People final focus of 8 Wonders of Kansas

It is all about the people now as the last in a series of contests begins for the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

Nominations will be accepted through July 31 on famous and not-so-famous Kansans.

"We're looking for Kansans who did things no one else did, or did things first, or did them in such a way that was remarkable," said Marci Penner, director of the foundation.

The series ends, Penner said, just as Kansas gears up for the 150th anniversary of its statehood in January.

"We are looking for nominations of the people who brought us here and whose lives we are still influenced by," she said.

Only nominations of dead Kansans will be accepted. Consideration will be given to Kansans still living if there is a major display or memorial of a person's life work, such as former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

Also, some famous Kansans who were previously named as finalists in the foundation's other contests — such as President Eisenhower and photographer and author Gordon Parks — are not eligible in order to give more communities a chance to participate.

"I like this contest because it makes people look at who came from their community," she said.

For instance, one of the most famous Kansans, aviator Amelia Earhart, will be considered because she hasn't been named yet as a finalist.

Along with her nomination, Atchison residents are submitting a nomination for William "Deafy" Boular, a double amputee who was deaf and mute and who was once featured in the syndicated column "Ripley's Believe It or Not" as the man who set a world record in 1900 by laying 46,000 paving bricks in less than eight hours.

Many of the bricks Boular laid are still intact and visible on Atchison's streets more than a century later. Also, the city has a display on Boular's life in the Atchison County Historical Society Museum.

The 8 Wonders of Kansas contests allow people to pick their favorite things about Kansas, Penner said, while promoting tourism within the state.

The contest series began in the spring of 2007 by asking people to list what they treasured most about Kansas. The series continued by naming 8 Wonders of Kansas art, architecture, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history and now people.

"It has been a great awareness builder for our state and great for getting people involved," Penner said.

People have until July 31 to submit nominations of famous Kansans. So far, nearly three dozen have been submitted, including automobile manufacturer Walter Chrysler from Ellis; actress Vivian Vance from Cherryvale who played Ethel Mertz in "I Love Lucy", and playwright William Inge from Independence.

People are encouraged to submit their nominations online at www.8wonders.org or send them to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, 978 Arapaho Road, Inman, KS 67546.

The 24 finalists, as chosen by a selection committee, will be announced Sept. 9, when the public will be asked to vote for its eight favorite Kansans.