Kansas celebrates its sesquicentennial today with an austerity necessitated by the times but also in keeping with its character.
In a way, that’s too bad. “The lovely state of Kansas, the Lily of the West,” as an old folk song put it, could really use a great party about now.
There is that big basketball game up the turnpike tonight, the Wichita Art Museum’s multiple exhibits celebrating Kansas artists, the “150 Things I Love About Kansas” exhibit at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, and the U.S. Postal Service’s handsome commemorative stamp. It’s certainly fitting that the Kansas Republican Party, which has so dominated the state’s political life and governance, will celebrate both its recent clean sweep of offices and the sesquicentennial at its annual Kansas Day gathering in Topeka.
And The Eagle is treating the 150th anniversary as the big news it is, including with today’s 16-page special section highlighting Kansas through the decades and a special anniversary section online at Kansas.com. The newspaper kicked off its extensive coverage with January articles on how the state was settled and how a historic Smith County cabin inspired “Home on the Range,” and will spend the year exploring the events, people, places, traditions, industries and curiosities that have defined Kansas. Eagle calendars also are tracking sesquicentennial events around the state.
Plus, The Eagle and Wichita State University plan a joint symposium in December focusing on the future of Kansas for the next 150 years.
But statewide it looks as if the birthday and the anniversary mostly will be observed with quiet pride, as the spirit moves and funds allow.
There is so much to inspire pride about this state, whose very birth was a hard-fought triumph of freedom.
The 34th state provided the nation its 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower. It was on the leading edge of women’s suffrage. It pointed the way on civil rights in the Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education case. It has been unparalleled in growing wheat and building aircraft. Hard work, deep faith, free enterprise, fiery ideas — all are welcome here.
And though the ripples of the Great Recession continue to be felt deeply in homes, workplaces and the Statehouse, the natural resilience and resourcefulness of Kansans are certain to prevail.
Just as the Wichita Sunday Eagle and the Wichita Beacon editorialized on this day in 1961, to mark the state’s 100th anniversary, Kansas is “reaching for the stars more purposefully than ever before, proud of the dramatic sweep of our history and resolute in our acceptance of current challenges.”
There is every reason to think that Kansas’ 200th anniversary will find the state thriving, as well as more willing and able to indulge in a proper celebration.
In the meantime: Happy 150th birthday, Kansas. You’ve never looked better.