Kansas turns 154 this Thursday – here’s where to celebrate

Kansas Day is January 29, and this year, Kansas turns 154! In its 154th year, you’ll be able to explore via its miles upon miles of trails from prairies to woodlands with our trail guide.

More immediately, from the Kansas tourism site, here are some upcoming Kansas Day events for 2015.

To celebrate Kansas’ 154th birthday, the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka plans a full day of performances and activities to celebrate Kansas’ 154th birthday. Exhibit: The Great Soldier State: Kansas and the Civil War.

Paola’s Kansas Day & Business Expo will feature entertainment, children’s activities, local products, food vendors, and more than 75 business and organization exhibits.

On Sat., Jan. 31, 2015, Burlington’s Coffey County Historical Society & Museum will feature activities for kids, a chili feed, and live and silent auctions.

Kansas Day Celebration at Kauffman Museum in Newton on January 31 is a free event featuring wagon rides, popcorn popping over an open fire, make-it-take-it crafts and much more!

What will you be doing for Kansas Day?

2015 Symphony in the Flint Hills Location Announced

2014 Symphony in the Flint Hills

2014 Symphony in the Flint Hills

On June 13, 2015, the Symphony in the Flint Hills is coming home!

For the 10th anniversary of the event, it will be held at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

From the Symphony in the Flint Hills site:

We are thrilled to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Symphony in the Flint Hills Signature Event back where it all started at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve,” said Jim Hoy, Board Chair for Symphony in the Flint Hills, Inc. “Our milestone anniversary and this historic location lend themselves to help us further our mission of heightening appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie. We plan to take it a step further with the theme, ‘Grasslands of the World,’ and The Nature Conservancy as our partner for the education programs.”

Dodge City Days

We’re in the midst of Dodge City Days. The annual event is in its 54th year, and it ends this weekend. While the barbecue cook-off is over, there’s still plenty to do at this western celebration.

Photo by Tourism Kansas

Photo by Tourism Kansas

The “Arts, Crafts & Things” show is August 2 and 3 at the Village Square Mall (air conditioning!).

August 2 is also the day you can check out the classic car show at Wright Park. At 11am, 1pm, and 3pm, you can watch the extreme motorcross show.

In the afternoons, the public library is hosting talks on early days of ranching and trail driving that built up the town of Dodge City.

And each night you can go to Central Station for the street dance.

Of course, Dodge City Days wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the rodeo. The PRCA is hosting the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo from July 30 to August 4, also known as the “Greatest Show On Dirt”. Each night from 7:45 to 11, you can watch the riding and roping skills of professional cowboys.

2014 Symphony in the Flint Hills: Photos

It was incredibly windy, it is Kansas after all, but with the lush green grass, it wasn’t dusty, and the 2014 Symphony in the Flint Hills was a success. The Kansas City Symphony played to 7,000 people on the Gottsch Cattle Co. Ranch near Rosalia. Here are some photos, all taken by Mark Conard.

Symphony in the Flint Hills

Today is the day for ninth annual Symphony in the Flint Hills. Held at Rosalia Ranch in Butler County this year, the Kansas City Symphony will play for 6,000 – 7,000 people amidst the idyllic setting of the Flint Hills.

Tents at this year's Symphony in the Flint Hills

Tents at this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills

The event celebrates the heritage and ecology of this important ecosystem. Along with the headlining evening show, the event has lectures and presentations on the tallgrass prairie and Flint Hills. There are also prairie walks and covered wagon rides, and after the event, guests are invited to stay and stargaze. For kids, and kids at here, there’s the “Instrument Petting Zoo” where you can play with different instruments.

From the Symphony in the Flint Hills site on just how this unique event came to be:

In 1994, Matfield Green rancher Jane Koger celebrated her birthday by inviting the public to a “Symphony on the Prairie.” More than 3,000 people from far and wide congregated at her Homestead Ranch for a magical union between symphonic music and the prairie landscape.

Ten years after Jane Koger’s legendary birthday concert, Chase, Lyon, Morris and Wabaunsee County leaders founded Symphony in the Flint Hills, Inc. to heighten the appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie. In 2006, the organization held the first of its annual prairie concerts, a Kansas tradition that now attracts approximately 7,000 attendees from all over the world.

If you missed out this year, put the event on your calendar for next June.


Photo by Kansas Tourism

The race is on! 2014 Bike Across Kansas has begun

Well, not a race exactly, more a feat of dedication, strength, and spirit – The annual Bike Across Kansas or BAK event has started! This year’s 555 mile route starts from the southwest corner and heads to the northeast.

We reached out to Stefanie Weaver, the organizations executive director for her thoughts on the event.


Kansas Trail Guide: What makes BAK so special?

Weaver: BAK gives people a chance to do something unique, something that now everyone has the chance to do. It brings people of all ages (7-88) and all walks of life together with a common interest of bicycling and enjoying the beauty of the Kansas landscape, towns and people. BAK creates a community all to itself — building relationships and long lasting friendships that create what we call “BAK Moments.”

There are no barriers when bicycling through Kansas that you have on a vehicle. You are totally immersed in the environment.

Kansas Trail Guide: What can people do this year to support the tour?

Weaver: Towns provide BAK riders great support as we pass through or stay overnight. One favorite thing is people making themselves available simply for conversations–about themselves, their communities, etc. Some of the  fondest many are built with the direct involvement of townspeople. Towns often provide nightly entertainment, homemade fundraiser meals, tours of local points of interest, passes to the local pool, and many other amenities that highlight that town’s “personality” and hospitality. Riders are often as interested in sites, sounds, and towns as they are bicycling.

Kansas Trail Guide: What if people are inspired to ride next year, what should they do?

Weaver: BAK registration opens traditionally at midnight on January 29, which is Kansas Day. This year registration filled to capacity on 2 1/2 days.

Kansas Trail Guide: How do you feel the event does for the state and the community?

Weaver: A sense of community–both among its riders and within the tons we stay–is established during BAK. Whether joining up with other riders to make the bicycling trip easier, hanging out at a SAG stop support stop), visiting a local museum or historical site, coming together for the nightly meeting, pitching in to wash dishes in a local cafe, or changing a flat tire, relationship building is constantly taking place.

The towns at which we stay come together to support BAK–ensuring riders have plenty of homemade food to eat, things to do, and and sites to see. It’s the townspeople, the volunteers that make riders feel at home. For many of the small towns, it stretches them, but they never fail. We’ve been told that BAK brings an exciting people-to-people cultural exchange and that created a lasting impression.

Kansas Trail Guide: What are some misconceptions people have about Kansas that get smashed with events like the BAK?

Weaver: The first misconception is that Kansas is flat; however, people quickly realize this is a myth. They also discover hat Kansas is a state with a variety of geography. People are surprised by the beauty of the Gypsum Hills, Smoky Hills, and Flint Hills. Traveling from the southwest to northeast this year, riders will experience Kansas’ variety. Beginning with the high plains of the Cinnamon Grasslands, progressing through Arkansas River Valley, Smoky Hills, Flint Hills, and ending on the Glaciated Region, riders will experience the simple beauty of Kansas.

To all the riders and supporters in this year’s event – have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the ride!

25th anniversary celebration for The Nature Conservancy in Kansas

25th anniversary celebration for The Nature Conservancy in Kansas

This Saturday, June 7, The Nature Conservancy marks its 25th year of working in Kansas. To celebrate, they’re hosting an anniversary event at Smoky Valley Ranch.

Cretaceous Formations

Cretaceous Formations

If you’ve never been to Smoky Valley Ranch, you should check it out. Yes, it’s seemingly in the middle of nowhere in western Kansas, but it has some of the coolest geologic formations in the state – its Cretaceous formations are unexpected and impressive out on the short grass prairie.

For the anniversary event: “The event’s activities include a driving tour that will feature how the Conservancy’s long-term management makes the ranch into a model of shortgrass prairie conservation. Tour participants will also discuss how the ranch has been a site for several research projects.

Other activities include a hike that will take visitors to scenic and diverse sites on the ranch and presentations about the history of the ranch, including the role of Native Americans and bison.”

Photo by J. Michael Lockhart/USFWS

Photo by J. Michael Lockhart/USFWS

At Smoky Valley Ranch, The Nature Conservancy in Kansas was instrumental in reintroducing the endangered black footed ferret back to Kansas. The organization also helps protect and care for the Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve, one of the world’s last swathes of tallgrass prairie, and for Cheyenne Bottoms, one of the state’s and arguably the country’s most important wetlands along the Central Flyway that’s used for migratory birds.

The Nature Conservancy in Kansas also helps give information and support to landowners who want to work on conservation issues to ensure the health and beauty of the state’s natural wonders.

Great Migration Rally this Sunday at Cheyenne Bottoms

As the weather warms up, migratory birds begin making their way back to and through Kansas. The state is on the Central Flyway, a migratory route between the Gulf of Mexico and central Canada. Some great spots to check out the birds are wetland and marsh areas, like Baker Wetlands near Lawrence, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near Sterling, and Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend. Year round, you can check out Baker Wetlands and QNWR on foot with trails featured in the upcoming Kansas trails guidebook, and to explore Cheyenne Bottoms, you can go on a driving tour.

And in celebration of the spring migration, on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 2pm to 7pm, Fort Hays State University’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center is hosting the Great Migration Rally.

You can see Kansas’ one and only falconer and his rescued Golden Eagle and you can take part in what’s essentially a scavenger hunt. From their website:

Participants start off by drawing a “bird” card, worth so many points. The rarer the species, the more points it is worth.

“Each bird is a species that migrates through Cheyenne Bottoms,” Curtis Wolf, KWEC manager, said.

After beginning their “migration”, driving through Cheyenne Bottoms, participants stop at three different points, picking up situational cards that describe a positive or negative circumstance. The positive cards, such as finding a good food source, add points. The negative cards, such as losing a wetland to development, subtract points. At the migration destination, Barton Community College’s Camp Aldrich, the migrants choose one last card, points are tabulated and those with the highest points win prizes…

…There are also crafts for kids and adults, with kids making a bird feeder to take home. In addition, Bird Bingo, bird tattoos and other activities will be available.

A comfort meal of ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans and biscuits will be served, with Tumnus, a trio from Wichita, providing Celtic and folk tunes.

If you go:

Cost for the event is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children ages 5-12 and free for children under age 5. Proceeds from the event to restoring monarch butterfly habitat, another species that wings its way through Kansas.

Participants are asked to pre-register by calling the KWEC, 1-877-243-9268, or emailing lkpenner@fhsu.edu, by April 6. More information is available at wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu.

Great Migration Rally


State Parks = Free this Saturday!

Plan on getting outdoors this Saturday, as all state parks will offer free admission and a variety of fun activities for visitors!  State parks are always one of the best deals for outdoor recreation, but you can’t beat free admission and activities available for all ages.

Get the party started with fishing derbies for the kids, prize drawings, fun runs, and even an Easter egg hunt at one of the parks.  If you’ve been waiting for spring to get started so that you can get back outside and savor the outdoor experience, there’s no better time than this Saturday to get back out and enjoy the parks.

At the Ottawa trailhead for the Prairie Spirit Trail

At the Ottawa trail head for the Prairie Spirit Trail

Some of the highlights include:

El Dorado State Park – Nature Photography Hike (10:00 a.m.)

Perry Lake – Guided horse trail rides (Wild Horse Campground 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.)

Ottawa Depot – Prairie Spirit Trail – Bike or hike on the trail and enjoy a free lunch!

Tuttle Creek State Park – Nature Bird Hike (9:00 – 11:00 Meet at the park office)

Check out the full schedule of events to find out what is going on at a park near you.


Family Day 2013: Free day at the Flint Hills Discovery Center

Flint Hills Discovery Center

Flint Hills Discovery Center

From noon to 5pm on Sunday, September 29, 2013 at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, there will not only be free admission to all the exhibitions but there will be fun family activities.

The day will include live entertainment, food, games, prizes, arts & crafts, and a brand new exhibition.

The latest temporary exhibit is titled “Looking at the Flint Hills of Kansas Through Artists’ Eyes.” From the website:

In the second-floor gallery Sept. 21, 2013 – Jan. 5, 2014. Looking at the Flint Hills of Kansas Through Artists’ Eyes demonstrates the truism that we all see our tallgrass prairie environment through the lens of personal experience. What differentiates these seasoned, skilled artists is their ability to share those personal visions with the rest of us.

The exhibit includes artists who are Kansas natives and those who immigrated to the Flint Hills from as far away as China—those who depict the Flint Hills in both realistic and abstract styles—and artists as different in age as 40 years. In addition to demonstrating the diversity of visual experience in the Flint Hills, the exhibit also serves as a broad history of the tallgrass prairie as subject matter, beginning with the “father” of plein air – outdoor painting – in the region, Robert Sudlow, to the most contemporary artists basing their work on these local prairie images.

Besides the purely pleasurable aesthetic experience of art depicting the Flint Hills, the growing appreciation of its beauty has helped to heighten our awareness of the need to preserve the endangered tallgrass prairie ecosystem.