Kansas isn’t a flyover state, yo.
That’s the message a Facebook page is trying to send to the social media masses.
The page – which we can’t name here, because, well, some of you would blush and some of you would fuss – celebrates all that is Kansas with photographs, stories and messages. To find it, go to www.fyifk.com and then click on the Facebook button.
Will Averill, a Lawrence resident, started the page in September.
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He said he was living in England and was getting tired of people freaking out about a little snow. He also was sick to death of “Wizard of Oz” riffs.
So he wrote a poem about living in Kansas. That bit of prose was the impetus for the Facebook page, which, as of Friday afternoon, had more than 45,500 “likes.” A like is basically a thumbs-up.
“When I moved back, I just decided to throw it out there and start it up,” Averill said of the page. “I wanted to promote cool Kansas culture and literature, and it just caught on like fire.”
The site highlights Kansas’ good side, the stuff people who just fly over the state never get to see. The beauty of the Flint Hills. A wheat field at sunset. Seemingly unending blue skies and fierce thunderstorms.
Weather photographs and stories do well on the page, Averill said.
“Basketball was very good for us,” he said. “It kind of goes in waves.”
Followers of the page posted photographs of fallen loved ones recently over Memorial Day weekend, including sepia-toned images from the Korean War. A recent picture of a sign at a bar in Emporia proved popular, getting 818 likes. It said “Free Beer, Topless Bartenders and False Advertising.”
One recent post featured a photograph of a grain elevator in Hutchinson with this story: “The first time my mom came to Kansas she was going to a friend’s wedding. Her friend gave her directions, which included, ‘Turn right at the elevator.’ She drove all over town looking for the elevator, and couldn’t find it. Frustrated, she stopped at a gas station to inquire where ... she could find the elevator. The gas attendant gave her a funny look (and) told her she was right across the street from the grain elevator. She had been looking for the kind of elevator that might take people up several flights of stairs.”
Another post shows a giant catfish caught in Milford Lake with this story: “Bill Miller found this catfish in Milford Lake. And by ‘found,’ I mean saw it in the water, told his buddy to hold his beer, dove in, wrestled with it underwater for five hours till he killed it with his own bare ... hands, then slew the catfish’s mother with the sword of a giant saving King Hroogar and the Danish people – then popped back up to the boat with the body of said enormous dead catfish. His buddy, pictured here, still drinks from the can of Bill Miller’s beer to this very day. They say it never empties. KANSAS FACT!!”
Averill oversees the page with his girlfriend, Jacqueline Grunau, and friend Sarah Mathews. Each spends a couple of hours a day on the site.
None of them gets paid. They’ve sold some T-shirts, but “it’s more of a labor of love,” Averill said.
Averill was born and raised in Lawrence, Grunau is from Hillsboro, and Mathews is from Lenexa. All live in Lawrence now.
“We’ve got a lot of Kansas ground covered through the three of us,” Averill said.
The page tries to stay on the positive side and avoids posting about two topics – Oz and the Westboro Baptist Church – although it’s looked the other way a few times.
“We generally let people post whatever on the wall,” Averill said. “I think part of the success of the site is that we’ve got some fantastic photographers who post everything from really nice professional stuff to iPhone pics.”
He calls the page “democratic and fun” and said “we do have a large community of expats.”
Averill said he, Grunau and Mathews are working on their own website “so that we can get more people involved. You can only do so much with the Facebook page.”
The page usually features five to seven new posts a day.
“We try to roughly post every two to three hours,” Averill said. “You don’t want to spam people.”
Mathews, who has been involved in theater with Averill for about 15 years, said she got involved when the page took off faster than Averill anticipated.
The page, she said, “has given me more appreciation for the state I live in. I love hearing the stories and seeing the pictures that so many people submit to us now. Now it has become more about what other people think about Kansas. I love hearing from everybody. It’s been really fun.”
Although the group has no real “capitalist intents,” Mathews said she’d love to see a coffee table group of photos from the page someday.
Brian and Susan Pitts, photographers from Baldwin City, have been submitting photographs for the page since the beginning of the year.
“I love that they showcase a lot of photographers,” Susan Pitts said. “They highlight different towns in Kansas that people may not have heard of, and there’s always a bit of humor added in there.”
Averill said the page’s feedback is “overwhelmingly positive. Many people comment on how much they enjoy the site and how it makes them feel proud to be from Kansas. People seem to appreciate it when we talk about their town or region. People also really like to talk about the weather, which is totally understandable. Kansas has some crazy weather. We receive messages from Kansans and people who love Kansans from all over the country and world.”
Grunau said the page seems to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.
“It has found a way of touching the heart of the people of Kansas irrespective of their political affiliations,” she said. “That’s really cool.”