Susie Haver is hoping her sunset viewing area on Oil Well Hill near Concordia will become a thing.
It may not be quite like that movie scene in “Field of Dreams” in which a long line of cars snakes over the horizon as people come to her hilltop, but she is hopeful it will become a popular place and that other sunset viewing areas across the state pop up.
To celebrate, she has invited Kansas – all 2.9 million residents within the 83,000 square miles of the state – to a Cass-a-role-a-rama and ribbon cutting of her own sunset viewing area at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Concordia is about a two hours’ drive up I-135 on U.S. 81.
A word of caution: She has rented only one Port-A-Potty.
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Nevertheless, Kansans are invited to bring a potluck side dish and lawn chairs and watch as the evening’s show on the horizon unfolds. Brisket, tea, water and table service will be provided.
Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe will be at the hill for a book signing of their latest, “Kansas Guidebook 2.”
There will be kites flying and bubbles blowing in the Kansas wind, the hunting of fossils along the side of the road, a chance to identify Kansas wildflowers and an opportunity to become acquainted with other Kansans.
And at 9:02 p.m., the main attraction will unfold – the sunset.
In a similar celebration of the sun, the residents of Doniphan County on Aug. 21 are hosting an “Eclipse in the Heartland,” where people can watch a solar eclipse two minutes and 40 seconds longer than anywhere else in Kansas.
The Doniphan County website – www.dpcountyks.com/events/2017-eclipse – says: “The total time of the eclipse from beginning to end in Doniphan County will be at about 11:40 am – 2:35 pm (about 3 hours). It will begin as a partial eclipse at 11:40 am until about 1:06 pm it will become a total solar eclipse for 2 minutes and 38 seconds, then it will go back to a partial eclipse until about 2:35 pm.”
The main hub for the solar festivities will be in Troy.
The idea for the Concordia event is to celebrate Kansas. And the sun. And potluck food.
“It’s for anybody who wants to come,” said Haver, the director of the Cloud County Convention and Tourism group. “We are dedicating Wednesday for the Cass-a-role-a-rama and ribbon cutting.”
The hill is owned by Haver, but she says it will always be open each evening for sunset viewing.
“The only thing that’s required is a good view of the sunset and maybe a chair,” she said.
And perhaps some insect repellant.
The hilltop earned a listing in Penner’s and Rowe’s book. The entry reads: “1664 N. 70. From Concordia, 7 1/2 miles west on 11th (becomes Rock) then 1 mile south and east on 70. We can thank Susie Haver, Kansas Explorer #27, for creating this public place to watch the sun setting over the river valley and the lovely Smoky Hills.”
And although the Wednesday evening forecast is calling for a 30 percent chance of rain, Haver said that won’t be a problem.
“If it rains, we’ll just move the Cass-a-role-a-rama and book signing to the Jamestown Community Center just 6 miles away,” she said.
Penner said she expects the idea of sunset viewing areas will soon become popular.
“I got an e-mail yesterday from somebody wanting a list of all the places in the state where you can see stars,” Penner said. “People don’t realize this is one of the virtues of rural living. It is one of those things that is something around us and we may not immediately value. But now things like sunset viewing areas take on new meaning. Susie lives on a hill; why not share it with people? We have some of the most beautiful sunsets.”
Indeed, in February 2014, the website Green Landscapes rated the Flint Hills as one of the seven best places in the world to view a sunset.
Kansas is right up there with Finland; Cambodia; Santorini, Greece; French Polynesia; San Esteben; the Gulf of California, Mexico; and the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati.
And as far as the Concordia’s Cass-a-role-a-rama on Wednesday night?
Haver said she thought it just sounded like a fun way to celebrate the grand opening.
It may also be one of the first major casserole events in Kansas. However, the 138 residents of Windom, in western McPherson County on U.S. 56, have for decades called their town the Covered Dish Capital of the World.
If there’s a reason for folks to get together, they’ll do it – and food will be involved.
So here’s to tuna, chicken and broccoli rice casseroles everywhere – may the sun fall ever so gently on Kansas’ cass-a-role-a-ramas.