If you have some time today, take a moment and consider the Kansans who have lived here before you.
In 1861, when Kansans first learned that they now lived in a state, people stood on street corners and cheered. Some danced; others fired cannons and guns.
“The news flew like wildfire,” The Daily Conservative in Leavenworth reported on Jan. 30, 1861. “Men seemed to forget all other considerations, and to unite heart and hand in giving expression to the universal joy.”
In talking with those passionate about Kansas – which became the 34th state on this date in 1861 – you will hear about how the land was shaped by the people living on it. You will hear about the role played by cattle and cowboys, wagon trains, homesteaders living in sod houses, African-American exodusters and Native American grandfathers.
In short, you will hear about the diversity of the state and the variety of its history.
So how does one honor the legacy of a state? By celebrating it.
Today, on the 152nd birthday of the Sunflower State, make a resolution: Tell yourself that once each month this year you will explore a different part of the state, learn new things about it or revel in its beauty.
To get you started, here are some monthly suggestions to help you feel more like a Kansan:
Explore Kansas’ African-American heritage sites such as the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita (tkaamuseum.org). Another site worth visiting is Nicodemus, one of the oldest surviving African-American towns west of the Mississippi (nps.gov/nico/index.htm).
Get to know Kansas weather.
The Dust Bowl storms and the Great Depression are topics explored at the Historic Adobe Museum in Ulysses (kansastravel.org/grantcountyadobemuseum.htm).
The town of Greensburg – nearly destroyed on May 4, 2007, by an EF-5 tornado – has since rebuilt. Its Big Well Museum (bigwell.org) is now in the shape of a tornado and tells the story and legacy of the people of Greensburg, but also is a symbol of the mighty forces of nature.
Hit the quirky trails and spots of Kansas.
Take a bathroom break in Lucas, where the wacky residents have created a monument making it home of the largest, most blingy toilet in Kansas. Go ahead, flush it.
And while you are there, don’t forget to visit S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden (garden-of-eden-lucas-kansas.com). The wickedly quirky historic site features an 11-room house and yard filled with Civil War veteran Dinsmoor’s hand-crafted concrete biblical and political sculptures.
Celebrate Kansas artists.
Tour the Wichita Art Museum (wichitaartmuseum.org), or go to Lindsborg and visit the Sandzen Memorial Art Gallery (sandzen.org),or see Pete Felten’s limestone sculpture in the Stone Gallery at Hays (kansastravel.org/stonegallery.htm).
Vow to get outside the city limits.
Drive far enough to watch the Kansas wheat harvest in progress. Turn off the car’s engine and hear the wind whisper to the wheat.
Visit the Home on the Range cabin in Smith County where Brewster Higley penned the words to our state song. And, what the heck, sing the song loud and proud. The coyotes won’t mind.
Or attend the Pretty Prairie Rodeo, billed as Kansas’ largest night rodeo, July 17-20 (pprodeo.com).
For some Wichitans, it’s a longtime annual tradition: attending the National Baseball Congress World Series at historic Lawrence-Dumont Stadium (nbcbaseball.com). The tournament, started in 1935 with Satchel Paige as its marquee draw, is July 27 through Aug. 10 this year.
You can’t call yourself a Kansan unless you have been to the Kansas State Fair, Sept.6-15 in Hutchinson (kansasstatefair.com). Have a Pronto Pup. Ride Ye Old Mill. People watch. Get nifty can’t-live-without gadgets for your home.
Atchison, labeled the “most haunted” town in Kansas, offers haunted trolley tours. The tours start the first Saturday in June and gradually increase in number in September and October (atchisonkansas.net).
While you are there, don’t forget to visit the Atchison County Historical Society Museum in the restored Santa Fe Depot, which houses one of the nation’s most extensive displays of Amelia Earhart memorabilia. There is also the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, which is furnished with late 1800s-style furniture.
The natural beauty of Kansas doesn’t get much better than in November during the height of the fall migration.
The best places to see the abundance of wildlife are at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County (fws.gov/refuge/quivira) and Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend (kdwpt.state.ks.us).
Explore the state’s Native American history.
Visit the Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic (kshs.org/pawnee_indian).Or, if you are looking for an outing closer to home, go to the Mid-America All Indian Center in Wichita (theindiancenter.org).
Visit the state capital building in Topeka and don’t forget to celebrate Kansas Day. Also squeeze in a visit to the Kansas History Museum (kshs.org/museum).