What’s so special about Kansas: Interview with First Lady Mary Brownback of Kansas

We were honored to be invited to a reception at Cedar Crest Mansion in Topeka for the Kansas Book Festival this past September, and we were able to chat with First Lady Mary Brownback of Kansas. We reached out to her again recently to get her thoughts on what’s so special about the Sunflower State, and here’s what we found out!

Cedar Crest Mansion. Photo by Mark Conard

Cedar Crest has many trails close by – it’s particularly unique to have public trails so close to a governor’s mansion – what value do you feel public trails and public lands have in Kansas?

These public trails and lands give so many of our residents the opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, to see and experience so many new things.

I think about people living in large, metropolitan areas and, not that there aren’t opportunities for those people to enjoy the great outdoors, but it seems the opportunities are fewer and farther between.

Do you see a lot of trail users at MacLennan Park and Cedar Crest?

Every single day. Regardless of weather, there are plenty of people who will bring their dogs for walks on the trail. When the weather is nice though, the trails are full of walkers, runners, bikers and hikers, alike. There are many who come to fish at the ponds, as well.

What are some of the biggest Kansas misconceptions you think people have?

I think two of the biggest misconceptions about Kansas are that Kansas is flat and that there’s nothing to see or do here.

View from MacLennan Park. Photo by Jonathan Conard

Out of staters often think of Kansas as “flyover country” – what would you say to change their minds?

If they’re only flying over Kansas, they’re sure missing out on a lot. The Flint Hills are absolutely beautiful, the college and university campuses are wonderful and, in my travels across the state, I’ve seen some of the most unique main streets with artisan shops and local flair.

When you think of Kansas, what’s the image that comes to mind?

Without a doubt, I picture “home.” This is the state where I grew up, where I live among some of the friendliest people in the world. It’s where I’ve put down roots with my own family and raised my children. There’s no place I’d rather be.

For someone who’s never been to Kansas, do you have any recommendations for where to go or what to see?

There are so many great places to take a first-time visitor to our State. A walk around the campus of the University of Kansas (my alma mater!), the Flint Hills, the Kansas Cosmosphere and the salt mines in Hutchinson all immediately come to mind.

But there’s also the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield. So many great attractions that make Kansas such a special place.

At the Kansas Book Festival with Mary Brownback.

For someone who grew up in Kansas and feels like they’ve seen everything there, do you have any recommendations for where to go or what to see?

Many of my answers for this question could overlap with the question above. If you’ve grown up in Kansas, you’ve surely had a tour of the State Capitol. But with the recent renovations, that is definitely a site that you’ll want to plan to visit again; it’s absolutely beautiful.

If you’ve never been to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita or the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, those are a couple of the more unique zoo experiences that you’ll find in this area.

Finally, most Kansans get a good laugh out of the fact that we’re home to several “world’s largest” sites but if you haven’t seen it before, the world’s largest hand dug well in Greensburg really is quite the sight.

What makes Kansas special for you?

Many of my fondest memories have taken place in Kansas. Having spent the majority of my life here, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is home.

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