioned, the slogan of the business is "Yes, we have it" B because no matter what hardware item you are looking for, Bryant's is famous for having something like that. This history goes all the way back to the beginning.

Downstairs in the basement are some of the old, original pieces which grandfather had in inventory for the farm equipment of the time. Written on the wood above some of the parts storage you can see Deere, McCormick, and Massey-Harris. Alan estimates that part of this inventory might be 75 years old. Of course, there is lots of steel and pipe to go with the modern tools upstairs.

For this is not a backward-looking company. Today, it is affiliated with Ace Hardware, and orders are placed via computer.

Alan says, "In the old days, the hardware store had jewelry. I remember my grandmother sold Haviland china and fine crystal." You wouldn't likely find that at your hardware store today B but the Bryants are entrepreneurs. They bought the store next door and put in a collectable shop which connects to the hardware store. A person can buy wedding presents and fine gifts at the collectable shop while another cruises the hardware store. That sounds like something for everyone.

Alan Bryant says, "We have a customer-oriented philosophy. One lady came in to the store with a video camera. She didn't know how to describe what she needed, so she took a videotape of it and brought it in to show it to us." Come to think of it, that might help some marriages where the wife has been sent in for parts...

Alan Bryant says, "We love the variety and we love the people. And we really like solving problems for folks."

Yes, we have it. That's a good slogan for a hardware store, and very fitting in this case. Whether it's antique equipment, modern tools, or fine gifts, yes, they have it. We commend Alan and John Bryant for making a difference by maintaining the family tradition of this hardware store, and we look forward to the store's 75th anniversary in 2001.

In society today, what is all-too-often missing today is community spirit and personal service. But here at Bryant's, we can still say: Yes, they have it.

 

 

Keith Houghton - Part 1-Pilot

Have you ever had an idea and wondered if it would fly? Today, we'll meet someone who has definitely made their idea fly, and I mean that in more ways than one. This is someone who lives in rural Kansas yet is a pilot for a major airline. He and his wife are also entrepreneurs who have built a special enterprise on the family ranch in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for a high-flying edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Keith and Debbie Houghton. These two both worked in the airline industry, yet they make their home together in rural Kansas.

Our story begins with the Houghton family, which homesteaded in central Kansas in 1872 and built up a ranch through the years. Keith is among the fifth generation, and he studied animal science at K-State. On the week he graduated, Keith experienced something new for him: A friend took him up in a small plane for the first time in his life. It was the first time he had ever flown, but it was the beginning of something great. In the back of his mind, Keith had an idea: Maybe he could learn to fly himself.

Meanwhile, however, he had graduated from K-State in animal science and had the opportunity to go to Ohio to manage a cattle operation. While in Ohio, he became friends with the local airport operator who had a flight school. So Keith got his private pilots license. Somewhere along the way, the flying bug got into his blood.

He came back to Kansas where he managed a country grain elevator and bought a small Cessna. Keith says, "I would fly the plane to Kansas City for anyone who was willing to buy gas." He had completed all his advanced ratings in Ohio, so for the next two years, he worked at the farm and taught flying whenever he could.

And then he had another idea: What if he got a professional pilot's license? Keith happens to be colorblind, so he wondered if that would be an obstacle. He worked hard at it and successfully achieved his professional pilot's license. Keith worked at a large fixed base operation in Salina where he was chief pilot and chief flight instructor. He went on to work in Wichita flying Learjets.

Keith then took the step up to the major airlines. He became a professional pilot for Ozark Airlines, which eventually was purchased by TWA, for which Keith is now flying. Along the way, he met and married a flight attendant from Illinois named Debbie.

In the early 1980s, Keith's father passed away. Keith purchased the family ranch. He and Deb live there now, yet he is still flying for TWA.

Now, I don't know how far you travel to work, but Keith commutes to St. Louis. Wow, that's a lot more than walking to the barn, isn't it? Whatever your commute is like, listen to Keith's: He hops in his small plane at the ranch, takes off on the grass strip there, flies to Wichita, and catches a plane to the hub in St. Louis. He can be there in 2 and a half hours. And from there he begins 4 or 5 days of a series of transcontinental flights to the east and west coasts for TWA.

Yet this transcontinental pilot continues to make his home on the ranch south of Tipton, Kansas, population 258 people. Now, that's rural.

At this point in our program, I can't resist the temptation to use that phrase from the old westerns: Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Yes, Keith was thinking about the ranch as he flew for TWA. Even before his father's death, Keith had been thinking about diversifying the operation. But how?

For years, friends of Keith and his family had come to hunt on the Houghton ranch. Keith and Debbie had the idea to develop the ranch as a recreational hunting facility. Would this idea fly? Keith says, "This has gone far beyond what we expected."

Have you ever had an idea and wondered if it would fly? Today, we've met someone who has chosen to fly very literally for the airlines, and now he is making this new idea of recreational hunting fly in rural Kansas. We commend Keith and Deb Houghton for making a difference by using their skills and abilities on the airlines, while maintaining and enhancing the Houghton roots in rural Kansas. All this has led to something called the Ringneck Ranch, and we'll hear about that on our next program.

Keith Houghton - Part 2-Ringneck Ranch

Some ranches raise cattle. Some ranches raise crops. Some ranches raise wildlife. Some ranches raise tourists. Put them together and you have a ranch that raises economic development.

Today, we'll meet a home-grown Kansas entrepreneur who has developed an outstanding recreational hunting experience on the family ranch in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for the conclusion in our series on the Houghton family, in a special hunting season edition of Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we met Keith and Deb Houghton. Keith is an airline pilot and Debbie a former flight attendant. They have taken the family ranch where Keith grew up in central Kansas and developed it into an outstanding attraction for pheasant hunters.

For years, friends of Keith and family had come to the ranch to go pheasant hunting. In 1983, Keith and Debbie decided to concentrate on such hunting as a commercial enterprise. There on the family place, they established Ringneck Ranch.

Ringneck Ranch offers pheasant, quail, and dove hunting, but the specialty is ringneck pheasants. The business started in 1983 and listen to this: During the 2000 hunting season, from mid-October through March, Ringneck Ranch is expected to have nearly 2,000 hunter days.

Ringneck Ranch offers more than 7,000 acres of native upland game bird habitat. The hunting ground consists of sorghum fields, CRP grass, railroad right-of-ways, creeks, weedy draws and tree breaks on the edge of native pasture country. The ranch also has access to another 10,000 plus acres. Twice a day, birds are seeded in the controlled shooting areas.

Hunters are put into groups of 4 to 6. Each group is accompanied by a hand-picked local guide and dog handler who knows the territory and takes them on the hunt. At the end of the day, the ranch staff will clean, process, and freeze the birds for the guests.

Visitors stay right there at the ranch. They get three meals a day and lodging. And listen to these home cooked meals, prepared under the supervision of Deb Houghton: Start with hot-from-the-oven biscuits with gravy, sausage, eggs, and lots of hot coffee and juices. Lunches feature homemade soup of the day with homemade breads and desserts. Suppers include grilled steaks, chops and beef roast with homemade rolls and fresh baked pies. No wonder that many guests consider the meals a highlight of their stay.

The facilities for Ringneck Ranch have expanded through the years. A new full basement was added in 1992, a hangar building for Keith's plane was built in >96, a dog kennel in >97, and what is now a beautiful lodge building was redone in 2000. It's a modern ranchhouse with several suites and five bathrooms, a wonderful place to stay.

Forty people can be accommodated at Ringneck Ranch, and another 12 at nearby Blue Hills Lodge. Blue Hills is operated by Lisa Hake, a local interior decorator, and her brother Mark. It is operated on the family homestead nearby the Houghtons. Guests bring their own guns and outdoor wear. Everything else can be provided by Ringneck Ranch.

And has the idea succeeded? Yes. Visitors have come from coast to coast and even internationally. The number of hunter days is up, and the future is bright.

And when the visitors come, they know they are in a rural setting. The ranch is situated between Tipton and Hunter in Mitchell County in north central Kansas. Tipton has a population of 258 and Hunter has a population of 114 people. Now, that's rural.

This rural setting is part of the attraction for hunters across the country. Keith and Deb do a wonderful job of accommodating corporate groups and celebrities as well as other hunters. Ringneck Ranch has been featured on television, on such shows as ESPN Great Outdoors, PBS Cabin Country, TNN Remington Country, and ESPN2 American Expedition. Wow. And now it is on the Internet at www.nckcn.com/TIC/ringneck.htm

Some ranches raise cattle. Some ranches raise crops. Some ranches raise wildlife. Some ranches raise tourists. Put them together and you have a ranch that raises economic development. We commend Keith and Deb Houghton for making a difference with their entrepreneurship, vision, and hard work that have made Ringneck Ranch a reality. Altogether, this ranch is helping raise the quality of life in rural Kansas.

 

 

Huck Boyd Foundation - Rural Policy Symposium

Good things can and do happen in rural Kansas. But one of the bad things is that all too often, policies are put in place without enough input from the local folks in rural areas who are affected by those policies. After all, it is difficult for a citizen in far western Kansas to have input to policymakers in Topeka and Washington.

But there is hope. A group of visionary leaders is using the tools of technology to create a special opportunity for input for rural citizens. We'll hear the specifics on today's Kansas Profile.

There are three related parts to today's program. One begins with the history of a prominent Kansan named Huck Boyd. Huck was a western Kansas newspaper publisher and national leader. He represented Kansas on the Republican National Committee for 20 years. So he was nationally influential, yet very committed to rural Kansas. In fact, throughout his career he published a weekly newspaper in Phillipsburg, population 2,578 people. Now, that's rural. But he was sought out for advice by Senators and Presidents.

After his death in 1987, the Huck Boyd Foundation was established by family and friends. The Foundation sponsors three projects: The Huck Boyd Institute -- that's my shop; secondly, the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism at K-State; and finally, the Huck Boyd Community Center in his hometown of Phillipsburg.

The Huck Boyd Center in Phillipsburg is a beautiful new building. It includes a 500 seat auditorium for performing arts productions, a museum of operating model railroad memorabilia, and a high tech, videoconference education facility.

Now, I know the local folks in Phillipsburg are enjoying the auditorium and the railroad museum B with good reason B but for the long term, I am really excited about the potential of the videoconference center. This center makes it possible for rural citizens in the region to electronically be connected with information beyond the city's borders.

That leads us to the second part of today's program. Here is a specific example of what I have in mind. On December 1, 2000, the sixth annual rural policy symposium will be held at Kansas State University. The symposium is held each year to focus on rural policy issues.

But this year's symposium is unique. Participants at this year's symposium will be able to have direct input into the development of the state's new economic development plan.

The 2000 rural policy symposium has been selected by Kansas, Inc. as one of the venues through which citizens of Kansas will provide input for the update to the Comprehensive Strategic Plan for the State of Kansas. The updated plan will define specific strategies by which Kansas will achieve economic competitiveness in the 21st century.

What does that have to do with Phillipsburg? Simply this: The 2000 symposium will be videoconferenced between Manhattan and the Huck Boyd Center in Phillipsburg. That means that people can participate in the symposium in either place. Through interactive video, people in both sites will be able to see and hear each other.

This means that people in far western Kansas don't have to travel all the way to Topeka or Manhattan to have input into the policy development process. They can simply go to Phillipsburg and participate via technology, thanks to the investment and initiative of the Huck Boyd Foundation. More information on the symposium can be found at www.ksu.edu/kcri/events.htm.

And that leads us to the third and final part of today's program. The Huck Boyd Center in Phillipsburg still needs funds to finish the parking lot and other features. In the fall of 1999, the Mabee Foundation in Tulsa granted the Huck Boyd Foundation a conditional grant of $100,000 for this purpose. But in order to meet the target and receive the grant, the Foundation had to raise an additional $338,000 in one year. I'm proud to report that as of October 31, 2000, the Huck Boyd Foundation had raised more than $340,000 and more than met their goal.

Good things can and do happen in rural Kansas. We commend the leaders of the Huck Boyd Foundation and the sponsors of the rural policy symposium for making a difference with their visionary effort. By using the tools of technology at the Huck Boyd Center in Phillipsburg, rural citizens will be able to have direct input into the state policy process through this year's policy symposium. I think Huck Boyd would be proud.

Hedricks exotic animal farm

The bride and groom are planning a wedding in Colorado. As with any wedding, one of the questions is whom to invite. Of course, the bride and groom think about family and friends, but then there is one more special invitation to be sent: This wedding invitation goes to a giraffe in rural Kansas. Now doesn't that make you curious? Stay tuned for an exotic animal edition of Kansas Profile.

Today's story really isn't about weddings. It is about a rural entrepreneur in Kansas with a knack for training animals.

Meet Joe Hedrick. Joe is the President of Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm Inc., the home of the giraffe which received a wedding invitation. Here's the story.

Joe Hedrick grew up near Sterling in south central Kansas. His father worked as a rodeo clown, and Joe grew up in the rodeo business. He became a rodeo clown himself and began to work exotic animals into his performances. For example, he would ride a longhorn steer or a bison in rodeo parades to stimulate interest.

Joe and his wife Sondra started raising exotic animals as a hobby, but it turned into an occupation. In 1975, he moved to his parent's farm near Nickerson, Kansas and started raising exotic animals there. His animals were so unusual and eye-catching that he took them on the road, and lots of people were asking to see the animals locally too. In 1992, the farm opened for guided tours. In the following year, Joe opened a bed and breakfast at the place. It operates in a comfortable building with safari-type rooms and a facade that looks like an Old West town, complete with an outdoor balcony accessible from every room.

After a country breakfast, guests get the special animal tour. They can feed giraffes, cuddle kangaroos, and be kissed by camels. Wow.

Other animals at the place include ostriches, zebras, zebus, yaks, potbellies, muntjacs, capybaras, llamas, hedgehogs, and lots more -- up to 32 varieties of critters. Hedricks also offers banquets at their facility, birthday parties, hayrack rides, farm tours, and lakeside camping. Guests have stayed at the inn from coast to coast and 8 foreign countries.

And true to his rodeo roots, Joe has taken these animals on the road. He offers such things as petting zoos and pig, camel, and ostrich races. For example, Hedricks has performed at the Chandler Ostrich Festival in Arizona and National Date Festival and California. These animals have been trained and trucked from coast to coast. Hedricks has been described as "the leading animal attractions business in the country." Joe and Sondra have even sent animals to Panama and Mexico.

Their animals are used by churches at Easter and Christmastime - now you know where Santa's reindeer came from. Hedricks animals have been part of Radio City Music Hall Christmas spectaculars across the country.

It is amazing how this business has grown. Yet it remains based on the farm near Nickerson, Kansas, population 1,117 people. Now, that's rural.

Joe's assistant Sharon Lingenfelter says, "Joe's family didn't have a lot of money growing up, but they loved animals and loved people. He has had all these ideas and has made them come to life."

And that leads us back to our erstwhile wedding guest. A year ago, a young man from Colorado was bringing his girlfriend across Kansas to see a family member, and he knew that she had loved giraffes since an early age. He took her out for an evening of dinner and dancing, and then brought her to Hedricks at midnight. There, in front of Kenya the giraffe, he proposed and she accepted. It's yet another chapter of the fascinating story of Hedrick's exotic animal farm.

The bride and groom are planning a wedding in Colorado. They are inviting family and friends, and they decide to also invite one extra special guest B Kenya the giraffe out at Hedricks in rural Kansas. This was reported in the news and generated attention as far away as the Inside Edition television show in New York. Now there is a wedding guest who would truly stand out in a crowd.

We commend Joe and Sondra Hedrick and their associates for their hard work and innovation in developing the animal farm and other enterprises which have gathered national attention. From the country inn to camel rides coast-to-coast, Joe Hedrick has made a difference through entrepreneurship and family entertainment B even including a wedding invitation. I wonder how you get wedding cake 15 feet high....

 

 

Loretta Miller - LKM Originals

Today we'll hear a story that we can fall for B and when I say fall, I really mean it. That may be just a play on words today, but it describes a painful time in someone's life. That pain has been transformed into the joy of creativity by a special Kansas artist. She's based in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for a special holiday edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Loretta Miller, a rural artist who creates Santa Clauses. Here is her story.

Loretta grew up at the south central Kansas town of Hoisington, population 2,992 people. Now, that's rural.

She married Tim Miller, who is a native of Great Bend and who runs an oilfield business there and raises longhorn cattle. Loretta was an office worker in Great Bend, but she found she has a creative side. For example, she made porcelain dolls just for fun.

In 1991, Loretta's daughter talked her into attending a workshop about sculpting. As soon as she touched the sculpting clay, Loretta knew that she had found the medium in which she wanted to work. By noon on the first day of the workshop, Loretta was hooked. She took the clay and created friendly little faces, like Santa Claus.

But such sculpting was simply a hobby, which she worked on away from the office.

Then came January 3, 1994. Loretta was carrying some things to be put away in a darkened room at the back of the house when she stepped into an open shaft that had been left uncovered. She fell 12 feet, straight down onto the concrete. Her backbone was crushed. She was taken to the hospital and airlifted to Wichita. Her doctors thought she might never walk again, and she lost her job.

While in that hospital bed, Loretta thought about the Santa faces which she had sculpted from the modeling clay. She thought about creating a new business from those Santa Clauses. And after a painful hospital stay and a long convalescence, Loretta made a full recovery. Today, she walks unaided. And she has made her dream of a business come true.

Today, LKM Originals creates and markets original Santa Claus and elf figures created by Loretta. She sculpts modeling clay into the kindly faces of Santa Claus and his elves and then decorates them elegantly.

Here's how the process works. She starts by sculpting these faces in a special polymer clay which is heated in an oven. Then silicone rubber molds are created so that she can produce more of those faces. She decorates these figures with velvet tapestries, antique Christmas decorations, and floral supplies. Most of these figures are one to three feet tall. She makes one-of-a-kind designs, as well as those she can reproduce.

She alters the faces various ways, by opening the mouth or changing the shape of the face. Then she adds beards and glasses and the most creative of designs.

My words don't do justice to these creations. Santa may be in an antique box or coming out of an old book, or dressed as a cowboy or all in white. Every Santa has his own beautiful, unique costume, with embroidery, velvet, fur, flowers, and toys. Loretta also makes funny elves, jesters, and angels. Each one is colorful and elegant.

Today, she is marketing these collectible figures all over. She sells wholesale to gift shops and other clients from Minnesota to Texas, and as far away as Hawaii. Her Santas have even been sold to Japan, England, and Venezuela.

Loretta and one helper do the production from her home. Loretta's mother has done a lot of the sewing, but Loretta is apparently letting her mother retire B her mom turns 90 in March.

Loretta now has a website, at www.lkmoriginals.com. That web address again is www.lkmoriginals.com. She continues to work from her home on a rural route near Great Bend, Kansas.

This is a story you can fall for. Yes, you'll fall for these Santa Clauses if you see them. But Loretta Miller experienced a fall that was very real, and it led to her creating this business to market these Santa Claus figures to others. We commend Loretta Miller for making a difference by sharing her artistic talents and responding to what could have been a tragedy. Loretta says, "My husband Tim has been so supportive. And I think doing the sculpting helped me get well."

This Christmas, Loretta is donating one of her Santa Clauses for a special event at Great Bend. We'll hear about that on our next program.

Mike Cargill - Trail of Lights

Let's hit the trail for the holidays this year. If "hitting the trail" sounds like a western, don't worry -- you won't have to ride horseback. This is a Trail of Lights, and it is incredible. Stay tuned for another in our holiday edition series of Kansas Profile.

Meet Mike Cargill. Mike is director of public lands for the city of Great Bend. That means he has responsibility for the city's publicly-owned parks and recreation facilities, among other things.

Mike is a native of Greensburg, which has a population of 1,654 people. Now, that's rural. When he was a freshman in high school, his parents decided to take him to a zoo. They took him to the zoo at Great Bend. It was a fateful decision. That zoo sparked a lifelong interest in Mike, and he decided he wanted to be a zookeeper when he grew up.

Mike studied biology at Southwestern College and got a masters degree at Bradley. He served as a zookeeper in Peoria and Chicago. In 1994, he learned of a special opportunity: There was a job opening in Great Bend, which included responsibility for that very zoo which had first sparked his interest. So Mike made the move back home.

Then came another interesting twist of fate. While in Illinois, Mike had worked in cities with beautiful Christmas light displays. So he thought, maybe we could do the same thing here. He called the company which had built those light displays in Illinois, and they said, "Sure, we'd be glad to help. It will only cost you two hundred thousand dollars." Mike said, "Thank you very much," and hung up the phone. So much for that.

Then one of the workmen on Mike's city crew came to him and said, "Y'know, I think I could build something like that." So he built a sample metal framework of a design and mounted Christmas lights on it. It looked good, and people liked it. So the city decided to invest in an expanded light show, and it has grown from there.

Now listen to this. In 2000, there will be an estimated 5 million Christmas lights on display, in a fabulous show that is called the Trail of Lights. It is one of the premiere light shows in the country.

There are several components of the light show. One is called Wild Lights, which is located in a city park and features animated displays of moving animals. Another is called Lafayette Lights, which features the Lafayette Square area in downtown Great Bend. Lights at the Lake is located in Veteran's Park, which shows Santa's elves hard at work. The animated elves play baseball, hang wreaths, and shoot out of cannons.

All of these displays are built by city crews during off-seasons. The displays are hand-computerized and animated. And it has paid off for the city. An estimated 70,000 people will visit Great Bend to see the Trail of Lights, and many of those are from outside the city.

The display is said to rival that of Disneyland.

Mike Cargill says, "This is an entire community effort. The Chamber is donating funds, people volunteer to put up displays, and civic groups do other things to support it. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger."

Of course, I haven't even mentioned the private Christmas light displays that individuals put up on their own. Now prizes are being offered for the best personal decorations, best block theme, best individual house, and best business display. The lights are on from November 18 through January 1.

Overall, the Trail of Lights in Great Bend is so impressive that the American Bus Tour Association ranks it as one of the top 100 events in North America.

If you would like more information, go to www.greatbend.com or contact the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau at 316-792-2750. That number again is 316-792-2750.

Let's hit the trail for the holidays this year B no, not some western trail, but a beautiful Trail of Lights through Great Bend, Kansas. We salute Mike Cargill and the people of Great Bend for making a difference with this festive display at the holidays.

And there's more, because this trail of lights goes all the way outside of town to an especially magical place. We'll hear about that on our next program.

 

 

Christmas Fantasy Village

It's the holidays. If only it was possible to go to a place where the kids could see Santa Claus, enjoy food and fun, see thousands of Christmas lights, and celebrate the real meaning of what Christmas is all about. You might say, that's just a fantasy.

Well, you would be right, in a way. There is such a place, and it's called Christmas Fantasy Village. It's located in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for the final program in our special holiday series of Kansas Profile.

Meet Bob and Carol Martin. They are the folks who are responsible for the beginning of Christmas Fantasy Village.

On our last program, we learned of the Great Bend Trail of Lights. Mike Cargill from the city of Great Bend has given leadership to this display. It is especially fitting because of the work which the Martins had done previously to develop a Christmas village.

Bob Martin was doing electrical work in the oilfield. Carol was a native of Hoisington. They married and ultimately made their home in Great Bend. Bob had his own electrical company called Powerline Construction.

In the early 1970s, the city of Great Bend had no Christmas lights. Bob and Carol thought this was a shame, so Bob decided to put up a Christmas display for the kids.

After all, he had electrical equipment and power poles. So he put up a big, 65 foot pole and made a Christmas tree out of it. It was so well received that the next Christmas he added a little more, and then a little more. It developed into an extensive and remarkable attraction.

By the year 2000, Bob and Carol reached retirement age. For health reasons, they sold their electrical business and were wondering what to do with their Christmas stuff. They could sell it piecemeal, but would prefer to keep it together.

They found a buyer. It was none other than Mike Cargill, the public lands director for the city who had worked so hard with the city's Christmas display. This assures that this wonderful collection will remain together in Great Bend.

So what exactly is Christmas Fantasy Village? It is like a park with small cottages surrounding a reflecting pool, lined with thousands of lights. One cottage, of course, is Santa's house, where kids can go to visit him. There is another called Kansas House, which features in-state products, and one for gourmet foods. There is a small train that kids can ride. And one called the stocking stuffer, where everything costs a buck and kids can get lots of stuff. All told, there are 9 buildings within the village, plus live reindeer, a live nativity, and more.

The building which had been a barn for Bob Martin's electrical line business has been converted into a gift shop and snack bar. One can get hot chocolate, hot cider, and more. And this gift shop is a marvel to see. When the room lights are turned down, the Christmas lights come on, and the animated Santa Clauses begin to move, it is a magical place.

Mike Cargill says, "Bob was a visionary. He would find and restore these Christmas items from all over, and put them on display."

And as I said, the real meaning of Christmas is not lost in the fun. There is a cozy chapel, which features a three-quarter life size nativity scene and a continuous audio of the Christmas story from the Bible. The nativity is a signed Fontanini nativity, the same kind found in the Vatican.

At the back of the building are maps of Kansas and the U.S., with a sign encouraging visitors to put a pin in the map to show where they came from. Based on these maps, visitors have come from coast to coast and as far away as Italy, Norway, China, Germany, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. Wow.

Yet these visitors are making a stop at Christmas Fantasy Village near Great Bend, Kansas, population 14,718 people. Now, that's rural. How exciting to find this festive holiday scene in rural Kansas.

It's the holidays. Yes, it is possible for the kids to see Santa, have lots of fun, and remember the true meaning of Christmas B all at Christmas Fantasy Village near Great Bend. We commend Bob and Carol Martin for making a difference by creating this attraction, and Mike Cargill for continuing and expanding the tradition.

Here's wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season.

KSU Chain Crew

Let's go to KSU Stadium. The K-State-Nebraska game is in progress. Nebraska is ranked number 4 in the nation, and the Big 12 North Championship is on the line. K-State is going for a crucial first down at midfield. The ball is spotted by the referee, and it is very close. He calls for a measurement, and the sideline crew hurries onto the field with the chains to measure for a first down.

Have you ever stopped to think about who those people are who bring the chains onto the field? Well....me neither. But they include some people with rural roots. It's a small town story about big-time football. Stay tuned for a special bowl game edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Jim Kleinau, better known as Shorty. Shorty is the equipment manager for the K-State football team. He has a lot of responsibilities, including the equipment for the sideline crew that holds the chains to measure first down yardage. In football, the home team is responsible for providing the chains and the people who run them.

Specifically, these are the guys who stand on the sideline in white uniforms and mark the official spot each time the ball is placed, plus the distance needed to reach a first down. They have a down marker which displays the number of the current down being played. There are guys with markers on both sides of the field. And of course, they move the markers up and down the field in the course of the game.

At K-State, the guys on the chain crew have been doing it for a lot of years, and doing it well. Shorty Kleinau came to K-State back in 1978. He inherited an experienced chain crew even at that time. He says, "It's a situation that has been passed down through the years. Those guys work together well, and they find good substitutes when they need to."

He says, "This is a very important task. They team with the officials to make sure the ball is placed correctly each time."

"And," he says, "It's dangerous down there. Those players can come at the sidelines with tremendous speed." They also have a lot of padding, which the chain crew does not.

Serving on the chain crew is a volunteer activity. The only compensation is a football ticket for their spouse B although that is worth a lot more than it used to be.

The current chain crew has been doing this task for a lot of years. Most of them live in or near Manhattan, but there are rural connections.

For example, the chain crew includes several guys who live in Manhattan, such as Stan Bartel, Ron Brown, Greg Wilson, Don Siemsen, and Howard Wilson. But it also includes Jim Brandenburg from Riley, population 753; Jerry Wilson from Alta Vista, population 463; and Allan Thaemert from Natoma, population 354 people. Now, that's rural.

This crew, plus several alternates, has been serving as the chain gang at K-State games for years. The fact that they do their tasks so well has made that part of Shorty Kleinau's job easy.

Shorty says, "The biggest tribute I can give them is that they've been so good that they never get noticed. They are professional, they've worked hard, and they've done well for a long time."

The same could be said of Shorty Kleinau himself.

At the end of each football season, team members are recognized and awards are presented. One year recently, K-State's starting fullback expressed thanks to the people who had meant the most to him. You might expect him to recognize a coach or a teacher B but this player took the time to thank none other than Shorty Kleinau. Shorty had provided a listening ear at a time when this young man needed it, and it had made a world of difference.

Shorty says, "I get to see kids living out their dreams. It's fun to watch `em grow."

It was the K-State-Nebraska game, and the Cats were going for a crucial first down. The crew brought in the chains for a measurement. Well, the Cats made that first down and won the game and the Big 12 North championship. But today we recognize those who work behind the scenes to help the program succeed B Shorty Kleinau, the chain crew, and other unsung heroes who make a difference by doing their job well so the team can succeed on the field.

Good luck in the bowl game.

 

 

Howard and Sharon Kessinger

Let's go halfway around the globe to Estonia, part of the former Soviet Union. We'll visit a newspaper editor there. He's the former editor of the largest circulation newspaper in Estonia. And today he has a fellow editor as a guest B but this newspaperman is editor of a community newspaper in rural Kansas. What is a Kansas newspaperman doing in Estonia? Stay tuned for the answer on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Howard and Sharon Kessinger. They are owners and publishers of the Marysville Advocate in Marysville, Kansas. It was Howard and Sharon who found their way to Estonia in the summer of the year 2000. But that was just one example of an international vision exhibited by these two journalists with rural roots.

Howard Kessinger grew up at Wellington, Kansas. He went to K-State, where he met Sharon while they were both studying journalism. After graduation, Howard worked in newspaper advertising until he made a trip to a New York ad agency. Howard says, "I decided that wasn't what I wanted to do. I like newspapers, and I like to work in small communities."

So Howard made a change. He became editor of the newspaper in Oberlin, and he and Sharon got married shortly after. They were there for 14 years, starting to buy the paper a couple of years after they moved there.

In 1975, the opportunity arose to come to the newspaper in Marysville, which is near where Sharon had grown up. Her parents actually lived in the nearby town of Winifred, which is estimated today to have a population of about 20 people. Now, that's rural.

While she was growing up at Winifred, Sharon's family subscribed to the Marysville Advocate, and she had even worked there at the paper one summer. So there were several connections, and it seemed like a good opportunity in a nice community. Howard and Sharon bought the newspaper and moved to Marysville. Now they are celebrating their 25th year with the newspaper. The paper itself has been published for 115 years. Wow.

The Kessingers got very involved in the community of Marysville. They supported efforts to restore the historic Koester Block, worked to enhance Main Street, supported downtown redevelopment, worked at the museum, restored the historic white bronze statues and fountain on the Koester House Museum grounds, supported community arts, and even worked with Habitat for Humanity. Sharon says with a smile, "Howard can't drive a nail, so he had to do other things." He served as secretary for Habitat, which has renovated or built homes for people in Marysville and surrounding communities. Howard and Sharon also raised three daughters and a son.

At one point, Howard and Sharon became involved in a project of the National Newspaper Association. The goal of the project was to reach out to journalists in the former Soviet Union, where a free press had not been allowed for most of the century. This international interest came easily to the Kessingers. They have hosted several foreign exchange students through such programs as Rotary and 4-H.

So the Kessingers hosted an editor from Estonia for five weeks. He visited journalism departments at K-State and elsewhere. This made for good international fellowship, but it was also educational.

Sharon says, "Our friend in Estonia says he has tried to apply some of the things we do here." Newspapers have been redesigned and the economy is better.

In the summer of 2000, Howard and Sharon made a return trip. They went from Kansas to Estonia. Their travel included a train trip to St. Petersburg, Russia and a trip by steamer to Stockholm, Sweden. They visited their international friends as well as the origins of Sharon's family.

Now they are back in Kansas, where their newspaper makes a real contribution to the community. Today, the Marysville Advocate has the highest paid circulation of any community weekly in the state, about 5,600. And their newspaper has been on-line for four years.

So is the international travel the highlight? Sharon says, "Our real highlight is once a week when the paper comes out. It's a great feeling when you see people wanting to get their newspaper."

Howard says, "The nice thing about being a community journalist is being involved, and trying to improve things." Sharon adds, "It's a lot of fun. People in other parts of the world don't have that opportunity."

It's time to say goodbye to Estonia, where two journalists have been visiting all the way from rural Kansas. We commend Howard and Sharon Kessinger, for making a difference in their community as well as around the globe.