January 14, 1914 – 6 killed in Mulberry mining accident

By guest writer Kathleen Henegar

The funeral at the Church of God in Mulberry for the miners killed in the 1914 accident.

Mine #7 one mile south of Mulberry, Kansas employed 165 miners underground and ten above ground. On January 14, 1914, six men were killed in an accident at the mine.

The accident

It was 7:10 a.m., and men were being lowered down the 130 feet deep shaft. Three cage loads of six men each had already been lowered in the west cage.

Six men entered the cage for its fourth trip. One of those men was John Montanelli. His son also worked in the mine but had forgotten something, and his dad told him to go back and get it. The son stepped back, and another man stepped into the cage in his place.

The men were being lowered to the bottom when a cable broke at a point 14 feet 6 inches above the top of the cage. It is probable the break occurred 60 to 70 feet from the bottom, at which point the cage would have been descending rapidly.

The cage fell to the bottom of the shaft making an indention eleven inches deep, and fatally injuring all six men.

The men killed were William Baird, Addison Buchanon, Arthur Connery, Fritz Ginther, John Montanelli, and Tom Strayborn.

One funeral was held at the Church of God in Mulberry for the miners killed. Six buggies, each carrying a casket, took the men to Mulberry Cemetery, now known as Rosebank Cemetery.

The funeral procession for the men killed in the 1914 Mulberry mining accident at Mulberry Cemetery, now Rosebank Cemetary.

The Amazon Army – Social Influence of the Coal Camp Women

Sunday, December 12, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of a three day protest that made national headlines. Linda Knoll, a granddaughter of an Amazon Army protestor, will give a presentation about this historic event at 2 p.m. at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas. The following day, on December 13, 2021, the museum becomes a postal station from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to officially postmark all outgoing mail and other items with an Amazon Army Centennial insignia. 

From December 12-14, 1921, thousands of women marched to close area mines. The protest made national headlines and they were dubbed “an Army of Amazons”. It’s a story that is only just now making its way into school history books.

The Story

Deep shaft coal mining in Southeast Kansas paid poorly and was dangerous work. Disasters had killed 44 men in 1888 near Frontenac, and another 20 in 1899 near Stone City, which was northeast of West Mineral. Many of the men risking their lives to work the mines were immigrants who had escaped Europe in the years leading up to the Balkan Wars and World War I. New to the country, they felt they were being treated unfairly, so worker strikes were common.

But strikers could be replaced. Going on strike was made illegal.

Only a year after gaining the right to vote, thousands of wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and sweethearts of striking miners chose to act in solidarity to protest the unfair labor practices and laws. For three days, from December 12-14, 1921, thousands of women met at Union Hall in Franklin, where Miners Hall Museum now stands, then marched to and closed area mines. It was reported that around 6,000 women protested on one of the days.

The New York Times named them “An Army of Amazons“.

Social Influence of the Coal Camp Women

In the early 1920s, Southeast Kansas’ coal mining industry was the site of volatile political statements. The largest industry in the area, coal mining had state- and nationwide consequences; the Kansas government often sought control over miner’s unions, attempting to avoid worker strikes and subsequent fuel shortages. The miners themselves fought for sufficient pay for their dangerous work, and freedom from what they considered their “enslavement” to the mining industry.

Until 1921, this political arena was dominated solely by men. Although directly affected by the men’s decisions, women relatives of miners were rarely given the chance to share their perspective. Complementary to the climate of the ongoing miner’s strike led by Alexander Howat, the women of mine camps desired the protection of their families. As Benjamin Goossen wrote, “They believed that while Alexander Howat and the District 14 men correctly opposed the industrial court [government intervention], the pressing demands of family life in a time of scarcity also required prompt and decisive action by the coal camp women.”

These women, many of whom were recent immigrants, felt strongly that the American dream they had been promised – plentiful work and equal treatment – had been denied. “Their families had traveled to the coalfields in answer to fliers and advertisements from coal company agents,” wrote Goossen, “Who billed Kansas as a land of opportunity where immigrants could find plentiful work and build better lives. These women had been sorely disappointed in the reality of coal camp life.”

Unhappy with their livelihoods and lack of speech, the women took action. Beginning December 12, 1921, around 2,000 women could be seen marching to the coal fields early in the morning. Singing patriotic hymns and waving American flags, the women intended on blocking the mine to prevent workers from entering. The first march was successful; the Pittsburg Daily Headlight reported later that day that 120 “scabs” (workers who continued despite the strike) were unable to enter the local Jackson-Walker mine.

The marches continued for several days, eventually garnering statewide and national attention as the State of Kansas attempted to quell the protests by sending in National Guard troops, a machine gun attachment from Lawrence, 1,200 rifles stockpiled at Hotel Stilwell, and 1,000 deputized men. When word reached the New York Times later that month, the prominent newspaper labeled the marchers “The Amazon Army.”

Work in the mines was disrupted for months as the marchers and miners continued to protest unfit working conditions in the mines. For the first time, the women also felt a sense of social influence that continued well after the marches ceased. Journalist Mary Heaton Vorse wrote of the marches impact: “From that march came that tingling sense of power which filled the air before election. That march is linked up with the reason why “Ma” left her home and went out electioneering. As I went around from one mining camp to another, I found among the women a freedom of expression, courage of thought, that I have not found in any other industrial district.”

Directly affected by the Amazon Army’s march, Crawford County continues to recognize the women’s push for freedom of expression. Set in the Pittsburg Public Library is the mural “Solidarity” painted by Wayne Wildcat in 2000. The Miners Hall Museum also honors the story of the Amazon Army with photos and audio recordings that paint the story of the march.

Original posted March 7, 2017

National Author’s Day

Originally posted: October 1, 2017

On National Author’s Day, November 1, we’re featuring our favorite places to check out new authors, grab a new book from your favorite one, or find local authors with a tie to the area: our public libraries. Crawford County is home to 5 fantastic local libraries, with books for any age and frequent activities for the community. Here’s our complete list:

Pittsburg Public Library

308 N Walnut, Pittsburg

Pittsburg Public Library offers events for all ages, a friendly and knowledgeable staff, a circulating collection of over 70,000 items, and a genealogy room. Events are held frequently at PPL and include a knitting circle, scrabble club, 3D printing tech lab, and LEGO BuilderSpace. Pittsburg and Girard are both home to “Carnegie Libraries,” which were financed by grants from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In total, 1,689 libraries in the United States were built thanks to these grants.

Girard Public Library

128 W Prairie Street, Girard

Established in 1899, the not-for-profit organization offers a variety of services for all ages to the community, including a genealogy room, children and young adult library, and an ebook service through the Kansas State Library.

McCune Osage Township Library

509 6th Street, McCune

The McCune Osage Township Library provides quality library resources and services for the residents of the community, necessary to fulfill knowledge, education, research, recreation, and informational needs in a way that promotes quality of life. Head there to view their large section of reading materials & free video and audio checkouts.

Walnut Public Library

511 W Robbins, Walnut

Walnut Public Library. With evening hours and events such as Kid’s Fun Night, there is a lot to offer! The library has added a big screen TV, Xbox One with Kinect, and games as part of their Strong Mind/Strong Body program.

Hepler City Library

105 N Prairie Ave, Hepler

In the quiet town of Hepler, there is a not-so-quiet library. Visit the Hepler Library to join in on the fun they share. The library also includes services such as Interlibrary Loan, magazines, audio books, and movies. Don’t worry, if you need to get some work done, they respect those who need it quiet.

Labor Day in Crawford County: Social Progress of the Everyday Worker

Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, wrote in the New York Times in 1910: “Of all the days celebrated for one cause or another, there is not one which stands so conspicuously for social advancement of the common people as the first Monday in September… Labor Day glorifies no armed conflicts or battles of man’s prowess over man…[It] stands for industrial peace and for the toiler’s economic, political, social, and moral advancement.”

Labor Day began as part of the late 19th century Labor Movement, becoming a national holiday in 1894 as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” For proponents of the Labor Movement, the day sought to recognize and further advancements in organized labor including reduced working hours, more time off, better working conditions, an established minimum wage, and child labor laws.

Southeast Kansas was no stranger to the social progress earned by organized labor, nor the issues that arose from it. The coal mining industry, which had existed in Crawford County since the mid- to late- 1800s, had been responsible for the foundation of several mining communities.

Local historian William E. Powell researched the growth of mining camps into still-existing communities in the 1970s. One of Powell’s findings was a 1926 issue of the Pittsburg Daily Headlight, “[which] described the causal relationship of the “opening” of a shaft mine and resultant mining camp in Crawford county: “The opening of mine No. 1 of the Cherokee-Pittsburg Coal Company was the principal cause of the establishment of the camp, which later became known as the city of Frontenac.” Discussing the stimulation of coal mining upon the genesis and growth of the community of Mineral City the author of a Cherokee Countyhistory wrote: “The coal mining industry is the big thing of the place. The beginning of this is what gave rise to the city. It has fostered its growth, and it will continue as the chief business of the community.””

Like other 19th and early 20th century labor forces, coal miners and their families endured dangerous working conditions, long work days, and little pay for their labor. As with the nationwide Labor Movement, the miners began to push for improved working conditions and compensation. Strikes began to occur, garnering national attention with the 1921 mining strike and concurrent marches of the miner’s wives, mothers, and sisters, dubbed the Amazon Army.

Pittsburg’s Hotel Stilwell became a focal point in the mining labor movement in 1919, when Governor Henry J. Allen temporarily moved the governor’s office to the hotel in response to miner strikes. From this location, Governor Allen met with miner’s union member Alexander Howat and negotiated the miner’s return to work. After the agreement was reached, Allen issued a call from the hotel to the Kansas legislature for a special session to consider labor legislation.

Crawford County continues to recognize the miner’s labor, ethnic heritage, and push for improved working conditions every Labor Day weekend with the Little Balkans Days Festival. The term “Little Balkans” was attached to Southeast Kansas early in its mining history, since many of its immigrant workers came from the Balkans region of southeastern Europe. Pittsburg State University Archivist Randy Roberts explained: “Although once a pejorative term for the region, Little Balkans of Kansas is now an expression of pride that celebrates the region’s diverse cultural and ethnic heritage and rich history.” Little Balkans Days continues to be held every Labor Day weekend since 1985.

Visit the Miner’s Hall Museum to learn more about this topic.

Originally posted September 3, 2017

File photo of Johnnie Joe Zibert's Polka courtesy of the Little Balkans Days Festival.

Buttons available for Little Balkans Days

News release from Little Balkans Days Festival

The 36th Annual Little Balkans Days Festival in Pittsburg, Kansas is scheduled for August 28 through September 5, 2021. Numerous activities will be available, including an Arts, Crafts & Food Show, live music, as well as the return of “Button Events”.

Buttons get you into a variety of special activities including the Polka Dance & Chicken Dinner, Ethnic Cooking & Cultural Demonstrations, and specific music events.

A $5 donation is all that is needed to get a button. Buttons are available for sale now at the following locations: Celebrations by Lori (1015 N. Broadway), Kansas Teachers Community Credit Union (416 N. Broadway), Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce (117 W. 4th St), and Ron’s Supermarket (310 E. Centennial).

Check LittleBalkansFestival.com for full details of area businesses offering promotions or discounts during the 36th Little Balkans Days Festival. Be sure to follow the Little Balkans Days Festival on their Facebook Page.

# # #

Arma's 75th Annual V-J Homecoming parade on Saturday, August 14, 2021, will feature Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division Army marching band - also known as the Big Red One.

Arma 75th Annual V-J Homecoming

News release from Arma V-J Homecoming Association

They waited – with beer on ice – for the official word of Japan’s surrender to end World War II. Finally, around 6 p.m. on Aug. 14, 1945, President Truman made the declaration.

Pittsburg “broke loose,” according to accounts in the Pittsburg Headlight and Pittsburg Sun. Thousands of revelers converged on Broadway for a long-anticipated victory celebration, lasting into the wee hours.

The exuberance carried on for the next two days, proclaimed as a legal holiday.

However, it would take months for the millions of veterans to return from overseas. When Arma veterans came home, they created their own V-J Homecoming in 1947 – and have kept the celebration going for 75 years. Uniquely, Arma commemorates a V-J weekend each August as a tribute to those who served and joy of coming home.


Arma's 75th Annual V-J Homecoming parade on Saturday, August 14, 2021, will feature Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division Army marching band - also known as the Big Red One.
Arma’s 75th Annual V-J Homecoming parade on Saturday, August 14, 2021, will feature Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division Army marching band – also known as the Big Red One.

Arma’s 75th V-J Homecoming celebration begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13, with a traditional horse pull contest on grounds near the Arma swimming pool.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division Army marching band will perform in the 10 a.m. parade in downtown Arma. Two days of games and contests will merge into one big day on Saturday at Arma City Park.

A 5K run at 7:30 a.m. kicks off festivities on Saturday. After the parade, children can bring a box turtle to enter the turtle race, or participate in tricycle and foot races. Kids can also enjoy bounce houses and carnival games in City Park. Teams can test their skill in multiple contests – from cornhole to bocce to horseshoes – Saturday afternoon. Additionally, fans of the TV show Amazing Race can bring a team of four to compete in the “Arma”zing Race. Contests since the festival’s inception are the women’s rolling pin throwing and nailing driving competition at 2 p.m., as well as the junior bathing beauty contest at 3 p.m. For chili lovers, a chili cook-off will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. The homecoming’s hamburger and beer stand, staples of the festival, will be open throughout the day.

Rollin’ Nostaglia Car Club hosts a car show from noon to 6 p.m. Individuals can buy tickets for the 7:30 p.m. drawing of 75 prizes to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Arma V-J Homecoming. Among those prizes is more than $4,000 in cash. A street dance featuring DJ Jimmy Willard caps off festivities from 8 to 11 p.m.

The Pittsburg Sun proclaims Japan's surrender in its August 15, 1945 edition.
The Pittsburg Sun proclaims Japan’s surrender in its August 15, 1945 edition.


Returning World War II veterans, along with World War I veterans, formally organized the Lon H. Helm Jr. Post 182 American Legion in Arma in January 1946. The post is named after Army Air Corp Staff Sgt. Helm Jr., of Arma, who was declared lost at sea in October 1943. Post 182 conducted its first V-J Homecoming on Aug. 14, 1947. Three Arma families – the Kovacics, Kmetzs and Varsolonas – had the distinction of each sending five sons to serve in World War II with all 15 sons returning home. Those service members were: Frank, John, August, Henry and Bill Kovacic; Andrew, Victor, Frank, Paul and John Kmetz; and Sam, Paul, John, Charles and Frank Varsolona. Former Sun writer Nikki Patrick wrote on two of the 15 men in her column.



  • 6 to 8 p.m. – Kids’ Fishing Derby at Hookie Park. All entrants, ages 6-14, receive a prize.
  • 7:25 p.m. – Lon M. Helm Jr. Post 182 American Legion flag-raising ceremony and singing of the National Anthem by Janelle Bunney, behind Arma City Pool
  • 7:30 p.m. – Horse pull Contest, behind Arma City Pool. $4 for adults, children under 12 free. Paid admission gets ticket for Saturday evening’s prize drawing. Concessions.
Governor Proclamation - 75th Arma VJ Homecoming
Governor Proclamation – 75th Arma VJ Homecoming (click image to enlarge)


  • 7 a.m. – Registration for 5K Run, Arma City Park. Free T-shirt for first 50 runners, registration $25
  • 7:30 a.m. – 5K run begins. Awards to overall male and female, plus to first and second-place winners in each gender and age division
  • 400 Meter Fun Run follows 5K. Ribbons awarded to top 4 boys and girls.
  • 7:30 a.m. – Biscuit and Gravy Breakfast, City Park
  • 8 a.m. to ? – Vendors open
  • 8:30 to 9 a.m. – Parade participants meet at Northeast Elementary School
  • 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. – American Legion beer stand, City Park
  • 10 a.m. – Parade, downtown Arma, featuring the Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division Army band. Grand Marshal John “Red” Cummings, Post 182 American Legion Commander. Cash prizes for winners in float division, novelties, antique and classic cars, tractors and motorcycles.
  • 11 a.m. to noon – Registration for Cornhole Tournament, American Legion parking lot. $20 per person, $40 per team. Payout to winners based on number of teams.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Carryout Homecoming Dinner, Arma United Methodist Church, $10 for adults, $5 for kids
  • 11 a.m. – Children’s Games for ages 3 to 15, near grandstand. Turtle Race (box turtles, no snappers), Tricycle Race for ages 3-4 (bring your own bike), Foot Races, Activity Race and Throwing Contest. Cash prizes for top 3 winners in four age divisions.
  • 11:30 a.m. – Registration for Bocce Tournament, shelter house in City Park
  • Noon – Cornhole Tournament begins, American Legion parking lot.
  • Noon – Bocce Tournament begins. Prizes awarded.
  • Noon to 6 p.m. – Rollin’ Nostaglia Car Show, downtown Arma
  • Noon to 8 p.m. – Bounce houses, inflatables and carnival-like games by Northeast PTO, City Park. Armbands $20
  • 1 p.m. – Horseshoe Pitching Contest, City Park. Trophies and prizes awarded to first, second and third place in each division, $5 entry fee.
  • 1:30 p.m. – Registration for the “Arma”zing Race. Fans of the TV show Amazing Race can take part in their own adventure. Using clues, teams of 4 people will compete on foot to try to best their rivals in a scavenger-style contest. (No motorized vehicles allowed). Cash prize for first-place team. $20 per team. Go to Arma V-J Homecoming’s Facebook page for more details.
  • 2 p.m. – “Arma”zing Race begins, near Roll of Honor plaque near City Park.
  • 2 p.m. – Rolling pin throwing and nail driving contests for women age 16 and older, City Park
  • 3 p.m. – Registration for Junior Bathing Beauty Contest, northwest corner of City Park. No cost to enter.
  • 3:30 p.m. – Junior Bathing Beauty Contest begins. Age groups: 1 year, 2 years, 3 years. Contestants must wear swimwear.
  • 6 to 8 p.m. – Chili Cook-off, medical clinic parking lot in downtown Arma. No cost to enter. Public can sample all contestants’ chili for $5 and vote for People’s Choice.
  • 6 p.m. – Cakewalk, near grandstand.
  • 7:30 p.m. – Drawing begins for 75 prizes in the 75th annual V-J Homecoming, downtown Arma. Over $4,000 in cash to be given away! Bring lawnchairs. Purchase tickets in front of the Roll of Honor plaque near City Park.
  • 8 to 11 p.m. – Street dance featuring DJ Jimmy Willard follows drawing.
Renovations are underway at the old Miner's House located at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday, August 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. - Photo courtesy of Miners Hall Museum.

Open house scheduled for Miner’s House in Franklin

News release from Miners Hall Museum

Renovations are underway at the old Miner's House located at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday, August 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. - Photo courtesy of Miners Hall Museum.
Renovations are underway at the old Miner’s House located at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday, August 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. – Photo courtesy of Miners Hall Museum.

Tour the Miner’s House at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, from 6 to 8 p.m. This event is a part of the weeklong Little Balkans Days festivities.

Take a tour of the restored turn-of-the-century coal company Miner’s House and learn about its long and varied history. This small, three-room house was built in Frontenac by the Cherokee & Pittsburg Coal & Mining Co., the coal branch of the Santa Fe Railroad in Frontenac.

It was donated to Miners Hall Museum by the parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Frontenac.

Visit the Amazon Army Centennial Exhibit inside Miners Hall Museum.  Music, activities and old-fashioned games available. The Blue Spoon food truck will be on site.

# # #

33rd Little Balkans Quilt Show

News release from Little Balkans Days Festival

The Little Balkans Festival will have its 33rd annual quilt show on Friday, September 3rd, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, September 4th, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The show is held in Memorial Auditorium, Lower level, 503 N Pine, Pittsburg.

Quilt entry day is August 28, at Memorial Auditorium, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Quilts can be entered in 18 categories, anywhere from hand quilted, machine quilted to bed, baby and quilts made for veterans. Youth made and antique quilts will be on display but not judged. The show judge is Darlene Landrum, Mountain Home, AR. The Show is sponsored by the 95 member Little Balkans Quilt Guild.

Twelve community leaders will choose their favorite quilt, with a special ribbon awarded. Attendees will vote for their favorite quilt and Best of Show is awarded by the quilt judge.

A beautiful donation quilt, will be given away on Sunday at 3 p.m. The quilts are creative, beautifully crafted and the show is one of the best in the area every year. Vendors will be available with fabrics, notions and quilt patterns.

Show days entry fee at the door is a Balkans Button for $5. which admits you to other activities of the Little Balkan Festival. The show is on the free shuttle route.

# # #

File photo of Johnnie Joe Zibert's Polka courtesy of the Little Balkans Days Festival.

Little Balkans Folklife Music Program

File photo of Johnnie Joe Zibert's Polka courtesy of the Little Balkans Days Festival.
File photo of Johnnie Joe Zibert’s Polka courtesy of the Little Balkans Days Festival.

News release from Little Balkans Days Festival

Join emcee J.T. Knoll on Saturday, September 4th in Pittsburg’s Lincoln Park at the Little Balkans Folklife Festival music stage.

The music begins with bagpipes at 9 a.m. and ends with bluegrass at 4 p.m.

The playbill features: Orin Weiss (bagpipes), Balkans Brass (brass quintet), Holly Swigart (original coal mining ballads), Johnnie Joe Zibert (polka), Stone Country (country/rock), Kolograd (European folk/ kolo dancing), White Buffalo (poetry, folk, and storytelling) and the Neosho River Boys (traditional bluegrass).

Free shuttles will travel a route that includes Pittsburg motels, downtown Pittsburg, Lincoln Park, Crawford County Historical Museum and Pittsburg High School.

# # #

ArtForms Gallery celebrates 5th Anniversary with open house

News release from ArtForms Gallery LLC

PITTSBURG, KAN., July 1, 2021 – Three opportunities are available to celebrate the 5th Anniversary with ArtForms Gallery and the artists that share their creativity with the community of Pittsburg and surrounding areas.

An Open House is scheduled for three dates: Friday, July 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and, Sunday, July 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

ArtForms artists have challenged themselves with a one of a kind wood-themed project. These works will be revealed the week of July 20th.
Join ArtForms Gallery for viewing art or join them in various workshops that will be offered during the open house dates.

For more information, contact ArtForms Gallery at (620) 240-0165. Their website is http://www.artforms-gallery.com and their Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/ArtFormsGallery620.


Fried chicken paradise

National Fried Chicken Day is held yearly on July 6th.

Since the 1930’s travelers have asked why fried chicken is so popular in the Southeast Kansas region. It’s a story about a delicious, inexpensive family meal, and survival.

Six chicken houses located near each other grabs attention. The New Yorker published a feature in 1982. The Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” visited in 2010. BBC Travel went global with it in 2020. It’s even inspired a fictional novel.

Those asking “who’s the best?” miss the real story of survival, and hope.

When the first chicken houses opened to serve miners, the Dust Bowl and Great Depression had left many unemployed or earning very little. Families suffered through two World Wars.

These chicken dinners provided more than just an affordable and delicious meal. They created jobs and were a sociable and comforting escape from real hardship.

Myth: Chicken Annie & Chicken Mary were sisters


Ann Pichler and Mary Zerngast were not related.

However, Annie’s grandson, Anthony, married Mary’s granddaughter, Donna. Anthony & Donna who would go on to open their own chicken house.


  • Barto’s Idle Hour: 201 Santa Fe St, Frontenac, Kansas, BartosIdleHour.com, (620) 232-9813
  • Chicken Annie’s Girard: 498 E K-47, Girard, Kansas, ChickenAnniesGirard.com, (620) 724-4090
  • Chicken Annie’s Original: 1143 E 600th Ave, Pittsburg, Kansas ChickenAnniesOriginal.com, (620) 231-9460
  • Chicken Mary’s: 1133 E 600th Ave, Pittsburg, Kansas, Chicken-Marys.com, (620) 231-9510
  • Gebhardt’s Chicken Dinners: 124 N 260th St, Mulberry, Kansas, (620) 764-3451
  • Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s: 1271 S 220th St, Pittsburg, Kansas, (620) 232-9260
Ann Pichler, the woman who started the fried chicken craze in Crawford County, Kansas

North of Pittsburg

South of Pittsburg

The story behind Crawford County fried chicken

When 5-year-old Ann Rehak boarded a ship with her Hungarian parents in 1904 to immigrate to America, she never could have foreseen that 110 years later, she’d start something that’s now a legend in Southeast Kansas.

For more than 80 years, one of the area’s most popular restaurants has borne her name: Chicken Annie’s Original.

That restaurant helped lay the foundation for five others, and today, Crawford County enjoys a reputation across the nation for its fried chicken and sides. They’ve been featured in regional and national media, on the Travel Channel’s Food Wars, and collectively were named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. Which one is best depends on who you ask.

Chicken Annie’s

Rehak and her family settled in a coal mining camp near present-day Chicopee, Kansas, where she began attending school. But at age 13, Ann had to drop out to go to work to help support the family.

She landed a job working as domestic help for the Pichler family at the coal mining settlement named Camp 13, also known as Yale, Kansas. It was there that she met Charles Pichler, whom she married on April 28, 1917.

The couple had four children; Wilma, Carl, Louella, and an infant, Anna Irene, who died in infancy. In 1933, Charles was injured badly in the mines; he lost one leg, and another was mangled. Again, Ann was faced with going to work to support her family. And in 1934, the legend was born: Ann opened an eatery in their three-room home.

She cooked in their kitchen and moved furniture out of the living room to accommodate the diners — mostly miners and their families looking for good, hearty fare for just a few coins.

“She started with sandwiches for 15 cents,” says Ann’s granddaughter, Donna. “It was hard to buy beer back then during Prohibition, so she sold home brew for 15 cents, too.”

It wasn’t long before Ann developed her own delicious fried chicken recipe, which uses only eggs as liquid for the batter, not milk, and two side dishes: German potato salad and German coleslaw.

Wilma, Carl, and Louella helped. They had no electricity, so they used kerosene lamps and gas lights to help them see as they pan-fried the tasty chicken in lard on a coal stove. At first, they could seat 50 customers.

Soldiers stopped by for a meal before shipping out to World War II. And they ate there again when they returned home on leave. One soldier, Louis Lipoglav, took a liking to the Pichlers’ daughter, Louella, before he shipped out to Europe. Another visit for a plate of fried chicken, and they were both sweet on each other.

On the third visit, they married, and would have two children: Lonnie and Donna. The Pichlers’ son Carl, meanwhile, also married and had a son, Anthony.

All in the family

The restaurant became a true family business and soon outgrew the house; in 1973, it opened in its current location just down the road. Today, Donna and Lonnie and his wife Janice manage Chicken Annie’s Original, while Anthony and his family manage Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s south of Pittsburg.

Also part of the family business is Chicken Annie’s of Girard, which came from the Lipoglav family — Louis’ mother had once operated it as Sunflower Chicken.

Today, the three restaurants use the same recipes and same processes that Ann used 80 years ago. And that’s why it’s been a success, customers say. The Scroggs family, of Lamar, Missouri, began driving to Chicken Annie’s Original for fried chicken each week starting in 1949. Among their fellow diners even back then were residents of Pittsburg, Kansas, Ft. Scott, Kansas, Nevada, Missouri, and Joplin.

“Once you got in, you had a plate full of chicken,” Lou Scroggs recalls. “It was always good, always good. Still is.”

Of the old guard, Charles died in 1978; his son Carl and her wife died later that year. Ann died in 1991; her daughter Louella died in 2008, and Wilma in 2011. Louis worked at the restaurant every day until his death in October 2015.

“We were the first fried chicken in the county, so I think that makes us pretty special,” he recalled last year. “We’ve always had good food and friendly hospitality. After 80 years, it still tastes the same. We must be doing something right.”

Chicken Mary’s

Just like the Pichlers, the Zerngast family helped start a tradition of fried chicken that makes customers salivate to think about. Joe Zerngast, a German immigrant, worked in the coal mines in Pittsburg. When ill health forced him to quit, his wife, Mary, turned to cooking to support the family in 1942. She served customers at their kitchen table. Word spread, and the makeshift restaurant outgrew their home.

In 1945, they purchased a mining camp pool hall, moved it just west of where its descendant, Chicken Mary’s stands today, and named it Joe’s Place. With 10 tables and a potbelly stove, they began churning out fried chicken meals to diners who drove from near and far. They recruited their children, Zig and Mickey, to help on the weekends.

Zig and his wife, Tootie, carried on the business, building today’s restaurant in 1966, eventually joined by their son, Larry, and his wife, Karen. Today, the Zerngast recipes endure.


Gebhardt’s also has its roots in the 1940s, when Ted Gebhardt, a WWII vet, married his sweetheart, Maycle, and took over the family farm and a nearby bar in rural Crawford County near Mulberry.

The couple transformed it as a fried chicken restaurant with the help of family members, and Gebhart’s was born.

Today, their daughter, Meg, runs the place, and still draws in a crowd from miles around for their signature flavor.

Like the others, Gebhardt’s offers a unique batter recipe, as well as the traditional sides diners in Crawford County have come to expect: German Slaw, German Potato Salad, baked or fried potatoes and bread from the Frontenac Bakery. Diners who are health conscious also appreciate the option to order something unique the Gebhardt’s introduced to their menu of offerings: Skinless fried chicken.


Frontenac native Angie Troutman, whose great-grandfather settled here to work the coal mines, has grown up eating fried chicken. Usually, her family orders Barto’s — it’s just a few blocks from their home, so is the quickest to get to when they develop a craving for fried chicken.

Barto’s Idle Hour opened in the early 1950’s as the brainchild of Ray Barto, who wanted to provide local entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. In 1965, he opened a fried chicken restaurant right next door. It became a place for descendants of immigrants from a variety of cultures to enjoy music, food, and social time.

Still today, on weekends, couples dance around the floor as polka music plays — a part of the area’s culture and heritage.

Troutman, now 38, says it still tastes the same as when she was a kid.

“I love the onion rings, the side dishes — all of it,” she says. “It’s such a tradition for our family. I can’t imagine Southeast Kansas without it.”

All of them

Crawford County native Jamie Ortolani, who grew up eating fried chicken, considers himself an expert connoisseur. If pressed, he’ll share his leanings as to exactly which one he enjoys most, but he, like everyone else who lives in Crawford County, appreciates elements of each.

“As far as the six chicken houses go, I love them all,” he says. “How can you not?”

Fast Facts

  • Bread baked daily at the Frontenac bakery has been served for decades at each of the other Southeast Kansas chicken restaurants. Some go through an estimated 150 loaves per week.
  • Spaghetti, a nod to the area’s Italian heritage, is offered as a side dish with chicken dinners.
  • Donna Zerngast, the grandchild of the founder of Chicken Mary’s married the Anthony Pichler, the grandchild of the closest competitor, Chicken Annie’s. At the wedding reception they served chicken, of course.

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni – Original story posted August 27, 2016

Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a longtime Kansas-based journalist now working as a freelance writer for a variety of publications, businesses and organizations. Since 2000, she also has worked as a freelance writer for local, regional and national publications and magazines. You can follow her on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

Croce Plays Croce Downtown Concert

From the Little Balkans Days Festival

The 2021 Little Balkans Days Festival in Pittsburg, Kansas is host to a special night of music on Saturday, September 4 starting at 8 p.m.

A.J. Croce performs Croce Plays Croce in Downtown Pittsburg near the intersection of 11th and Broadway. The set will feature classics by his late father, Jim Croce, some of his own tunes, and covers of songs that influenced both him and his father. Opening act will be local favorite “The J3 Band” at 6:30 p.m. The concert is free to the public.

This special event features timeless songs including “Operator,” “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy), “Lovers Cross”, and “Time in a Bottle,” a song written for A.J. Classic covers may include songs by Lieber and Stoller, Bessie Smith, and other folk and roots artists.

Jim Croce was an American folk singer with a short-lived professional recording and touring career, and decades of posthumous fame as one of the greatest songwriters and artists ever. With sales surpassing 50 million records, including three #1 songs and 10 Top 10 hits, Jim Croce’s legacy is well-remembered through his era-defining standards like “Operator,” Time in a Bottle,” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”

A.J. Croce’s 30-year touring and recording career has produced ten studio albums and have charted 20 Top 20 singles. A virtuoso piano player, he has performed on national talk shows and news programs including The Late Show, The Tonight Show, and The Today Show, and has toured with artists such as Willie Nelson, Lenny Kravitz, B.B. King, and Earth, Wind, and Fire.

For a list of planned events at the 2021 Little Balkans Days Festival visit www.LittleBalkansFestival.com and follow them at Facebook.com/LittleBalkansDays


Amazon Army Centennial Speaker Series

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Shaft coal mines in Southeast Kansas were deadly. Pay was low. Laws protected owners, not laborers. For three days in December 1921, thousands of wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts of striking miners marched in protest. Being a women’s march, it made national headlines. Throughout 2021, the “Amazon Army” and related stories are being retold.

The Amazon Army Centennial Speaker Series, presented by Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas:

All programs are scheduled for Sunday’s at 2:00 p.m. Programs are made possible by Humanities Kansas.

July 25th
Sharing Patterns, Sharing Lives
Deborah Divine -Salina, KS

In the early 20th century, Emporia was home to a group of innovative quilters. Today, their quilts are housed in art museums and revered internationally. Learn about Kansas quilts from this time period and the unique collaborations that sparked “the Emporia, Kansas phenomenon” and some of the finest quilts of the 20th century.

August 22nd
Tasting the Past: Exploring Kansas Food Memories
Louise Hanson -Lawrence, Ks

Food is a powerful expression of cultural memory For years, ethnic groups in Kansas have used food to maintain connections to the past. This presentation will explore food traditions from a number of ethnic populations in Kansas, including German, Czech, Italian, Jewish, and others.

September 19th
Railroaded: The Railroad Industry
Leo E. Oliva -Fort Hays, KS

In the 19th century, the influence of the railroad industry was vast.

Railroads brought immigrant settlers, created jobs, and fed beef markets in the East. They enabled regular mail service and the adoption of standard time. This presentation examines the complicated legacy of railroads.

October 24th
Red State: Socialism & The Free Press in Kansas
Matthew Thompson –Overland Park, KS

Although Socialism’s contributions to the labor movement, women’s suffrage, and food safety are well documented, its impact on journalism is less known. At the turn of the 20th century, a cottage industry of small newspapers blossomed in Kansas. This presentation will discuss the rise and fall of the Socialist press in Kansas, as well as its causes, leaders, and detractors, and explore the role of free press.

November 14th
The Harlem Renaissance
Lem Sheppard -Pittsburg, KS

The booming, experimental period of American history known as the Harlem Renaissance exposed the world to the arts, culture, and intellect of African Americans. But it was also a time of struggle when white society failed to respond to issues of civil rights and social equality. This generation was determined to chart a new course far beyond their parents and grandparents, many of whom had been enslaved. Using jazz, blues, spirituals, and poetry, this presentation spans the 1920s and explores the contributions of Kansas artists who answered the call to this unmistakable moment.

December 12th
The March of the Amazon Army
Linda Knoll – Pittsburg, KS

When coal was discovered in Southeast Kansas in the late 1860s, thousands came from all over the world to work the mines. The mix of nationalities created an ethnic geography unique to Kansas that came to be known as the Little Balkans. Miners faced hazardous working conditions, poor pay, and discrimination. In 1921, thousands of women marched on the coal mines in support of striking miners. The New York Times dubbed them the “Amazon Army.” This spirited act linked men and women together in one of the most dynamic pages in the history of American labor.


National Nature Photography Day – June 15

Guest Post Written By: Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Originally posted: June 14, 2017

As a child growing up in Crawford County, the day that the National Geographic magazine arrived at our home each month was the day that I curled up on the couch and traveled the world. It was filled with photographs of natural wonders — from the enormous, like Mt. Everest, to the tiny, like a newly-discovered insect — that I could see only in its pages.

As a teen, I began dreaming of working as a journalist for it, traveling so I could write about and photograph those wonders myself.

That dream was partially fulfilled: I became a journalist.

But by choice, today the bulk of my photographs and stories originate from Crawford County, my home now for 47 years. While that iconic, yellow-bordered magazine still arrives each month at my home and still captivates my imagination, I’ve found plenty to document right here. Because, as it turns out, there are plenty of natural wonders in my own backyard. And on country roads. And in parks and mined land areas.

You just have to look.

Season by season

Crawford County has four distinct seasons — a big bonus when it comes to nature photography. That means the chance to capture hundreds of distinct images from the same locations throughout a given year.

That might mean fog rising from the water on a Spring morning, or dragonflies at rest on prairie grass in Summer. It might mean the frosty edges of leaves on the ground in Fall, or animal tracks through the snow in Winter.

Varying the time of day also can yield dozens of different shots, from an Eastern bluebird going in and out of its birdhouse first thing in the morning, to the calm silhouette of a songbird on a fence post in front of a blazing orange sky at sunset.

For the best chance of capturing such images on a daily basis, I carry an iPhone 7 in my pocket just about all the time. I never know when I might discover a garden spider spinning an intricate web under the eave of our barn, or come upon a nest filled with baby birds.

I also always carry it when we venture out and about in Crawford County with our fishing poles, kayaks, shotguns, or hiking boots. But if my mission is solely to come home with nature photos, I’ll also sling my camera bag over my shoulder with my Canon Rebel tucked inside.

My go-to spots? My top five:

Pittsburg State University Campus

There is no prettier campus in the world. The combination of historic and new architecture, the diversity of plants, winding paths, beautiful statuary, and well-kept landscaping make it a scenic spot in any season. Of particular note: In Spring, magnificent pink tulip trees are in bloom in front of Russ Hall. In Fall, don’t miss the trees and ornamental grasses around the University Lake, which also boasts fountains, bridges, and the lovely stone Timmons Chapel.

Wilderness Park

A series of interconnected trails allows for recreation on an area once mined for coal. The spoils — small hills and deep lakes — provide woodland habitat for songbirds that flit from tree to tree and for turtles sunning themselves on logs. On a clear day, the white bark of sycamores reflects on the calm surface of the water below. In winter, a dusting of snow reveals a new architecture in the landscape: limbs and branches previously unnoticed are now in stark contrast.

Mined Land Area

With a fishing pole, a tackle box, and a little luck, visitors to the Mined Land Area can photograph crappie, bass, and sunfish. Kayakers can paddle past cattails that create mazes within each strip pit lake, perhaps capturing an image of a Red-winged blackbird, or the tranquility of the water. Paddle quietly, and you might come away with a photograph of a great blue heron or a great white egret wading in search of a meal.

Crawford State Park

Hang out on a dock or perch on rocks at the lake’s edge for photos of colorful boats in the summer. Or, visit it in the Fall, when vacationers are gone, for photos of beautiful foliage and migrating waterfowl. Take a hike on the park’s trails at any time of year and you’re sure to come across native species of flora and fauna worth capturing in pictures.

Country roads

They may look empty, but if you have a photographer’s eye, you’ll find there’s plenty to see. Fences stretching into the distance. Black-eyed Susans waving from the roadside in the summer breeze. A raptor perched on a post, ready to dive to the ditch for a field mouse. A weathered barn, calling forth the spirit of the pioneers who settled here. A patch of iris or lilies where one of their homes once stood, with a lone rock chimney now standing sentry.

Should I feel like venturing even further afield, which I do occasionally, the great thing about living here is its proximity to other photographic spots: The Ozarks are less than an hour’s drive away, and a tallgrass prairie and a herd of bison are less than 20 minutes from my front door.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to call Crawford County “home,” you’ll likely find you have plenty of photo opportunities right in your own backyard.


Little Balkans Festival Photo Contest goes digital

News release from Little Balkans Days Festival

The Little Balkans Days Festival in Pittsburg, Kansas is seeking entries for one of its most popular events – the photo contest. To encourage as many entries as possible, this year’s competition is a Digital Photo Contest. All shared photos will be displayed at LittleBalkansFestival.com and Facebook.com/LittleBalkansDays.

There are a variety of categories with cash prizes given. Visit the Facebook page or website for the complete list of rules. Photos are to be submitted via email at LBDPhotoContest2021@gmail.com from June 1 to August 25, 2021. Submitted photos will be posted with judging to be held Saturday, August 28, 2021. 

Winning photos will be displayed at the Beverly Corcoran Gallery inside the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium the week of Little Balkans Days – August 30 through September 4, 2021.

# # #

Plaster Center: If you build it, they will come

News release from Pittsburg State University

To borrow a line from one of the most famous sports-themed movies of all time, “If you build it, they will come.” 

That’s certainly proven true for the Robert W. Plaster Center at Pittsburg State University — a collaborative effort funded through the City of Pittsburg, support from the county, student fees, and private donors. 

This week, its staff are rolling out the “green carpet” to vendors and attendees of the 36th Annual Four State Farm Show at what just might be the largest event that the building has hosted to date.  

Vendors and exhibitors have begun arriving and will continue throughout the week. The show is planned from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 21-22 and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 23. 

Economic engine 

In 2012, when the building still was just an idea, it wasn’t an easy sell. The decision to invest in it was unlike any the Pittsburg City Commission had been asked to consider. 

“The university’s proposal made us pause to consider exactly what a facility like this would mean for Pittsburg,” said then-City Commissioner Monica Murnan.  

Advocates argued that it could be an economic engine for all of Southeast Kansas. The city hoped to attract visitors to the community by hosting things like boat and RV shows. The university had its sights set on hosting national track championships. The county knew that attendees to any such events would mean a boost in hotel room revenue and food sales. 

When officials broke ground in 2014, it was hard to imagine what the building would host in the span of six years: 

  • Three National Collegiate Athletics Association Division II Track Championships.  
  • Three National Junior College Athletics Association Track Championships.  
  • A National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic Track Championship.  
  • Special Olympics events.  
  • A Taste of Pittsburg.  
  • A Presidential Gala.  
  • It also served as the gathering spot for 12 socially distanced Pitt State commencements in the past six months. 
  • NCAA and NJCAA events already are booked here through 2024. 


The building flies under the radar in comparison to the architecturally showy Bicknell Family Center for the Arts next door at the corner of two busy streets and with its curving, western-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that beautifully reflect the setting sun. 

The Plaster Center is a large, unassuming gray rectangle that is tucked in behind the Weede Gymnasium. 

But inside, where the action is, it’s clearly state-of-the-art. 

The main athletics portion of the Plaster Center measures 450 feet by 275 feet — or 40 feet longer than the center field wall in Kauffman Stadium. The space is big enough to park two Boeing 787 Dreamliners, nose-to-tail.  

Surrounding the field is the 300-meter Harvey Dean Track, one of the finest in the U.S. and named after alumnus and Pitsco, Inc. CEO Harvey Dean. Along the southern wall is seating for up to 1,500 fans. 

Overlooking the track and field is the 11,000-square foot ProMaxima Strength and Conditioning Center, funded by an alumnus who built his company into one of the top names in commercial fitness equipment.  

Last year, PSU announced the signing of a multi-year contract with the Four State Farm Show that relocated it from the all-outdoor venue south of Pittsburg where weather often was an issue.  

Using the Plaster Center will allow the show to offer more than 400 climate controlled indoor booths to exhibitors and vendors, while more than 500 booths including large machinery will have an ideal location outdoors. All parking will be on hard surface lots. 


In lobbying donors and partners to build the center, Kendall Gammon, a former PSU athletic standout and NFL player who became a major gifts officer for the university’s athletic department, said it could play a key role in recruitment of top athletes. 

It did. 

“The Plaster Center certainly has helped recruiting efforts across the board; all of our sports have benefited from the facility,” said PSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jim Johnson. “We’ve gained one of the best strength and conditioning facilities in the country, in addition to the premiere indoor track and field venue and an elite indoor practice facility.” 

Since the venue opened, PSU’s track programs have won two national championships. 

“All of our head coaches would attest to the great impact the facility has had on their programs,” Johnson said. 

Another lobbyist for building the center, local business leader Jeff Poe, told the City Commission that it was “the piece our community has been missing for years.” 

It would be a perfect venue for the university and local businesses to put on regional and national events, he told them. 

He was right.  

Consider this study of its impact during a one year period from May 12, 2017, to May 11, 2018: 

  • 20,186 athletes 
  • 3,286 team coaches/staff 
  • 17,186 spectators and non-sports attendees 
  • Guests to Plaster Center events spent nearly $2.8 million locally on retail purchases, food, and lodging during that period. 
  • The Plaster Center was responsible for creating and sustaining 53 jobs during that period. 

“It is a good thing that we partnered because it showed the willingness of the city to partner with other entities in pursuit of their goals,” said Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall. “It also proved that good deals can be struck which will benefit all parties involved and the community as a whole. And, it set the stage for important projects to come, like Block22.” 

The county still contributes one-sixth of its transient guest tax collections toward the Plaster each year — a smart investment, noted Devin Gorman, executive director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

“The Plaster Center has been a great asset to our community, particularly in terms of tourism and economic impact,” he said. “The vision of PSU, City of Pittsburg, and Crawford County to partner on a facility of this magnitude clearly resulted in a win for everyone. We are excited the Four State Farm Show will be able to utilize the facility for their event, as well.” 

The Farm Show 

Visitors will get to test drive lawn mowers, see agricultural rural living exhibits, and get an up-close look at the latest and greatest in farm machinery. 

Pre-pandemic, the show typically attracted 20,000 visitors in three days and had more than a $1 million in economic impact annually. 

While it’s unknown how the pandemic will impact attendance, Gorman said the show is a valuable event for the entire county, and the benefits of it being on campus this year will make it more enjoyable for everyone. 

PSU Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Naccarato described it as another example of innovative partnerships being of direct benefit to the community.  

“This is just a great example of the sort of things we anticipated would be made possible by the building of the Plaster Center and the investment that the city, as well as the private donors, made to build that facility,” Naccarato said. 

Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland, who last year made the trip from Topeka to help announce the new venue, said at the time “There is no better venue than the Plaster Center here at Pitt State; this is a wonderful facility that offers new opportunities for this event to grow. It’s clear this is going to be a huge success.”  

— Pitt — 

Free Fishing Weekend & Annual Derby

The first full weekend in June is typically a free fishing weekend across Kansas, including the Mined Land Wildlife Areas. Scheduled to coincide with the free fishing weekend is a fishing derby hosted by the Cherokee County Sportsman’s Fish & Game Association.

Free Fishing Weekend

Typically held the first Saturday and Sunday of June, while a fishing license is not needed, all other regulations must still be followed, including length and creel limits, equipment requirements, etc. Details.

Annual Free Fishing Derby

Held the first Saturday of every June, this fishing derby is open to kids 16 and under, and adults 60 and over, with prizes awarded in all divisions.

Register at Sportsman’s Clubhouse near West Mineral, Kansas by 1 p.m. All participants must supply their own equipment. Fishing is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at any of the nearby strip pit lakes. Free hot dogs and drinks are included. No late entries or return.

Directions to Sportsman’s Clubhouse

Sportsman’s Clubhouse is located just north of NW 70th and Belleview, Columbus, Kansas.

From Scammon area: 7 miles west to NW 70th, and 3 miles south.
From Oswego area: 7 miles east on US-160 to 70th, and 4 miles north.
From Columbus area: 7 miles west on US-160 to 70th, and 4 miles north.

Note: NW 70th is also known as Sportsman’s Pit Road to many locals.

Big Kansas Road Trip moves to Southeast Kansas

Posted on behalf of the Kansas Sampler Foundation

The Big Kansas Road Trip in upper northeast Kansas ended with more than a hundred people at the Kansas Explorers Club meeting waiting anxiously for news about where the fourth annual BKRT would take place. Cheers and applause accompanied the announcement that Bourbon, Cherokee and Crawford counties in southeast Kansas would be the next area to be showcased May 5-8, 2022.

Allyson Turvey, Fort Scott Tourism Director; Rachel Pruitt, Fort Scott Economic Development Director; and Rhonda Dunn, tourism advisory board member, represented the 2022 planning team at this year’s Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) in Brown, Doniphan and Nemaha counties. They were introduced at the Kansas Explorers Club meeting and they welcomed the crowd to southeast Kansas.

The BKRT, a project of the Inman-based, non-profit Kansas Sampler Foundation, replaced the 27-year run of the popular Kansas Sampler Festival. The first counties to be featured in the new format in 2018 were Barber, Comanche and Kiowa counties. The next year the northwest counties of Cheyenne, Sherman and Wallace were highlighted. The 2020 event was postponed until this May due to the pandemic. Foundation director Marci Penner said, “By showcasing three counties, we give people a reason to come see a part of the state they might not know very well. We’re trying to get people addicted to exploring!”

Penner continued, “All we ask of the communities is to be good at being themselves, that’s all. It’s a time to show-and-tell a story that even locals might find interesting. The event is like a tri-county open house, an ala carte adventure. Hundreds of people will travel all over the three counties but on their own time frame to places they choose to go. Those who attend are excited to interact with the locals, to buy and eat at locally-owned businesses and to get to know something unique about each community.”

Penner and assistant director WenDee Rowe will be coming to Fort Scott, Pittsburg and Columbus on June 7 and 8 to meet with county leaders and those interested in learning more about how to participate. In addition to Turvey and Pruitt representing Bourbon County, Devin Gorman and Chris Wilson of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau will lead Crawford County, and Liz Simpson of The Columbus Project and Jake Letner, Columbus Community Development Coordinator, will lead Cherokee County. Anyone interested in being the main contact for their community should attend the June meetings.

Allyson Turvey said, “I am so excited to have the Big Kansas Road Trip making its way to Southeast Kansas next year. The locals always love the opportunity to greet new visitors, and show off everything that makes our rural communities special; BKRT is the perfect time to do just that!”

For more information about the BKRT, go to www.bigkansasroadtrip.com.

# # #

Friday Music on the Lake 2021 schedule

News release from Friends of Crawford State Park

After a year off due to the pandemic, Friday Music on the Lake returns to Crawford State Park near Farlington, Kansas. The state park is 10 miles north of Girard on KS-7. 

Music is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lake View Café patio on the northwest end of Crawford Lake (“Farlington Lake”) and is hosted by Friends of Crawford State Park. Musicians play for tips only. Some seating is available but bringing your own lawn chair is recommended. Food and drink are available in the café. Please practice physical distancing as much as possible for safety to all.

2021 Schedule:

  • May 14 Stone Country (Dan Duling, Shane Lynette and more);
  • May 21 Jeff Simpson;
  • May 28 Johnny Joe Zibert Polka and George Barberich;
  • June 4 Double Trouble (Larry Davenport and Mark Ward);
  • June 11 Jeff Culver;
  • June 18 Allen Ross;
  • June 25 Todd East;
  • July 2 The Barnstormers (B.J. Pruitt and company);
  • July 9 J3 Band (Jon Bartlow, Jamie Ortolani, John Gobetz);
  • July 16 Kent Dorsey;
  • July 23 D3 Band (Dan Duling, Rick Duling, John Duling);
  • July 30 Johnny Joe Zibert and George Barberich;
  • August 6 B.J. Pruitt;
  • August 13 Double Trouble (Larry Davenport and Mark Ward);
  • August 20 Todd East;
  • August 27 John Duling and friends;
  • September 3 Karaoke with DJ Curtis Benelli;
  • September 10 Jeff Simpson;
  • September 17 Allen Ross; and, 
  • September 24 All Aboard Jam (various performers invited for a jam session).

For updates, find the Facebook Page “Friends of Crawford State Park”.

# # #

Fishing For a Good Time

Originally posted: April 16, 2018

On an early spring day that seemed made for fishing, Tom Pebley, of Kansas City, cast his lure into one of the more than 1,000 strip pits that dot Crawford County. The blue Kansas sky above was picture perfect: White clouds dotted it, and a slight breeze rippled the water. Nothing but occasional birdsong interrupted his thoughts.

Pebley already had channel catfish on his stringer, but was hoping to add crappie.

One of tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who come to Southeast Kansas each year, he enjoys the fishing and camping the Mined Land Area offers.

“We have nothing like this where we live,” he says. “What you have down here is unique.”

Mined Lands, Cherokee Co, KS, reclaimed as wildlife areas and pasture.

Spanning Crawford and Cherokee counties, the Mined Land Area is comprised of 14,500 public acres belonging to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism. It includes 13,000 acres of land and 1,500 acres of water.

Strip pits, as the locals call them, vary in size from one-quarter of an acre to 50 acres, with depths as shallow as a foot and as deep as 60 feet, owe their existence to coal miners. From the 1920s through the mid 1970s, they were carved by steam and electric shovels in search of coal veins. When the shovels were turned off and the miners left, the countryside grew quiet, and the strip pits were left to Mother Nature.

The passage of time would see ecological succession: vegetation grew up and over the spoils, while the pits filled with water and aquatic life took up residence. It has become rugged country with a variety of habitats. Native grass and some cool-season grasses dominate 4,000 acres of the property. The remaining 9,000 acres of land is covered with bur oak, pin oak, walnut, hickory and hackberry with a thick understory of dogwood, green briar, honeysuckle, poison ivy and blackberry. It’s home to species like whitetail deer, eastern wild turkey, mourning dove, bobwhite quail, fox squirrel, cottontails and waterfowl.

The land is sought out after by hunters, hikers, mushroom and berry pickers, campers, boaters and kayakers.

Becky Gray, who moved to the area from Colorado, is one.

“I found the outdoor recreation here alluring,” she says as she pushes her kayak into a strip pit and climbs aboard. Her paddles slice the reflection of the sky and transform it into ripples. Gray navigates through a narrow, low-water opening and pulls up next to a beaver dam that from any other place on the acreage is invisible and inaccessible. She floats quietly past a thick stand of cattails, slowing as she nears a log to watch three red-eared sliders basking in the sunlight.

“Kayaking allows you to go places others can’t go,” she says. “It’s a great way to unwind.”

Some days, she takes her fishing rod and reel. Today, she is content with photos that capture the wildlife she sees.

Gray, her family and friends, get their kayaks and fishing gear out nearly every weekend when the weather is good. They are nearly always rewarded: They count among their wildlife sightings beaver, snakes, turtles, herons, cranes, deer, porcupine, frogs, hawks, bald eagles, dragonflies and damselflies, ducks, egrets and fish.

‘Something for everyone’

They don’t limit themselves to strip pits; they have found plenty of water to explore and fish in at Crawford State Lake, part of Crawford State Park.

The 150-acre lake and subsequent 500-acre park were created 75 years ago, when 200 young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps toiled for four years to transform an area once occupied as a 19th Century military outpost into a recreation destination.

The state assumed operations and began further transformations. A volunteer group began adding amenities. Today, the park is like no other in the state: It is rooted in history, is home to 80 residents, and is cared for in part by the Friends of Crawford State Park. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually, who find peaceful campsites and several cabins available to rent along the lake’s shoreline, shaded by mature cottonwoods and oaks and
redbuds. Anglers use docks, casing for channel catfish, crappie, and striped bass, supplied by a national fish hatchery below the dam, while youth enjoy a sandy swimming beach and playgrounds. Boaters, tubers and water skiers enjoy the lake, while hikers and bikers enjoy a network of trails on the wooded perimeter.

“You can camp next to a playground and amphitheater, or enjoy primitive camping, and the south end of the lake offers a peaceful place to kayak and watch wildlife,” Gray says. “There’s really something for everyone in all times of year.”

‘Hidden jewel’

At the north edge of Pittsburg, outdoor enthusiast Mandy Peak has found another seasonal wonder: Wilderness Park — previously coal-mined land — that is home to a collection of trails that vary in length and difficulty. Wildlife watching opportunities range from whitetail deer to red-eared slider turtles sunning themselves on logs.

Peak especially enjoys the park in autumn as leaves begin to turn to oranges, reds, yellows and browns, and in early spring as buds begin to form and wildlife emerges from hibernation. Benches give her the perfect spot to rest.

But she uses it in all seasons: In winter, she passes by frozen strip pits, pausing now and then to catch her breath and admire the patterns formed in the ice. The blanket of snow muffles her footfalls as chickadees and cardinals flit above and shared their song. In summer, the towering cottonwoods, sycamores, oaks, and hickories shade the trails. In spring, redwood and dogwood are in bloom.

“It’s a great place to come for a workout, or simply some solitude, any time of year,” she says.

Trails are accessed from a large, gravel parking lot at the trailhead, with ample room for unloading mountain bikes, strollers and pets. That’s also where visitors will find a trail map on a kiosk. Visitors can check the map out online at www.pittks.org (Parks & Recreation section).

Some of the trails are ADA accessible, while others are challenging as they follow ridges and occasionally branch off into single track through the woods. Occasional wooden benches along the trails are perfect for bird watching, eating a snack or resting awhile.

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a longtime Kansas-based journalist now working as a freelance writer for a variety of publications, businesses and organizations. Since 2000, she also has worked as a freelance writer for local, regional and national publications and magazines. You can follow her on Twitter @AndraStefanoni. Her outdoor blog is at www.atwoodsedge.net.

Big Brutus to host Big Iron Overland Rally

Overlanding campers recently visited the Big Brutus National Historic Site in West Mineral, Kansas. The historical landmark will host an overlanding rally May 14-16, 2021. Photo provided by Chris Holloway of Midwest Overlanding and Off-Road Expo.
Overlanding campers recently visited the Big Brutus National Historic Site in West Mineral, Kansas. The historical landmark will host an overlanding rally May 14-16, 2021. Photo provided by Chris Holloway of Midwest Overlanding and Off-Road Expo. 

The Big Brutus National Historic Site will host the Big Iron Overland Rally from May 14-16, 2021. The three-day camp out and concert experience at the West Mineral, Kansas historic landmark will have activities for family fun, live music, food, and vendor exhibits. 

The event is an opportunity for locals to learn about this relatively new form of camping. Overlanding is best described as camping in remote areas, off-grid, without the need to hook up to utilities. At the most extreme, it can include the use of specially outfitted vehicles. 

The concept exploded in popularity during the 2020 pandemic, providing a way for families to escape to areas where they could safely distance themselves from other campers while exploring and enjoying the country. 

For the May 14-16 event, performers include the Adam Johnston Band and the Dirty Strings. Vendors include premium overland camping and adventure motorcycling, off-road vehicle parts, power sports equipment, competitive outdoor sports equipment, kayaking, hiking, survival amenities, live product demonstrations, truck accessories, and more. 

The event is hosted by MOORE, Midwest Overlanding and Off-Road Expo, and Big Brutus, Inc., the 16-story electric shovel that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounded by the Mined Land Wildlife Areas, areas once mined for coal and now used for recreational use, Big Brutus also happens to be centrally located between two favorite locations of overlanding enthusiasts: the Flint Hills and the Ozark Mountains. 

For more information including the full list of performers, visit www.BigIronOverlandRally.com

To view a video by Ozark Overland Adventures previewing the event, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7lM6jvC-Z8


Little Balkans Days Festival seeking vendors

News release from Little Balkans Days Festival

Applications for vendors are now open for the Little Balkans Days Festival over Labor Day Weekend in Pittsburg, Kansas. This annual festival pays homage to the region’s diverse immigrant heritage and blends family entertainment, art, crafts, food, music and more.

Antiques, artisans with handmade crafts, and food vendors are being sought for Pickin’ In The Park, a one-day arts and crafts fair, which will be held Saturday, September 4.   Other types of vendors accepted as well.

The event will be held at Lincoln Park, 813 Memorial Drive in Pittsburg. Vendors may setup Friday, September 3 at 3 p.m. or Saturday, September 4 at 6:30 a.m., but they must be setup no later than 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 4. The event ends at 5 p.m.

Rent has been reduced by 50% for 2021. 15×10 booths are $25 and 30×10 booths are $45, and electricity is an additional $10. 11×12 covered shelter house with electricity is $40.

To obtain your application visit www.LittleBalkansFestival.com/vendors. Printed applications and payment can be mailed to PO Box 1933, Pittsburg, KS 66762.  Vendors with questions or needing additional information should contact Edra Meyer at (620) 231-7561 or littlebalkansdays@gmail.com.

For further information about the Little Balkans Days Festival, visit LittleBalkansFestival.com or Facebook.com/LittleBalkansDays

# # #

Little Balkans Days set for Labor Day Weekend

After canceling the Little Balkans Days Festival in 2020, the Festival Committee has announced the event will return in 2021.

The board for the Pittsburg, Kansas event is asking for the community’s help in determining what activities to continue, as well as what to bring back from previous years. They are also asking for ideas for new activities. A post has been pinned to the top of their Facebook page – Facebook.com/LittleBalkansDays/.

The Festival Committee is working diligently and will begin announcing activities, events and the entertainment lineup in the weeks to come.

Funds donated in 2020 by sponsors and donors will roll over to the 2021 event. The board will also work with the Crawford County Health Department to create a mitigation plan due to the COVID pandemic. 

To help vendors who have been unable to sell their goods at festivals for the past year, fees will be reduced for the 2021 Little Balkans Days Festival. Artisan, craft, antique, and food vendors can get details and register at LittleBalkansFestival.com/vendors/

# # #

Beginner’s guide to indoor track meet preparation

Originally published: February 9, 2018

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Eight weeks. Eight track meets. From February to March 2018, the coordinator for the Robert W. Plaster Center walked the equivalent of going from Pittsburg to Greensburg, Kansas – and back. Most likely, he walked even longer than that.

“(And) at least half of those are pushing, pulling, or carrying something,” said Damian Smithhisler.

For eight consecutive weekends in 2018, the indoor football and track & field facility on the campus of Pittsburg State University was the location of eight major track & field meets, including two national collegiate championships. The facility remained open through the week for football, track, baseball, softball, cheer, and student club activities, and many community members continued to walk the track for their own personal workout.

That meant all of the equipment used during the meets had to be torn down after each competition, and then set back up when it was time for the next meet. Smithhisler said a crew of eight-to-ten people can do the tear down in about two hours, but setting up takes a lot longer.

“I will generally walk 140,000 to 160,000 steps during a track meet week,” said Plaster Center Coordinator Damian Smithhisler. “That’s around 75 miles walking.”

“There is a lot more to the set-up than one would think,” Smithhisler said. “I even fool myself a lot, thinking, ‘there is only this much left’, when it almost always turns out to be way more than that.”

While Smithhisler does much of the work on his own, equipment manager Tim Pierce helps as time allows, especially the day before a competition, and a small group of student-athletes help with big items like the pole vault pit, runway and bleachers that Smithhisler cannot move on his own.

“We’ve developed a reliable group that has learned the routine and does a good job in getting things done and done right. I’m very particular in wanting things in exact positions. We want our meets to be the best that each person attends all year, so that attention to detail might just be what sets us apart. Like anything around here, it takes a team effort to pull off a great event. From the custodians, to concessions & ticketing, to meet entries and facility set-up, everyone does their part and the pieces of the puzzle come together for a masterpiece each and every week.”

The routine started on Wednesday morning. Smithhisler said it takes about an hour-and-a-half to bring in a few portable bleachers and set up the elevated runway and pole vault pit on the turf. The Mondo flooring that covers the 140 foot long elevated runway weighs about 1,400 pounds. Fortunately, it’s divided into two rolls, a 450 pounder, and a roll that weighs more than 900 pounds and takes several people put into place.

Putting up the pole vault pit early allows the PSU Track team to practice on the pole vault while letting the rest of the field be used for a few more days by others.

Some competitions last only one day, while others run multiple days, so two days prior to a meet Smithhisler prepares the sand pits for the long jump and triple jump. He explained that the sand has to be watered so that marks are easier to see during the competition, but too much water packs the sand, making it very hard and bad for the athletes when landing.

“Therefore we have to ‘fluff’ it by making about 200 shovel turns in each of the two pits. That takes me about two hours as well.”

The day before a competition, Smithhisler and whoever else happens to be available, finishes laying everything else out, from blocking areas off to spectators to putting up signs to help competitors and spectators know where they are going.

“We set out barricades, backstops for throws, benches, bleachers, chairs, results boards, lasers at the sand pits, standards at the vertical jumps, place signage and trash & recycling receptacles, and with some custodial help, make sure that everything is cleaned off and ready for competition. This includes every inch of the track surface.”

“On meet day the lights go on, sound system and video board are fired up and last minute items are taken care of as meet officials and then teams and athletes arrive.”

Smithhisler said he will spend 13 to 15 hours each week setting up for a meet, and spend as long as 18 hours at the meet, then putting it away.

January 20, 2018 was the first of the eight consecutive weekends with a meet. The Prentice Gudgen Meet is for high school athletes and was only its third year. In 2017, about 350 athletes participated. The number of competitors doubled that in 2018.

“The bleachers were full all day and the infield flow and events ran off very smoothly. For many high school athletes it was there first time in the building. I love seeing the faces of people as they enter this great facility for the first time.”

By the time the NCAA Division II National Championship ended on March 10, 2018 more than 5,000 student-athletes competed at the Plaster Center. Both the Gorilla Indoor Classic and the NAIA National Championships were expected to bring in more than 1,200 athletes on their own.

For many of them, it was their first time getting a look inside the Plaster Center.

And few of them know the time, effort, and care it takes each week to make sure everything is in place before they even walk through the door.

# # #

Four State Farm Show planned for May at PSU

Media release from Pittsburg State University

Four State Farm Show organizers are once again planning to hold the three-day event on the campus of Pittsburg State University in May after having had to cancel last year’s show due to the pandemic. 

The show is planned for May 21-22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and May 23 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Robert W. Plaster Center and the parking lot and grounds adjacent to the Plaster and the nearby Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. The area is located on Homer Street near the eastern edge of campus. 

Last year, PSU announced the signing of a multi-year contract with the Four State Farm Show that relocated it from an all-outdoor venue south of Pittsburg. Weather often was an issue there. 

This year, PSU and Farm Show organizers will stay in touch with public health officials in the months leading up to the show and will follow recommended best practices pertaining to the pandemic. 

Using the Plaster Center will allow the show to offer over 400 climate controlled indoor booths to vendors, while more than 500 booths including large machinery will have an ideal location outdoors, noted Lance Markley, show coordinator and representative of Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, the new promoter for the long running event. All spectator and exhibitor parking will be located on hard surface lots and will continue to be free. 

“This show has proven to be a valuable resource for vendors, attendees, and the community,” Markley said. “We’re excited to be in the final stages of planning and looking ahead to May.”  

While the Farm Show historically has been an agriculture-only event, the addition of “rural living” exhibit space in the Plaster Center will allow non-agricultural companies the opportunity to reach spectators with their products in a designated area, Markley said. A similar section has been popular each fall at the Ozark Fall Farmfest in Springfield, Missouri. 

Lawn mower test driving — a popular feature previously — is returning this year, Markley said, giving attendees the opportunity to test drive a variety of zero turn lawnmowers. 

Pre-pandemic, the show typically attracted 20,000 visitors in three days and had more than a $1 million in economic impact annually. 

Devin Gorman, executive director for the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the show is a valuable event for the entire county, and the benefits of it being on campus will make it more enjoyable for everyone. 

PSU Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Naccarato described it as another example of innovative partnerships being of direct benefit to the community. 

“This is just a great example of the sort of things we anticipated would be made possible by the building of the Plaster Center and the investment that the city, as well as the private donors, made to build that facility,” Naccarato said. 

Both agricultural and rural living booths are now available for exhibitors. Please contact Lance Markley at 620-423-2355 for details. 

Pittsburg connection 

The Four State Farm Show has a longtime connection to the Pittsburg area. In March 1975, the Tri-State Farm Show was held at the National Guard Armory in Pittsburg and was sponsored by the agriculture committee of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Farm Talk Newspaper. The show then spent time in Miami, Oklahoma, moved back to Pittsburg, and then to Parsons, Kansas, before settling in 1984 on a 300-acre farm south of Pittsburg for the next 36 years. 

— Pitt — 

Crawford County Tourism optimistic about 2021

As expected, hotel room demand fell in 2020 according to the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau (Kan.). Though lodging suffered, several destination businesses adjusted to the market and/or made changes to their marketing strategy. Widespread vaccinations have also raised hopes that events and travel will gather momentum as 2021 progresses.

“Despite the worst year on modern record for tourism, our local hotel room demand is still outpacing where we were just four years ago,” said Devin Gorman, Executive Director with the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The Kansas Crossing Casino and Hampton Inn opened in 2017, and the La Quinta Inn opened in 2018. Since then, hotel room demand has steadily increased each year, hitting the 100,000+ room night mark in both 2018 and 2019.

Large conferences and sporting events were cancelled throughout 2020 due to the pandemic, but the county still saw hotel demand hit 78,200 rooms.

While sales tax collections show a lot of retail and hospitality held steady thanks to residents buying local, attendance at local museums saw tremendous drops from previous years.

The CVB said that is partially due to closures. However, fewer volunteers and staff were available to keep doors open, along with the fact that more people were looking for outdoor activities where they could socially distance.

Just across the county line, however, the world’s largest remaining electric shovel was an ideal location for guests to visit. Big Brutus normally sees 15,000 to 16,000 guests annually. After being closed for nearly five months, they had just under 9,000 guests since reopening in late July.

“We hit the ground running with appearances on all four of our local major TV stations,” said General Manager Joe Manns. “We executed a social media contest and asked people to like and share our Big Brutus Facebook page and off we went.”

Signage along the highways was also replaced.

Circle’s Pecans & Country Store of McCune added a second outdoor billboard and also started offering special prices via Facebook specifically for local products.

“People seem to be stepping away from the large chains and going directly to the farmer/producer,” said owner Tom Circle. “The small family farm is almost seeing a resurgence in popularity, especially when they process and market their own products.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cherie Schenker of McCune Farm to Market.
“There’s a renewed desire to know where your food comes from, as well as rediscovering the importance of being able to rely on a local busines,” Schenker said.

“Whether it’s farm produce, products from the region, or creations by artisans, consumers are looking to support local, and that includes travelers seeking ways to enjoy local flavors,” said Chris Wilson, Communications Manager for the CVB.

New museum exhibits are expected to attract guests who love history.
Miners Hall Museum in Franklin is working to complete renovation of their Miner’s House, a one-of-a-kind attraction that will be an authentic replica of how miner families lived in the early 20th century. They will also spend the year celebrating the 100th anniversary of a women’s protest that closed area mines and received national attention. An exhibit is open now and other artifacts will be added throughout the year.

“Our plans to celebrate the Amazon Army will highlight a significant event in American labor history,” said Dr. Chris Childers, Board Chair for Miners Hall Museum.

A highly anticipated exhibit at the Crawford County Historical Museum in Pittsburg has already opened. “Bootleggers versus Badges” examines the many layers of Kansas and Federal prohibition in Southeast Kansas. The county museum also has two events on their 2021 schedule that they were forced to cancel last year: A Living History event scheduled for September 3 and 4; and, a Wild West Show cowboy gathering scheduled for October 8 and 9.

To help inspire locals to visit museums in their area, the Southeast Kansas Museum Alliance has created a free Museum Passport. It is designed to encourage travel through 15 counties of Southeast Kansas, and offers cash prizes as an incentive to participants.

“Telling people our stories and promoting events are stepping stones to the visitor’s bureau’s purpose – to show event organizers why they should be coming to visit our area,” Gorman said. “We still had to make plans for the 2020 events that were canceled. Our hope is those and other efforts will be able to be carried over to 2021 and beyond.”

Major events scheduled to be held in Crawford County in early 2021 include the NJCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championship March 5-6, the Four State Farm Show May 21-23; and, the National Club Baseball Division I World Series, May 28 to June 2.; and, the National Sporting Clay Association’s 2020/2021 U.S. Open at Claythorne Lodge in Columbus, June 7-13. All events are subject to change.

# # #

Staying Wet in a Dry Land: Bootlegging in Southeast Kansas

National Bootlegger’s Day is January 17th, the birthday of infamous bootlegger Al Capone.

In the state’s early years, rich soil and wine making traditions brought to the region by European immigrants, Italians in particular, positioned eastern Kansas to rival California’s Wine Country.

Instead, from 1881 to 1948, Kansas banned the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, far longer than any other state. While U.S. Prohibition lasted only from 1920 to 1933, Kansas Prohibition outlived President Franklin D. Roosevelt, began before the Spanish-American War, and outlasted the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and two World Wars. Plus, Crawford County was a “dry” county until 1986, when voters approved the sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink, with a 30% food sales requirement. Voters approved eliminating the food sales requirement in 1992.

Crawford County Sheriff’s Department with stills used to make bootlegged liquor.

Kansas Prohibition coincided with the rise in demand for workers in Southeast Kansas coal mines, where miners were underpaid, easily replaced, had no health insurance, and if they lost their job, there was no unemployment program. Because many of them were immigrants, they had few advocates.

These “foreign elements” turned to bootlegging in a desperate attempt to feed their families. Deep Shaft Whiskey could be found as far as the coasts.

“It may have been illegal, but it wasn’t wrong.”

Miners Hall Museum board member Alan Roberts says this is how Southeast Kansans of the 1920’s and 30’s described one of the area’s economic staples: bootlegging.

Civil disputes led a governor to call the region the “Little Balkans”, a reference to the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe which was in turmoil at the time. Meant to be derogatory, the moniker provided people of varied backgrounds with a shared identity and was embraced.

“People said, ‘It may have been illegal, but it wasn’t wrong,’” historian Alan Roberts told the Pittsburg Morning Sun in 2015. As an illegal activity, Roberts said bootlegging carried a stigma that, even today, has kept many families involved to keep a low profile.

Many stories and relics from this era have been saved and are on display at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, and the Crawford County Historical Museum in Pittsburg.

These were families who had escaped escalating violence in Europe. They weren’t “breaking bad”, but they broke the law, they knew it, and they didn’t care. They were just trying to survive.

As cited by President Herbert Hoover, the mining regions of Southeast Kansas became famous for the bootlegged liquor they sent around the country during prohibition. – Exhibit at Miners Hall Museum

Former University of Nevada, Reno professor and Girard resident Ken Peak explained that “this was a generation before the welfare state and ‘safety nets,’ when victims of economic disaster were left to their own devices and often too proud to accept charity.”

Peak also says the illegal bootlegging industry of Crawford and Cherokee counties was so strong, President Herbert Hoover’s Wickersham Commission, appointed to study prohibition enforcement, specifically mentioned the two counties. Not surprisingly, the report declared these counties as two of the four worst statewide in prohibition compliance.

Bootleggers made fine money selling their craft. Deep Shaft, as liquor from Southeast Kansas was generically known, was found not only in surrounding states such as Oklahoma, but went as far as the U.S. coasts and into foreign countries. Peak’s research into one Pittsburg factory unearthed a plant that produced 210 gallons of liquor per day, which had netted the owners $18,000 in only 2 weeks of operation.

At the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, the recurring bootlegging exhibit produces some of the most colorful stories. Last year’s exhibit included a recorded lecture from Peak and several artifacts, including an electric heat stick bootleggers would use to color their moonshine. Museum board member Alan Roberts explained the process: “They would put their moonshine, which is clear, in a charcoal lined barrel and then they would put this stick down in there and shock it. And the sugar in the alcohol would turn kind of a brownish color and get the color from the charcoal so it looked much more like bourbon than it just did gin.”

Rich stories like this one can be found throughout the Miners Hall Museum. The museum is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. For the best experience, the museum requests that you call in advance at (620) 347-4220 to schedule tours.

100 year celebration of the Amazon Army

Thousands of women marched in December 1921 to close area mines during a strike. An exhibit at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin tells this story, which received national attention, and honors these women who marched to end unfair labor practices in local mines.
Location: Miners Hall Museum, 701 S Broadway St, Franklin
Hours: Mon-Sat 10a-4p

Fictional tale inspired by Southeast Kansas fried chicken

An author with ties to Southeast Kansas just had her debut novel named Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for the month of December. KJ Dell’Antonia’s fictional tale “The Chicken Sisters” was inspired by the fried chicken houses in the towns where her parents grew up. 

Less than two hours south of Kansas City, and several miles away from the closest town, yet less than 600 feet apart, are Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s. Dell’Antonia’s parents are from the area, and frequently took her dining at Chicken Annie’s. Unaware of the real story of these and the other four chicken houses in the county, Dell’Antonia made up her own story. 

“I always wondered why were there two chicken restaurants that were clearly completely unrelated, but obviously completely related because one is ‘Chicken Annie’s’ and one is ‘Chicken Mary’s’”, Dell’Antonia told her Facebook followers in a video posted December 2, 2020 (@KJDellAntoniaAuthor). “It stuck in my head for ages and I really wanted to find a story that I could ‘put around’ that idea of two fried chicken restaurants. Maybe because I love fried chicken. Possibly because I love Kansas. I don’t know. It just stuck with me.” 

“I created Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s which are absolutely not Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s,” Dell’Antonia said in her video. “After I got started on the book my mom said ‘do you want me to tell you the real story of Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s?’ and I was like ‘No! No, please don’t do that! That would ruin everything.’ So, she totally didn’t and I still don’t know them. I will find out eventually, someday.” 

“When we learned about Dell’Antonia’s book, we were stunned,” said Chris Wilson, Communications Manager with the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Here is someone who clearly loves the area and was so intrigued by all of the number of fried chicken houses in such a small area that she was inspired to make up her own story about it.” 

The real story of the Crawford County fried chicken houses has attracted The New Yorker, the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars”, and BBC Travel, among others. 

“A hundred years ago our population was fifty-percent more than it is now due to the need for workers in the old coal mines,” Wilson said. “There were camps scattered along the coalfields through both Crawford County and Cherokee County. Some of these camps grew enough to become towns, and an old street line connected many of these.” 

“You have to remember, these mines opened just after the Civil War, and operated during the eras of Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. Many were unemployed or earning very little.” 

Camp 13, also known as Yale, never grew much population wise. But its location was a short walk from several active mines. After her husband was injured in a mining accident, Ann Pichler began selling sandwiches in 1934 out of their home there. A year later, she began selling pan fried chicken and eventually became known as “Chicken Annie.” Just down the road, in 1945, Mary Zerngast first served customers from her kitchen table after her husband’s ill health forced him to quit working in the mines. 

“These chicken dinners provided more than just an affordable and delicious meal,” Wilson said. “They provided a chance to socialize and a comforting escape from real hardship. They also created jobs, and not just at their own restaurants. As they grew, they used local bakeries. All six chicken houses still use Frontenac Bakery.” 

“They also inspired hope. Thousands of those who came to work the mines were immigrants escaping war-torn Europe. Annie’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary when she was five. Mary’s husband was an immigrant from Germany. And, of course, today, for a lot of us, it’s nostalgic going out to these beloved restaurants. It’s a time to remember lost loved ones in a good way.” 

While Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s started the fried chicken craze in Southeast Kansas, they were followed by others. Still open today are Gebhardt’s Chicken Dinners, which opened in 1946 a little more than a mile to the northeast; Barto’s Idle Hour opened in Frontenac in 1951; Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s opened south of Pittsburg in 1970; and, Chicken Annie’s Girard opened in 1971. All are still owned by local families. 

Pichler and Zerngast were not related, but their families were connected when Pichler’s grandson married Zerngast’s granddaughter – the owners of Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s. 

“It’s kind of amusing that that is a plot line Dell’Antonia uses,” Wilson said. 

“This is the story of two sisters,” Dell’Antonia continued in her video. “They were both raised by a mom who runs one fried chicken restaurant that she inherited in this small town in Kansas, and it’s a small town I totally made up – Merinac. It is not Pittsburg or Frontenac although you can see their names in that a little bit.” 

“(Sisters) Mae and Amanda are raised by Barbara, and when they get older Amanda marries the son of the rival fried chicken restaurant, while Mae gets the heck out of Dodge, because that’s all she ever wanted to do, was just get out of the small town and never see it again.” 

Having married into the other family, since her wedding day, Amanda had not been allowed into her mother’s home or fried chicken restaurant. Despite this, Amanda goes to see her mother because a reality TV competition wants to do a story on the restaurant’s rivalry – “Food Wars”. 

“I grew up as a kid traveling to Frontenac, we would drive, or we would fly into Joplin, and we would go for every holiday and every summer,” Dell’Antonia said. “We would eat at Chicken Annie’s, because we didn’t eat at Chicken Mary’s. I can’t tell you why. I do not know why. I have eaten once at Chicken Mary’s – I think that’s like a super-duper secret – I don’t think I’m supposed to eat at Chicken Mary’s.” 

“While I’m not old enough to remember the real rivalry of all these chicken houses, I think it’s safe to say that most customers today bounce between each of these restaurants,” Wilson said. “Some prefer chicken from one location, but spaghetti or chicken noodles from another. If you want to get locals really worked up, don’t ask them about the chicken – ask them about the best coleslaw or potato salad.” 

To visit or learn more about the Crawford County, Kansas chicken houses, go to VisitCrawfordCounty.com/friedchicken 

To learn more about KJ Dell’Antonia’s book, go to your favorite bookstore and ask for “The Chicken Sisters”. 

# # #

UPDATED: January 16, 2021 – The state’s official Travel Kansas blog highlights a novel inspired by Southeast Kansas chicken. Learn the real story behind “The Chicken Sisters”, as well as the real story behind Southeast Kansas chicken: Kansas fried chicken drives narrative of novel

Bootlegging exhibit comes to Pittsburg museum

Bootlegging in the Kansas Balkans in the 19th and 20th centuries comes alive for the first time in an exhibit at the Crawford County Historical Museum in Pittsburg.  

“Visitors will experience the many layers to what communities faced during ‘America’s Great Experiment as they walk through the exhibits and learn about the causes and effects of Kansas and Federal Prohibition,” said Amanda Minton, the museum’s Executive Director. 

“Some historians believe rich soil and wine making traditions of the European immigrants who came to work the mines positioned Eastern Kansas to rival California’s Wine Country,” said Chris Wilson, Communications Manager with the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Sixty-seven years of Kansas Prohibition changed that. Hollywood likes to glamorize that era, but the reality was harsh, and even today, some families who were involved don’t like to talk about it.” 

“Unique displays will tell the stories and describes the methods of bootleggers as they worked their trade, often as a means of survival, in violation of the law and against the forces of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies,” Minton said. “This is your chance to discover America’s ‘Great Experiment’ as we break down the law, the liquor and the lifestyle.” 

“Ken Peak approached the museum last year with the idea of having an exhibit on bootlegging in Southeast Kansas,” Minton said. 

Peak has published two books on the subject. Those will be on sale at the museum with proceeds going to the museum. He is also providing a still to be on display. 

“We have been corresponding over the past year of when will be a good time to launch the exhibit. Since 2020 events have been canceled, we have had an opportunity to start planning and putting together this exhibit for January 2021. The original Ted Watt paintings from Ken’s book covers will be on display as well.” 

“We are also lucky to have the community to be involved in the exhibit. Frontenac Homecoming Committee and Shawn Brown have contributed to the exhibit – their loan of stills will show the process of making whiskey. Linda Grilz has also been instrumental with the process of the exhibit.” 

The “Bootleggers versus Badges: The Law, The Liquor, The Lifestyle” exhibit runs January, 2021 through March at the Crawford County Historical Museum, 651 S US-69, Pittsburg, Kansas. Admission is free. The museum is currently open Wednesday-Friday, 9am-3pm. www.crawfordcountymuseum.com 

# # # 

The Coldest Gorilla Century Ever

On October 24, 2020, more than 460 cyclists took part in the annual Gorilla Century Fun Bike Ride. Normally held the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, this year’s ride was held later for logistic reasons due to the COVID pandemic.

Near freezing temperatures greeted the riders at the starting line at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas at 7:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., at Big Brutus near West Mineral, the temperature was still 40 degrees, but slowly rising. Organizer, Roger Lomshek of Tailwind Cyclists, called it the coldest Gorilla Century since beginning in 2003, and likely the coldest ever because he and the riders had no desire to have it that late in the season ever again.

As always, the route took riders through Crawford and Cherokee counties in Southeast Kansas. In addition to the cold, the scenery was slightly different for returning riders who had never seen the area as leaves changed their colors.

For 2020, the 62 mile Gravel Gorilla was added – a 100 kilometer ride on the gravel roads of the two counties, providing riders with yet another different experience.

Four routes were available for 2020 – 38, 62, and 100 mile paved routes, along with the 62 mile Gravel Gorilla.

Consultant recommends multi-purpose event space

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A variety of first-class facilities and entertainment venues throughout Crawford County and on campus at Pittsburg State University have allowed the region to host countless large-scale sporting events, community celebrations, and meetings. However, due to the lack of a large scale, flexible conference space connected to a hotel, Crawford County has also missed out on the opportunity to host many state-wide and regional events.

That may change in the future.

Earlier this year, the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Pittsburg partnered together to engage Hunden Strategic Partners (HSP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if there is a need for conference center within our community. The study would also evaluate the ideal facility size, location, and economic impact to the region.

In October 2020, HSP released its findings.

The need

HSP’s research found numerous venues geared towards weddings and banquet-style events in Crawford County, but the lack of a purpose-built facility with more than 10,000 square feet of flexible space capable of hosting larger events was lacking. Despite some smaller venues within the region, as well as much larger facilities within a few hours drive, the study found a need for a multi-purpose event space geared towards hosting conferences of 500 to 1,000 attendees.

“There’s a big hole,” said Rob Hunden, president and CEO of HSP. “Crawford County doesn’t really have sort of the traditional larger ballroom that’s divisible with breakout meeting rooms and a full catering kitchen.”

HSP recommended a facility with 20,000 square feet of function space that could easily be converted from a grand ballroom to smaller, reconfigurable, meeting spaces for professional functions. To attract professional functions, HSP said the facility must have flexible breakout space and meeting rooms, state of the art technology, and a walkable environment with sufficient hotel rooms and restaurant options.

The location

Multiple locations within Pittsburg were evaluated: at the north end of town near several hotels, Downtown Pittsburg, at the south end of town near a new hotel and the local mall, and south of Pittsburg at a casino.

After evaluating each potential site, HSP recommended Kansas Crossing Casino as being the most beneficial for meeting planners due to its already existing support facilities, including a hotel and restaurant, its access to several highways, the attraction of the casino and live entertainment, as well as potential growth options and available space surrounding the property.

Download the complete feasibility study

In The News

Riley, Jonathan. “City consultant suggests building a conference center at Kansas Crossing.” Pittsburg Morning Sun. Posted October 16, 2020.

Crawford County boutique named the 2020 Best Store Front Boutique of the Year in Kansas

Media release from Pearls & Curls Boutique

GIRARD, Kan. – Pearls & Curls Boutique of Girard, Kansas was recently named the Best Store Front to Shop in Kansas for the 2020 Boutique of the Year. More than 250,000 voters were cast by shoppers in this year’s Boutique Awards. The Boutique Awards celebrate retail at a unique time, when many claim there is a retail apocalypse with the closings of multiple notable big box retailers and mall staples. However, industry trends continue to show a strong upswing in the boutique retail market.

“When we found out we were awarded as the Best Store Front in Kansas, were were so ecstatic, this is one of the most prestigious awards of our industry and we couldn’t be more thankful for every single one of our customers.”

Shelby Cannon, owner of Pearls & Curls

Just 40 minutes from Joplin, Missouri, and 90 minutes from Kansas City, Pearls & Curls Boutique is on the town square, where explorers can enjoy historic buildings and monuments that date back to the 19th century, as well as local specialty shops and restaurants.

Pearls & Curls Boutique opened in 2016. Shelby Cannon transformed the oversized waiting room of a decades-old beauty salon into a boutique with a full range of clothing sizes, home décor, jewelry, gifts, baby items, candles, and food. The beauty salon is owned by Cannon’s mother, Debbie Hobbs.

The boutique business quickly grew. Cannon resigned from her teaching job and began running the business full time. In 2019, an additional 200 square feet to the store was added, expanding the original sales floor by one-third.

Customers range from visitors passing through, to students from local high schools and nearby Pittsburg State getting their hair and nails done in the salon and shopping for select clothing, shoes and accessories for a date night, special event, or gifts.

Boutique Awards is the only global recognition event for independent boutique retail owners in the fashion industry, and is hosted by The Boutique Hub & Shop the Best Boutiques. The Awards recognize and celebrate the best boutiques across all 50 states in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Categories are Storefront Boutique of the Year, Online Boutique of the Year, Children’s Boutique of the Year, Mobile Boutique of the Year, along with Overall State Boutique of the Year, and Global Boutique of the Year.

The Boutique Hub, the global voice and hub of the boutique retail industry, cites one of the strongest boutique markets in history with new boutiques opening daily across the globe, and established boutiques posting some of the strongest sales to date. The shop small movement is certainly alive and well as big box retail dwindles.

“In a time when consumers are choosing experiences over things, and having quality service over finding another piece of fast fashion off the shelf, boutique retailers have found a niche market serving people in a way that goes far beyond trend or price. It’s a lifestyle.”

Ashley Alderson, Founder and CEO of The Boutique Hub.

For a full list of winners, visit www.theboutiqueawards.com

# # #

Celebrating das Vaterland on German-American Day

Originally posted: October 5, 2017

Imagine the U.S. without polka. A nation without the waltz, or lager-style beer. Or worst of all, brats! Had 13 families from Krefeld not landed in Philadelphia on October 6, 1683, German-American heritage may look vastly different today. As it happened, though, German descendants are today the largest ancestry group in the United States, with 49 million nationwide claiming German heritage in the 2010 census.

To celebrate the achievements of German descendants and integration of their heritage into the fabric of American culture, German-American Day is celebrated annually on October 6. Like similar Midwestern states, Kansas boasts one of the highest populations of German descendants in the country, sitting at over 30 percent. In Southeast Kansas, German immigrants moved to the area (often from the east coast) to work in the mines. Bringing their own political and religious views and culinary and musical inheritance, the immigrants added to a rich, diverse culture in the Southeast Kansas area.

As they settled into life in Southeast Kansas, German immigrants brought their religious preferences with them. Many Germans identified with Catholicism or Protestant Christianity, including the Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian denominations. Many local churches can trace their origins back to German immigrants to the area, as local groups established churches in young mining communities.

Southeast Kansas (and honestly, most of the United States) would be missing something if it wasn’t for the culinary dishes brought by German immigrants to their new home. Crawford County’s fried chicken wouldn’t be the same without German potato salad or coleslaw as a side. Who can imagine the perfect summer grill-out without brats and sauerkraut? A favorite among many locals is lager-style beer; clean-tasting and crisp, the drink is a perfect match for seafood, grilled pork or chicken, or Mexican dishes.

Still, today, if you step into Barto’s Idle Hour on certain nights, you will hear one of the more unique traditions brought to Crawford County by German immigrants: polka music. The bouncy, emphatic music – led primarily by an accordion – sets an enjoyable, upbeat mood for everyone in earshot. Back in the 1970s and 80s, long-time radio host Dan Willis broadcast a morning polka show on KKOW, bringing the iconic sound to listeners across the county.

German culture has become ingrained in Southeast Kansas itself. So today, (especially our proud German descendants!), join us in celebrating German-American heritage. Ich wünsche Dir Viel Spass!

Bicycle Routes through Southeast Kansas getting Wayfinding signage

GIRARD, Kan. – Nearly 500 miles of the national U.S. Bicycle Route System is being signed through Kansas. USBR-66 (United States Bicycle Route) is along the 13.2 mile route on the Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway. USBR-76 crosses the state for 480 miles and primarily follows the same route as the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and Trans Am Bike Race.

“Bicycle Route 76 is the primary route bicyclists take to cross the country and connects the Oregon Pacific coastline to the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia,” said Roger Lomshek of Tailwind Cyclists in Pittsburg. “It first became popular in 1976 during the nation’s bicentennial and became known as the ‘bikecentennial’ route.”

“These routes are primarily used by touring cyclists making cross-country trips, but also by locals and visitors for transportation and recreation,” said Jenny Kramer, Bike-Ped Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

Lomshek said, in a good year, the Pittsburg area will see over a thousand bicycle tourists as they take the 4,200 mile pilgrimage across the country.

The markers are also a reminder to local drivers to be on the lookout for these cyclists.

“Drivers should be on the lookout for bicyclists all year long on these mostly back country roads because of their popularity with traveling and local cyclists,” Lomshek said. “Everyone I’ve talked to likes signs.  Cyclists, because it helps them navigate the route, and drivers, because it’s a reminder that they can expect to see bicyclists on the roads.”

“Signing a route is not technically required after designation, it is something that many cyclists expect states to do,” Kramer said. “It is easier for them to follow as a wayfinding signage network than it is to constantly be checking their travel maps or relying on battery-powered devices. We have been hearing only good things from the cycling community about these specific signs, which was expected.”

While the timing of the installation of the signs has made some question if it was due to the pandemic, Kramer said the project has been in the works for several years.

USBR-76 was designated by the state in 2015. USBR-66 was designated in 2018. After these designations were approved, planning and design work was completed. A press event organized by KDOT to promote the routes and their new signage was held in Galena in November of 2019.

“Sign installation took a pause over winter to avoid frozen grounds and was expected to pick up in Spring 2020,” Kramer said, “however, the pandemic did cause some delays.”

The signs through Crawford County have been installed from Walnut to the west edge of Pittsburg. Kramer said installation is “happening at the pace of opportunity—meaning our KDOT crews and local communities are working together whenever possible to install signage along these routes.”

Signage is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

For more information about these routes and the USBRS process, please visit the Adventure Cycling Association’s website: https://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/us-bicycle-route-system/.

Popular roadside attraction now in Frontenac

Since the early 1960’s Sinclair Oil Corporation stations across the country have been known for a popular roadside attraction and photo op. A fiberglass DINO (pronounced DYE-NO) now resides at Raider Express in Frontenac, Kansas. Located just off US-69 at 325 East McKay, the DINO was installed June 10, 2020.

According to Sinclair, there are around 580 fiberglass DINOs on display any given year – 16 are in Kansas. A transportation icon since the 1930’s, DINO has been on marketing materials, products, in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and at multiple World’s Fairs.

Raider Express owner, Ethan Ketterman, said a contest was held to come up with a name for their DINO: “Rex”, short for “Raider Express”.

New historical marker at Lord’s Diner promotes Jefferson Highway

A Jefferson Highway Association historical marker was installed on July 13, 2020 by the City of Pittsburg’s Joe Beaman at The Lord’s Diner, 408 North Locust, Pittsburg. The marker was paid for by the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau and installed with the permission of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

Published: July 14, 2020
Update added: November 1, 2020

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A new marker at the Lord’s Diner in Downtown Pittsburg hopes to be a reminder about a mostly forgotten piece of transportation history. The non-profit kitchen is located in what was originally built around 1915 as the Jefferson Highway Garage. Nicknamed “Pines to Palms” because of the types of trees at its endpoints, this highway guided early automobile travelers from Canada to New Orleans from 1915 to 1925.

Roger Bell of the Jefferson Highway Association said the marker at 408 North Locust is one of the first ten markers to go up along the route.

“These special signs now starting to go up along the historic Jefferson Highway route will create a special link for travelers and tourists,” Bell said. “They will bring special attention and enhance knowledge of the history and diversity of this historic north-south highway.”

In the far northeastern corner of Crawford County, Jefferson Highway’s Kansas route overlapped with the 1800’s Military Road, which mostly ran along present day 250th Street, then weaved west through current day Arma and Franklin, south through Frontenac and Pittsburg, then southeast through Opolis, and on to Joplin.

After learning that The Lord’s Diner is located in one of the last buildings along the route to have its original Jefferson Highway signage, the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau worked with Pittsburg Noon Rotary to get approval from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita to have the Jefferson Highway Association marker put on display at the location.

“Most locals are somewhat familiar with the Frontier Military Byway and, thanks to Hollywood, everyone knows about Route 66, which Jefferson Highway overlaps a bit just south of us,” said Chris Wilson, Communications Manager for the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Jefferson Highway bridged that gap when automobiles were becoming more popular. It’s difficult to imagine it now, but at the time most roads connecting towns were still dirt and more likely to be used by horses and wagons. And, for history buffs traveling the county today, its existence coincided with the heyday of our area’s mining boom. Who knows – travelers may have seen thousands of women gathering for the Amazon Army march in 1921.”

Wilson said plans are underway for additional signs in the area.

“Several hotels were available along the route but a camp site at Lincoln Park was available for families seeking a more affordable place to stay and travelers were entertained at Lincoln Center,” Wilson said. “The camp was located where the band shell is today and had electric lighting, comfort stations, and a refueling area – all of which were a big deal at the time. We hope to eventually have markers at those locations, as well as Franklin for the women’s march.”

“It is hoped in the future that travelers will make special efforts to seek these locations out as they travel the route and will be important to the communities and locations where they are placed,” said Bell, of the Jefferson Highway Association.”

UPDATE: The three Jefferson Highway markers mentioned in the original story have been installed. One is at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, two are at Lincoln Park in Pittsburg – one at the band dome and another at Lincoln Center. Other heritage signs are in the works.

2020 Four State Farm Show canceled due to COVID-19

From Pittsburg State University

The 2020 Four State Farm Show, planned by Farm Talk Newspaper to be held in July on the Pittsburg State University campus, is canceled. 

“Given the surge in COVID-19 cases in the region, we are unfortunately canceling the Farm Show this year,” said Lance Markley, Farm Talk publisher and Four State Farm Show coordinator. “While we are disappointed, we are simply not comfortable with potential exposure to our exhibitors, attendees, and show staff.” 

This is the first year the Farm Show was to be on campus, with vendors scheduled to be both outdoors and indoors at the Robert W. Plaster Center. The show originally was scheduled for May 29-31 but as the pandemic evolved, it was moved to July 24-26.  

“We hoped this would not happen, but it’s the right decision,” said Shawn Naccarato, PSU chief strategy officer. “It aligns with the other health and safety measures we’re taking on our campus, and we are thankful to have a partner like Farm Talk that puts public health first.” 

Annually, the show brings 20,000 visitors in three days and has more than $1 million in economic impact.  

“This is a great disappointment, but we fully support the decision,” said Devin Gorman, director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Public health is the top priority.”  

The decision was made after consulting with public health officials and evaluating the statewide and regional impact COVID-19 is having on communities.  

“The reality is that people, even our vendors, come from all over the region and the country for this event,” said Markley. “We feel the responsible thing to do from a show management standpoint is to cancel and avoid stressing public safety and health services.” 

Pittsburg State University and Farm Talk have a multi-year agreement to host the Farm Show on the PSU campus.  

“We’ll begin planning for next year now,” said Naccarato. “We really look forward to welcoming this event to our campus when it’s safe to do so.” 

— Pitt — 

Weir Coal Camp featured in Miners Hall Museum quarterly exhibit

Posted on behalf of Miners Hall Museum

Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, KS is proud to announce the 2020 Third Quarterly Exhibit, “Little Balkans Coal Camp: Weir”  opening July 1 and continuing through September 26, 2020. The regular programs will have changes due to the pandemic. These programs may be made available virtually.

This exhibit and programs will include a wide-ranging display and presentations on the “boom town” era of Weir City, Kansas from 1866 to 1950. The display will include storyboards, a colorful timeline, and pictures of Weir City and the surrounding area.

The exhibit is hosted by David Wallace. David was born in San Diego, California to a scholarly pin-striper from Oswego and a coal miner’s son from Weir.  It took him 38 years to outgrow the confines of city life and move back to make a home within a mile from where his dad was born at Daisy Hill, north of Weir. After driving trucks nationwide for 25 years he has returned to discover the story of his family who put down roots in the coal camp of Weir City.

We would like to express a special thank you to our host and presenter, David Wallace and our presenters, Lois Carlson, Jerry Lomshek, and Larry Spahn.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that we will be unable to host Sunday afternoon special events for our quarterly programs as we have in the past. These programs have been very popular with our members and patrons, so we are looking for ways to present programs in an alternate setting. We have discussed hosting programs via Zoom meetings or recording programs and posting them on YouTube.

Programs scheduled for this exhibit include:

July, TBD:  “Weir Mining History” presented by David Wallace
This program will cover the growth of coal mining and of Weir City from the opening of the Neutral Lands in 1860 to the end of mining in the area in the 1950’s.

August, TBD:  “Controversy in The Coal Fields” presented by Lois Carlson and David Wallace
Lois Carlson will present on the UMWA strike of 1919 as well as the School of Mines controversy.  David Wallace will present on black miners in Weir, Kansas.

September, TBD:  “Nuts and Bolts of Coal Mining” presented by Jerry Lomshek and Larry Spahn
This program will give a description and explanation of the equipment and procedures of mining as it was practiced in the Weir area

For further information on our programs, you can follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter or become a member of the museum.

If you have artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit and would like to donate or loan them for this exhibit or future display at the museum, please contact the museum to share this wonderful history.

The museum is open for viewing Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.  Admission to the museum and the programs is free. Donations are accepted and appreciated. The museum and our facilities will adhere to the current Phase In restrictions and pandemic guidelines for Crawford County and the State of Kansas.

Bone Creek Reservoir Fishing Tournament Update

David Defenbaugh shows off his catch in the May 7 catch and release fishing tournament at Bone Creek Reservoir west of Arcadia, Kansas.

ARCADIA, Kan. – The Thursday night catch-and-release tournaments at Bone Creek Reservoir between Fort Scott and Pittsburg provide an opportunity for anglers and youngsters alike to practice social distancing, get outdoors, and have some fun.

The usually weekly Bone Creek Tournaments took a few weeks off due to stay-at-home orders, but with some input from officials, has returned. While May 7’s event only saw 24 boats due to weather concerns, the tournament had been seeing up to 35 boats, an increase over last year.

For those who’ve been to one of the weekly tournaments before, but not this year, organizer Kevin Shaffer said a few procedural changes have been made to help with safety. In the past, participants frequently met to chit-chat both before and after the tournament while competitors put their boats in the lake.

Participants still meet at Rocky Point Boat Ramp (N 200th St on the south end of the lake), but they now meet organizers at the road. After registering and paying the entry fee, one at a time participants are directed to immediately put their boat in the water.

Afterward, if they don’t have a fish, they load up immediately and are not allowed to wait around in the parking lot. If they do have a fish, Shaffer personally takes the fish, weights it, and returns it so that it can be released back into the lake.

“They’re going to go fishing anyway,” Shaffer said. “We’re controlling them, and these guys know if they don’t follow procedure, I’ll ban them. They know I’m a stickler on rules and that’s what made this so popular for 40 years.”

While the entry fee is $10 per person, kids 12 and under with an adult fish free.

Shaffer said that is intentional, because they want to encourage more kids to get out and fish, while also recognizing the preservation efforts and seeing the beauty of the outdoors in the area.

“If a child catches the biggest fish, he or she gets the winning money, I don’t care if its a 5-year-old,” Shaffer said. “We’ve got to get these kids involved.”

The Thursday tournaments meet at Rocky Point Boat Ramp at Bone Creek Reservoir, about 16 miles north of Downtown Pittsburg. Registration begins at 3 p.m. The tournament begins at 6 p.m. Entry is $10 per person, while 12 & under fish for free with an adult. Boats are required to have an aerated live well.

For more and update information, visit bonecreektournaments.com. They also have a Facebook Group – Bone Creek Tournaments.

# # #

Southeast Kansas “chicken wars” makes international headlines

PITTSBURG, Kan. – For a short time on April 30, 2020,  “America’s ‘fried chicken war'” was a top headline on the homepage of BBC.com, one of the most visited news sites across the globe. BBC Travel sent a writer to Southeast Kansas in late 2019 to learn about the “war”, and that story is now live on their website – BBC.com/travel.

The Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau shared the link to the story from their social media pages with the note: “When BBC Travel sent Diana Meyer and her husband Bruce to Southeast Kansas to learn about the region’s immigrant history and fried chicken, they discovered a story about survival.”

During her visit, Meyer, a travel writer with her own blog, mojotraveler.com, toured Big Brutus and spoke with descendants of the famous Chicken Annie and Chicken Mary and discovered a story about immigration, ingenuity, and the American spirit.

To read Meyer’s story, visit http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200429-americas-fried-chicken-war

# # #

Four State Farm Show

The premier agricultural event in the region since 1975. Features 700 exhibits and agricultural equipment. Free to attend.

The 46th annual Four State Farm Show is scheduled for July 24, 25 and 26, 2020, and will be held on the campus of Pittsburg State University.

Show Dates and Hours

• Friday, July 24, 2020 — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Saturday, July 25, 2020 — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Sunday, July 26, 2020 — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Farm Show Traffic & Interactive Map

Show Location

Beginning in 2020, the Four State Farm Show will be held on the campus of Pittsburg State University.

While the previous location had no facility for indoor booths, the spacious Robert W. Plaster Center has the capacity for more than 400 exhibit spaces. Additionally, outdoor exhibitors now have the opportunity to display on asphalt or grass. All spectator and exhibitor parking is located on hard surface lots. 

For more information, visit FourStateFarmShow.com or call 800-356-8255.


Annually held by the Farm Talk Newspaper, the Four State Farm Show started in 1975 as an effort to bring agricultural production and agribusiness together. The small show of about 60 exhibits at the National Guard Armory in Pittsburg, Kansas drew a crowd big enough that staff at Farm Talk Newspaper realized their biggest problem and blessing were the same: growth.

From 1976 to 1979, the Four State Farm Show was held in Miami, Oklahoma. While the 1980 and 1983 shows were held in Parsons, Kansas, it was held in Pittsburg in 1981 and 1982. From 1984 to 2019, the Four State Farm Show was held at the same location on a 300-acre farm just south of Pittsburg.

COVID-19 shuts down NCBA Division II Post Season

From a letter from National Club Baseball Association President, Sandy Sanderson:

Unfortunately the impacts of the CoronaVirus and the most up-to-date measures to prevent spread have now terminally impacted the NCBA’s chances of hosting any NCBA Division II post season activities.

Nearly all of the schools who have not shut down their club sports programs through the remainder of the year are under travel bans that are scheduled to be reevaluated on May 1st. Given this is the scheduled start date of the Regional Playoffs, it would be impossible for these teams to be able to compete with zero time to travel to the events if their travel bans were lifted that same day. Additionally with many states not announcing their plans to possibly reopen until May 1st, the NCBA will may not find out if the facilities they’ve reserved will even be open for use till day of.

Additionally the World Series host venue (Jaycee Ballpark in Pittsburg, KS) has been shut down through May 3rd when the state will reevaluate at that time if they will reopen the facility for use. Another detrimental hurdle is that the state of Kansas is under travel quarantine mandate issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). This requires anyone traveling to Kansas who has traveled from or through CT, LA, NJ, IL, CA, FL, NY, WA, or abroad to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the state. Given that most teams who may attend the World Series would be coming from some of these states or traveling through them to arrive in Pittsburg, KS, it would be impossible to conduct the event given players would either be in quarantine during the event or would have to arrive
2 weeks prior to the start of the event.

With that being said, it is with great disappointment to notify all NCBA Division II member teams that we must cancel the 2020 NCBA Division II Playoffs (May 1-3) and the 2020 NCBA DII World Series (May 15-19) scheduled to be held in Pittsburg, KS. With an insufficient number of teams potentially able to compete and no access to our World Series venue, hosting these events has become impossible regardless if the country were to “reopen” on May 1st.

With only 43% of the regular season having been completed prior to the outbreak, we have decided not to crown any Regional Champions or a National Champion this season. While we can all agree, this is certainly not how we envisioned or wanted this season to come to an end, it is the reality given the impact of COVID-19. We thank you all for your continued support of the NCBA and the love for the game.

We do wish we were in a much different state of the world and had much better news to provide. However, we have been optimistic throughout this process and will continue to do so. We hope that you can share in our optimism and know that we as a league will be better than ever in 2020-2021.

Four State Farm Show rescheduled for July 24-26

UPDATED March 20, 2020: Due to the ongoing global pandemic and out of an abundance of caution, the Four State Farm Show has been postponed and will be held July 24, 25 & 26.

PUBLISHED February 18, 2020: The 2020 Four State Farm Show is headed to town after 36 years on the farm.

“We are very pleased to announce we have signed a multi-year contract with Pittsburg State University to host the show on its beautiful campus,” said Lance Markley, Farm Talk Newspaper publisher and Four State Farm Show coordinator.

The show will take place July 24, 25 and 26, 2020 (updated).

“We are excited to welcome the Four State Farm Show to Pittsburg and to the campus of Pittsburg State University,” said Devin Gorman, executive director for the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “After much effort, we are proud to continue the legacy of the Four State Farm Show in our community.

“The show has been a tremendously valuable event for us over the past 36 years, and the benefits of being on campus will help make it even more enjoyable for everyone in 2020 and for years beyond,” Gorman added.

Shawn Naccarato, Pittsburg State University’s chief strategy officer, said, “This is just one more example of the innovative sort of partnerships we’re willing to enter into to directly benefit our community… We’re excited that we’re able to come to an agreement that brings 20,000 people and more than $1 million in economic impact to our community.”

The Four State Farm Show has a long-time connection to the Pittsburg area. In March 1975, the Tri-State Farm Show was held at the National Guard Armory in Pittsburg and was sponsored by the agriculture committee of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Farm Talk Newspaper. The show then spent time in Miami, Oklahoma, moved back to Pittsburg, and then to Parsons, Kansas, before settling in 1984 on a 300-acre farm south of Pittsburg for the next 36 years.

Markley continued, “The previous location served us well for many years, and we owe a huge amount of gratitude to long-time Pittsburg John Deere dealer Phil O’Malley for providing the show site. Over the years, we have found we aren’t great at controlling the weather. Not surprisingly, we have experienced extreme heat with our July dates and then heavy rains last year after moving the show to May in search of cooler temperatures. While this move doesn’t alleviate weather concerns, it does offer more favorable options if inclement weather occurs.”

While the previous location had no facility for indoor booths, the spacious Robert W. Plaster Center has the capacity for more than 400 exhibit spaces. Additionally, outdoor exhibitors now have the opportunity to display on asphalt or grass. All spectator and exhibitor parking is located on hard surface lots.

“This is just a great example of the sort of things we anticipated would be made possible by the building of the Plaster Center and the investment that the city, as well as the private donors, made to build that facility,” Naccarato said. “It’s the sort of thing we envisioned the Plaster Center would enable us to do as a community, and I think it’s exciting to see that come to fruition.”

While the Four State Farm Show has always been an agriculture-only event, the brand-new addition of “rural living” exhibit space in the Plaster Center allows non-agricultural companies the opportunity to reach spectators with their products in a designated area. A similar section has been popular every fall at the Ozark Fall Farmfest in Springfield, Missouri, a joint venture between Farm Talk and the Ozark Empire Fair.

“To say exhibitors are excited about the move is probably an understatement,” Markley said. “We sold over 400 booths in the first 10 days they were available.” However, many great booth spaces remain, and prospective exhibitors should contact Farm Talk to receive information.

The popular Shopping Spree will make its return with $1,000 given away daily at the Farm Talk booth located in the Plaster Center. Shopping Sprees must be used for purchases with Four State Farm Show exhibitors.

Spectators and exhibitors will no longer be permitted to bring their own ATVs and UTVs but golf carts will be available for rent from Castagno Oil, Inc., Battery Mart.

Parking and admission are free. Show hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, visit FourStateFarmShow.com or call Farm Talk Newspaper at 800-356-8255.

# # #

Outdoor recreation an option for physical distancing

During this time of physical-distancing, outdoor recreation provides many great opportunities that can be enjoyed alone or with your family.

More than 30 parks throughout Crawford County include outdoor adventure play and even vintage playground equipment.

One of our area’s greatest treasures, the Mined Land Wildlife Area provides over 1,500 acres of public water for fishing. In Crawford County alone, between the strip pit lakes, Bone Creek and Farlington Lake inside Crawford State Park, there are 50+ miles of shoreline.

There are a variety of trails to explore throughout Crawford County.

Stay safe, and if possible, take this time to enjoy some of our area’s natural beauty.

Schedule released for live music at Crawford State Park

UPDATE: Live music at Crawford State Park has been suspended until further notice.

FARLINGTON, Kan. – Regular live music returns to Crawford State Park for the third year. Regular outdoor performances begin May 1 and will continue through September 25. This year, two indoor performances will also be held inside the Lake View Cafe, on March 20 and April 17.

Musicians perform at 6 p.m. at Lake View Cafe at Crawford State Park at Farlington Lake.

The outdoor performances are held on the patio, and occasionally the band perform on the deck overlooking the lake. Plan to come early and be sure to bring your lawn chair.

Full Schedule (all are Friday’s, 6 p.m. start):

  • March 20 – Dan & Shane Duling & Shana Lynette,
  • April 17 – Larry Davenport, 
  • May 1 – Dan Duling & Shana Lynette, 
  • May 8 – Johnny Joe Zibert & Gerald Azember, 
  • May 15 – Jason Richison & Kinley Rice, 
  • May 22 – Todd East, 
  • May 29 – Dust Devil Choir, 
  • June 5 – B.J. Pruitt, 
  • June 12 – Jeff Simpson, 
  • June 19 – Lecia E. & Company, 
  • June 26 – Allen Ross, 
  • July 3 – Larry Davenport, 
  • July 10 – Jason Richison & Kinley Rice, 
  • July 17 – Johnny Joe Zibert & Gerald Azember, 
  • July 24 – Kufara, 
  • July 31 – Jeff Culver, 
  • August 7 – Jeff Simpson, 
  • August 14 – Lecia E. & Company, 
  • August 21 – Allen Ross, 
  • August 28 – Todd East, 
  • September 4 – Stone Cutter Union, 
  • September 11 – Shane Duling, 
  • September 18 – B.J. Pruitt, and 
  • September 25 – Dan Duling & Shana Lynette.

# # #

Pittsburg Area Farmers’ Market to open May 9 with safety measures in place

PITTSBURG, KS – The Pittsburg Area Farmers’ Market is set to open May 9 with restrictions due to COVID-19.

Farmers’ markets are deemed an essential service and have been allowed to open during the pandemic as long as they adhere to local, state and federal health and safety protocols.

The Pittsburg Parks & Recreation Department has implemented new procedures at the market to ensure the safety of patrons and vendors, including protective barriers, markings to indicate a six-foot distance between customers, and a hand-washing station. The market will also be limited to 40 people at one time.

Additionally, the market will be available to food vendors only, and activities such as live music and Kids Day events are postponed indefinitely. A list of these guidelines is available on the city’s website at www.pittks.org/farmersmarket.

“While the market will look much different this year due to COVID-19, our mission remains the same,” says Parks & Recreation Director Kim Vogel. “We look forward to serving the Pittsburg community and providing access to healthy, sustainable food.”

The Pittsburg Area Farmers’ Market will be open from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm Saturday, May 9 – Saturday, October 31.

For more information on the Pittsburg Area Farmers’ Market, contact the Pittsburg Parks & Recreation Department at (620) 231-8310 or visit www.pittks.org/farmersmarket.

# # #

Miners Hall Museum presentation features City and Dance Bands

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Town bands, local nightclub dance bands, and nationally known touring bands that played at The Tower, Gay Parita and Trianon ballrooms will be the topic of this month’s special program at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas.

J.T. Knoll’s presentation will begin at 2 p.m., this Sunday, February 23. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.

This special program is in conjunction with the quarterly exhibit “Music of the Little Balkans”, also hosted by J.T. Knoll, which will be available for viewing after the presentation.

If you plan to attend the presentation, to help plan for adequate seating, please call the museum at 620-347-4220.

Admission is free. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

# # #

“The Gunn Family Legacy & Its Influence on the Little Blue Books”

Posted on behalf of Miners Hall Museum

FRANKLIN, Kan. – On Sunday, December 1, the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas hosts a special program: “The Gunn Family Legacy & Its Influence on the Little Blue Books”. Doors open at 1:45 p.m. and the program begins at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

Presented by Holly Reed, this presentation explores Ben and John Gunn’s local newspaper publishing business, John’s work on Little Blue Books, his relationship with both Marcet and E. Haldeman-Julius, and the impact this had on the publishing of pocket size books.

This special program is being presented in conjunction with the special quarterly exhibit “Little Blue Books 100 Years!” hosted by Linda Knoll.  MHM is proud to display this special quarterly exhibit.

While not required, RSVP’s are appreciated so that the museum can plan for adequate seating: 620-347-4220. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

After the program be sure to view the special quarterly exhibit on the Little Blue Books.

# # #

Alt Text test

Chiefs & NFL Hall of Famer to be keynote speaker at championship banquet

PITTSBURG, Kan. – NFL Hall of Famer and Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl winner, Bobby Bell, will be speaking in Pittsburg on Wednesday, December 4. The keynote for the Mpix.com Celebration Banquet, Bell will speak to the NJCAA Football Championship participants, No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast and No. 2 Lackawanna (Pa.).

Bell won a collegiate national championship in 1960, won a Super Bowl in 1970, is a 2015 college graduate, and takes pride in breaking barriers and proving that dreams do come true.

The Mpix.com Celebration Banquet will be held Wednesday, December 4 at 6 p.m. CST at the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium. Tickets to the banquet are available to the public for purchase on a first come, first served basis. Banquet tickets are $25 each, and can be ordered by emailing Devin Gorman of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau at dgorman@visitcrawfordcounty.com (mailto:dgorman@visitcrawfordcounty.com) , or call 620-231-1212.

The NJCAA Football Championship is scheduled to kickoff at 5 p.m. CST on Thursday, December 5 at Carnie Smith Stadium on the campus of Pittsburg State University. General Admission tickets are $15 each, with $10 tickets for children 17 and under, and college students who provide their school ID. Game tickets may be bought at the game, or in advance through the Pittsburg State Ticket Office, online at PittState.edu/tickets or by calling their office during regular business hours at 620-235-4796.

Born in Shelby, North Carolina, Bobby Bell was an All-State quarterback in high school. He wanted to attend Duke or North Carolina, but could not because of his race. Instead, he was recruited to play for the University of Minnesota by head coach Murray Warmath. Bell was converted to an offensive lineman, then defensive lineman, and was an All American his junior and senior years. That senior year, Bell won the Outland Trophy, placed third in Heisman Trophy voting, and their 1960 Rose Bowl win earned the Gophers the National Championship.

Drafted by the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Bell instead signed with a team in a league nobody thought would succeed. He was drafted by Hank Stram and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. He was converted to a linebacker, and in 12 seasons with the Chiefs, he was an eight-time All Pro and an NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Bell played in the first Super Bowl, matching the best team from the NFL with the best team from the AFL. His Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers and Vince Lombardi, but, four years later, in Super Bowl IV, his Chiefs upset the team who drafted him out of the same community where he won a college national championship – Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota has had a football program for more than 135 years, and only five jersey numbers have been retired, including Bell’s #78. Bell is a member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. He is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Ring of Honor in Arrowhead Stadium. He is a member of the AFL All-Time Team, and in 1983, he was the first Chiefs player to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Years after he left college to pursue his professional football career, then opening a chain of barbecue restaurants, Bell fulfilled a promise to his father. He returned to the University of Minnesota to finish his degree. For his degree, he researched and wrote a 45 page manual on the fundamentals of youth football; and, created and operated a youth football camp. That camp was held in 2014 in Pittsburg, Kansas. Fifty-six years after starting at the University of Minnesota, in 2015 at the age of 74, Bobby Bell earned his bachelor’s degree.

# # #

Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lackawanna to face off in national championship

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Seven different teams have held the top two slots in the National Junior College football rankings this season, but it’s only the final regular season rankings that matter. Finishing the regular season No. 1 is Mississippi Gulf Coast (11-0), and No. 2 is Lackawanna (10-0), the only two undefeated teams in the NJCAA. The teams will face off for the NJCAA National Championship in Pittsburg, Kansas on Thursday, December 5. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. C.S.T.

This past week, Mississippi Gulf Coast won 22-19 over No. 5 Northwest Mississippi (8-3) to win their conference title, and has extended their winning streak to 15 games. Gulf Coast didn’t lead the game until a 30 yard touchdown run by Austin Bolton in the fourth quarter.

This is Gulf Coast’s 16th state championship, and they will be seeking their fifth national championship. They won the 1948 Junior College Championship, then won the NJCAA National Championships in 1971 and 1984, and were co-champions in 2007. Gulf Coast’s head coach, Jack Wright, seeks to win a national championship with two different programs, which would be a first for the NJCAA.

Lackawanna held off No. 12 Georgia Military College (8-2) in a 37 to 30 victory to win their 22nd game in a row. Lackawanna was up 30-3 halfway through the third quarter, when Georgia Military came roaring back. Lackawanna running back Calvin Bell ended the game with 147 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Lackawanna seeks their first-ever national championship. Head coach Mark Duda has 188 wins, the most among all active NJCAA football coaches.

More details about this matchup will be released in the coming weeks leading up to the game.

For the complete poll from November 11, 2019, visit NJCAA.org/sports/fball/polls.

The NJCAA Football Championship game will be held Thursday, December 5 at 5 p.m. CST at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling (620) 235-4796, or visiting NJCAAFootballChampionship.com and clicking “Tickets”.

# # #

Little Blue Books showcased at Miners Hall Museum quarterly exhibit

Posted on behalf of Miners Hall Museum

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, KS is proud to announce the 2019 Fourth Quarterly Exhibit, a Spirit of the Little Balkans Series, “Little Blue Books 100 Years!” opening October 1 and continuing through December 28, 2019.

The exhibit is hosted by Linda Knoll. Linda is an educator, author, and local historian who researches and gives talks on the history of southeast Kansas coal mining and the Amazon Army.

This exhibit and programs will focus on the artifacts and stories of the “Titan of the Printing Industry” the” Voltaire of Kansas” Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, the history of the Little Blue Books, radical politics, and socialist roots in Girard, KS.

“Each Quarterly Exhibit highlights something special about our area’s history and it’s unique cultural heritage,” said Linda O’Nelio Knoll. “Past exhibits have highlighted the areas camp towns, ethnic cultures, mining histories, and the arts and crafts contributions of our southeast Kansas immigrant ancestors. Miners Hall Museum would like to end the year celebrating the monumental contributions of E. Haldeman-Julius to 20th Century publishing and the nationally known socialist figures connected to Haldeman-Julius and to the town of Girard and its socialist newspaper The Appeal to Reason as part of the Spirit of the Little Balkans series.”

The museum would like to express a special thank-you to Pittsburg State University, Leonard H. Axe Library, Special Collections; Friends of Historic Girard and Girard History Museum; Holly Reed, The Gunn Collection; J.T. & Linda Knoll, Little Blue Books Collection, and Humanities Kansas.

There will be special monthly programs during the quarter. These are open to the public and free to attend.

Programs held each month include:

  • October 20, Sunday 2:00 p.m.: “Girard – 150 years” Presented by Terri Harley & Nicki Neil, (Friends of Historic Girard & Girard History Museum foundation members). Mrs. Harley’s presentation will highlight the rich and colorful history of the town, the Crawford County seat, including why Girard was once considered the printing capital of the world. Mrs. Neil will share stories from local historian Gene DeGruson and her grandmother who worked for Marcet Haldeman-Julius, the wife of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, over the years about the Little Blue Books.
  • November 10, Sunday 2:00 p.m.: “An Unappreciated Skeptic: Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and Religion” Presented by Dr. Don Viney. Dr. Viney’s presentation will examine E. Haldeman-Julius’s history of skepticism about religion and how as a key figure of his time this was reflected in his work, writings, and Little Blue Book publications.
  • December 1, Sunday 2:00 p.m.: “The Gunn Family Legacy & Its Influence on the Little Blue Books” Presented by Holly Reed. The presentation by Ms. Reed explores Ben and John Gunn’s local newspaper publishing business, John’s work on Little Blue Books, his relationship with both Marcet and E. Haldeman-Julius, and the impact this had on the publishing of pocket size books.
  • December 15, Sunday 2:00 p.m.: “Red State: Socialism and the Free State Press” Presented by Matthew Thompson. The presentation by Mr. Thompson will discuss the rise and fall of the Socialist press in Kansas, as well as its causes, leaders, and detractors, and explore the role of the free press. Funded by Humanities Kansas.

For further information on the programs you can follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter or become a member of the museum.

If you have artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit and would like to donate or loan them for this exhibit or future display at the museum, please contact the museum to share this wonderful history.

The museum is open for viewing Monday through Saturday 10:00 am through 4:00 pm. Call 620-347-4220 to set up tours for large groups. Admission to the museum and the programs is free. Donations are accepted and appreciated. For questions about the museum call 620-347-4220 (minershallmuseum@gmail.com)

# # #

Newsletter to promote regional events

PARSONS, Kan. – A new monthly email will help promote signature events occurring throughout Southeast Kansas. Southeast Kansas Tourism Region (SEKTR) is a joint cooperative of area attractions, chambers, visitors bureaus, and others, and will begin sending out their new email newsletter the last week of each month.

While many SEKTR members each have their own regular newsletter, those target only what is going on within their own communities. However, this new “Discover Southeast Kansas” email will highlight major events from across the entire region for visitors to the area, as well as be a reminder to locals.

“With several internal and external target markets the Southeast Kansas Tourism region adds another weapon in the communication battle with the creation of the new e-based newsletter,” said SEKTR president and Director of Tourism in Labette County, Jim Zaleski. “This will allow both direct communication lines with industry peers across the region and the immediate dissemination of important tourism related data to stakeholders.”

To register for the monthly email, visit DiscoverSoutheastKansas.org and click on “Get Monthly Email” to submit your email address.

# # #

Groundbreaking set for first storm shelter at a Kansas state park

Posted on behalf of Friends of Crawford State Park

FARLINGTON, Kan. – Six years ago, Aggie Keesling had a dream, and that dream is about to come true. On Saturday, September 21, ground breaking for the new storm shelter, the first storm shelter at any state park in Kansas, will take place. All are invited to join in celebrating this dream coming true.

The groundbreaking will be held Saturday, September 21 at 10 a.m. at the storm shelter site on East Lake Road, Crawford State Park, Farlington, Kansas 66734.

The groundbreaking is scheduled to coincide with the Friends of Crawford State Park Annual Chili Cook Off, a Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) sanctioned event. Registration is at 11 a.m. Cooks meeting is at 12:15 p.m. CASI turn in is 4:30 p.m. Sample cups go on sale to the public for $3 at 4:30 p.m. The Awards Ceremony is at 6:00 p.m.

For those not cooking, but waiting to eat, a Corn Hole Tournament will also be held. Registration is $20 per team and starts at 11:30 a.m. Bags fly at 1:00 p.m. # # #

Record-breaking summer for tourism in Crawford County

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A busy summer in Crawford County has led to a record number of visitors, with June totals surpassing 10,000 room nights in a month for only the second time in history. This year’s “to date comparison” is just behind last year, despite a slower first quarter. But, a busy summer has evened things up.

“Our lodging numbers this year are great, and they would be record-breaking across the board if last year hadn’t been so outstanding,” said Devin Gorman, Executive Director at the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Summer is actually our busiest time of year for tourism, and we know that our local businesses appreciate the influx of visitors.”

Through the first seven months of 2019, hotel room demand was at 62,432, just 31 room nights shy of the recording breaking pace set in 2018. The second quarter of 2019 saw 28,825 room nights filled – the highest quarterly total on record in Crawford County history. July surpassed 9,700 rooms, a record high for July. The record high for any month was set after the 2011 Joplin tornado.

“These numbers show you how important every event is, and why we are fortunate to have so many local leaders willing to put in the time and effort to help bring these events to our area,” said Gorman. “A lot of these events are drawn here because we have the capacity and facilities. However, it’s our local organizers, volunteers, parents, coaches and others who put in the time and effort. When coming to Crawford County, visitors know they’re going to be treated right and have a great experience.”

# # #

Numbers are collected from reporting by Smith Travel Research.

The Road to Pittsburg: Top contenders for the national championship

PITTSBURG, Kan. – If the National Junior College Football Championship was held this week, five-time national champion, East Mississippi, would likely be taking on two-time national champion, Iowa Western. The NJCAA Football Championship is scheduled for Thursday, December 5, and “The Road to Pittsburg” has only just begun.

“They’re called preseason rankings for a reason,” said Chris Wilson, Communications Manager for the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the host of the NJCAA Football Championship. “Publications have released their preseason rankings, the latest season of Netflix’s popular series ‘Last Chance U’ is out, practices are underway, and the NJCAA Coaches Poll was released this week (August 19). Once the season starts, we’re going to help publicize a weekly roundup of what’s going on with the top teams, but now is just a fun time to see who might be here December 5th.”

Only three schools made the top 10 preseason rankings in the NJCAA Coaches poll plus all four publications that monitor the NJCAA – College Football America Yearbook, GridironRR.com, JCGridiron.com, and Street & Smith (alphabetically):

East Mississippi: The Bulldogs are already familiar with the 592 mile trip from Scooba, Mississippi to Carnie Smith Stadium, so it should not be a surprise they were ranked #1 by coaches, and in the top 3 of the other expert publications. The five time national champions beat Garden City in Pittsburg last year. Like every junior college, the Bulldogs have a lot of turnover on their roster, and the pressure is on to three-peat. But Coach Buddy Stephens is known for keeping his players focused on the next opponent, as his 66-3 record over the past six years shows. Several Bulldogs have already verbally committed to playing at the NCAA Division I level, including linebacker Fred Hervey to Arkansas State and defensive lineman Davontae McCrae to Mississippi State.

Iowa Western: Ranked #2 by coaches, and #1 by three publications, the Reivers travel to Kansas four times this season to face Kansas Jayhawk Conference teams. If they survive their schedule, the 304 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa will be an easy trip. This two-time national champion is loaded with talent, and like East Mississippi, already has several players who’ve committed to playing NCAA D-I, including wide receiver Shaquan Anderson-Butts to Mississippi State, tight end Louis Dorsey to Memphis, offensive lineman Jacob Gamble to West Virginia, linebacker S.L. McCall to West Virginia, and defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey to Oklahoma.

Garden City: Ranked #3 by coaches, and as low as #8 by one publication, the Broncbusters didn’t exactly have a home game at least year’s national championship, even though they’re in the same state. Garden City is still 378 miles away. Former head coach Jeff Sims is now a lot closer, having taken the same position at Missouri Southern, but he got the Broncbusters program going the right direction, with a national championship in 2016, and last season’s runner-up. New head coach, Tom Minnick, led his previous school, Arizona Western, to 10 straight bowl games, and they were the national runner up on three occasions.

Five additional teams were ranked in the top 20 in the NJCAA Coaches Poll plus the four publications (alphabetically): Blinn of Brenham, Texas, which is 585 miles from Carnie Smith Stadium; Butler, of El Dorado Springs, Kansas, 147 miles; Hutchinson, which is 213 miles away; Jones County, based in Ellisville, Mississippi, 642 miles away; and, Northwest Mississippi of Senetobia, Mississippi, 411 miles away.

The NJCAA Coaches Poll was released August 19 and the complete listing is available at http://njcaa.org/sports/fball/polls. Further details about the NJCAA Football Championship will be made available at http://njcaafootballchampionship.com.

# # #

Activities announced for Old Settlers Days in Arcadia

Posted on behalf of the Old Settlers Days planning committee

ARCADIA, Kan. – The annual Old Settlers Days in Arcadia is scheduled for Friday, September 13, and Saturday, September 14, and will include street dances, a parade, and more.

All events will be held on Race Street in downtown Arcadia.

Friday, September 13: 6:00 p.m. Dinner: Hot Dogs & Hamburgers; and, 8:00 p.m. Street Dance with live music by the Ridge Runners Band.

Saturday, September 14: 8:00 a.m. Parade Lineup; 9:00 a.m. Parade; 10:00 a.m. Baby contest; 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Bean Feed at Community Center; 1:00 p.m. Kids Tractor Pull; 1:30 p.m. Bounce house, Kids Train, and Dunk Tank; 2:30 p.m. Kids Games, Horseshoe Tournament, and Cornhole Tournament; 5:00 p.m.Bingo and Raffles (must be present to win); 5:00 p.m. Dinner: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, & BBQ; and, 8:00 p.m. Street Dance with music by the Ridge Runners Band. Grand prizes will be awarded during Saturday’s dance.

For more information call Bennie Rice at 620-215-0333, or Joyce Stephens, 620-638-4376.

# # #

Cherokee Fall Festival Homecoming schedule announced

Posted on behalf of the Cherokee Ruritan Club

CHEROKEE, Kan. – The 2019 Cherokee Fall Festival Homecoming is scheduled for the weekend of September 6-8 and will include Bingo, a Men’s Beauty Pageant, Parade, Dodge Ball, an Antique Tractor Pull, and a Home Run Derby.

Prize drawings throughout the weekend. Must be present to win. All scheduled events will be held in Downtown Cherokee unless noted otherwise.

Friday, September 6: 5:00 p.m. Car Cruise; 5:00 p.m. Bean Feed (Albert Pouch Park); 5:00 p.m. Ruritan Rock Painting (Albert Pouch Park); 5:30 p.m. Bingo (Albert Pouch Park); and, 6:00 p.m. Men’s Beauty Pageant (in front of American Legion).

Saturday, September 7: 9:00 a.m. 44th annual Car Show; 10:00 a.m. Ruritan Rock Hunt (13 & under); 11:00 a.m. Parade; After Parade – Legion Auxiliary Dinner (Senior Building); 11:30 a.m. Community games for all ages (Senior Building); After Games – Cake Walk; 1:30 p.m. Dodge Ball Game * (Southeast Junior High Gymnasium); and, 7:00 p.m. Live Band & Street Dance: Left of Center.

Sunday, September 8: 1:00 p.m. Antique Tractor Pull (Vine Street north of downtown); 1:30 p.m. Registration for Home Run Derby ** (Southeast High School Baseball Diamonds); and, 2:00 p.m. Home Run Derby ** (Southeast High School Baseball Diamonds).

Please note: Dodgeball will be played Last Team Standing, in two age groups: 6th through 8th grade; and, high school and adults.

Registration for the Home Run Derby is required, and pre-registration is preferred. $5 entry fee for 10 balls. Prizes for winners. Girls softball and boys baseball divisions, ages 6th through 8th grade; high school; adults. Sign up in advance at Cherokee City Hall, the Cherokee American Legion, Cherokee Ruritan Building, or at the event from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. No late registrations will be accepted.

# # #

3rd quarter exhibit at Miners Hall Museum: The War To End All Wars

Posted on behalf of Miners Hall Museum

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas is proud to announce the 2019 Third Quarterly Exhibit, “The War to End All Wars” opening July 1 and continuing through September 28, 2019.

The exhibit is hosted by Joe Maghe. Joseph Maghe was born and raised in Franklin, Kansas and was a 1974 graduate of KSCP (PSU). He has been retired since 2013 and spends his free time speaking on, studying, and researching military history with his emphasis being the Irish who fought in America’s Civil War.

This exhibit and programs will focus on the artifacts and stories of the men that served in in the militaries of the world from 1914 through 1918 and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles.

There will be special monthly programs during the quarter. We hope you will join us for these free and interesting programs:

  • July 14 – 2 p.m.: Harry S. Truman – WW1 Memories, presented by Kavan Stull. Mr. Stull will portray Harry Truman in his old WW1 uniform as he tells about his military service after his retirement from Public life.
  • August 25 – 2 p.m.: Uniforms and Equipments of the Imperial German Army 1914 -1918, presented by Barry Linduff. His presentation will be a detailed examination and explanation of artifacts from WW1 that were used by the German military.
  • September 22 -2 p.m.: Mighty Men of War: The Soldiers of Carthage in World War 1, be presented by Jeff Patrick. This presentation will focus on the experiences of Captain Ward Schrantz and his men from Jasper County, Mo and their experiences from training camp through one of the bloodiest battles of The Great War… The Argonne Forest of France.

For further information on our programs you can follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter or become a member of the museum.

If you have artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit and would like to donate or loan them for this exhibit or future display at the museum, please contact the museum to share this wonderful history.

The museum is open for viewing Monday through Saturday 10:00 am through 4:00 pm. Call 620-347-4220 to set up tours for large groups. Admission to the museum and the programs is free. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

# # #

Flooding at other parks increases attendance at Farlington’s Crawford State Park

FARLINGTON, Kan. – While flooding has wreaked havoc at several state parks throughout the region, Crawford Lake, locally known as Farlington Lake, does not have these issues.

“We don’t flood – we’re not a water control lake – our dam, when water runs in, it runs out – plus the hatchery takes quite a bit of water, so that basically keeps us at conservation pool (water storage) all summer long – so, we don’t flood,” Crawford State Park Manager Dave Goble said on Thursday.

Goble said one area that does occasionally flood visitors need to be aware of is along the emergency spillway at the north end of the lake.

“Even when water is running out the emergency spillway, you can go around the lake and still access all of the campgrounds, even at the highest water periods. It never gets too deep, but it gets slick. We have a sign that says ‘don’t cross by foot, bicycle, motorcycle’ and that’s usually the main concern. If the water is real deep there we try to get it closed.”

Last summer, visitors to the lake noticed that the lake was lower, and it was for a reason.

“We had drawn it down six feet to put our new boat ramp in, and it was a little bit dryer last summer,” Goble said. “I guess we’re getting that rain now.”

Campsites at Crawford State Park are typically full during summer weekends, but limitations at those other parks means they campsites are filling up even earlier than normal.

“Elk City, the recent rains just hit them again, and they’re 27 foot under water (as of Thursday). Toronto Fall River, also in our demographic area, they were just coming down and starting to get campsites open – boom – another big rain, and they’re back up and their very limited on what’s going on over there. Our neighbors to the north, Hillsdale, Pomona, Perry, are all in different stages of flooding, and all have some limits on their campgrounds or access. The parks are still open up north, but the waters are high.”

Goble explained that these parks are still open, they still have campers, but they don’t have as many sites available as they normally do. So campers who normally go to those locations are instead seeking other sites, like Crawford State Park.

“When I talk about us being full, the best time to camp ever is during the week. Everybody has jobs, everybody works, I get it. But, I’ll tell you what, because we’re close to everybody around here, if you can manage to get out here during the week, we have plenty of campsites available.”

Crawford State Park has no boating limitations, but one area they have seen an increase, is in paddle sports.

“If you can back the Queen Mary down our boat ramp, you can put it in there. Long story short, there’s no horsepower limits. The lake is 150 surface acre lake and that pretty well limits what can be out here. And what we’ve really seen lately is a big increase in paddle sports. We’ve noticed this trend for several years. But this summer, there are lots of kayakers, lots of people in canoes, in addition to our regular, normal power boats and recreational boats.”

Goble suggested those interested in paddle sports should be on the lake in the mornings, or use the south end of the lake on weekends. That helps keep them away from the water skiing and jet skiing on the main body of the lake.

“We have a new kayak launch over by the main boat ramp. I also recommend using our south boat ramp. The south end of the lake is entirely ‘no wake’ and it’s great for kayaking down there.”

The normal gate fee to get into Crawford State Park is $5 per vehicle, or no fee if you already have your annual vehicle permit/park passport.

Fees vary depending on the campsite. Primitive sites with no utilities for tents are $13 the first night, and $10 after that. 28 primitive sites are available. There are 73 utility sites with electric and water. Utility sites are, at the most, $24 per night.

Campsites can be reserved via ReserveAmerica.com or the Reserve America Camping mobile app – “RA Camping”. Photos of each campsite are available to help those with RV’s determine ideal locations. A dump station is also available.

# # #

Beach area to be focus of annual July 2 celebration at Crawford State Park

FARLINGTON, Kan. – An Old Fashioned Independence celebration will once again be held at Crawford State Park on July 2, but this year it will look a little different to those who have been before. The event goes on rain or shine, and since sitting in the rain or baking in the sun is never fun, Crawford State Park Manager Dave Goble said this year a few changes have been made to improve the experience.

“We’re moving over to the beach area with the live entertainment, and the cookout will be out of the shelter house this year,” Goble said. “Plus, we’ll have a large tent.”

The normal gate fee will apply – a $5 entry fee per vehicle or no fee if you already have your annual vehicle permit/park passport.

In addition to Lake View Café, the Friends of Crawford State Park will have a cookout based in the shelter house that overlooks the beach. A large tent will be put up for people to sit under and eat.

“The Friends group does a really nice cookout that helps pay for the fireworks – very good hamburgers and food of that nature,” Goble said. “It will be shaded and cool – we’re taking them out of the sun.”

Activities begin at 5 p.m. Performing later in the evening is Dan Duling and Stone Country, who will perform from a stage that will be set up by the beach shelter house.

# # #

Pitt State club team vies for World Series

Photos from the Great American South Regional Championship trophy presentation are courtesy of the NCBA.

PITTSBURG, Kan. – For the fifth year in a row, the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is bringing the National Club Baseball Association Division II World Series to Jaycee Ballpark. And, for the second year in a row, the Pittsburg State club team has a chance to win it all on their home turf

It was not an easy path back to the World Series for the Gorillas who play their first game on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Following last season’s national championship loss to San Diego State, Pittsburg State started this season as the #1 team in the preseason poll. After a 4-7 start to the season, Pitt State fell from the poll and it looked like a return to the World Series was unlikely.

Then, they got hot. An eight game winning streak to end the regular season earned them the at-large-bid for Regionals. Following a second round loss in the double-elimination Regional tournament, Pitt State’s back was against the wall.

That’s when St. Mary’s-Colgan graduate Simon Higginbotham took control. Over two days, Higginbotham threw every pitch in three consecutive wins – 297 pitches total. One of the games went into extra innings, so Higginbotham actually threw three complete games over 24 innings, allowing only three earned runs and four walks during that time.

“This group had to replace ten seniors as well as deal with having eight guys quit from the start of the fall,” said Drew Roy, the Pitt State Club President and player, and a Webb City graduate. “We’re battle tested and that’s a huge testament to the guys that are still around and want to be a part of something special.”

“The biggest difference (from being an NCAA team) is the time commitment,” Roy said. “A typical NCAA team puts in more hours than a full-time job on a weekly basis, while at the club level we ask our guys to make two out of three practices a week. What a lot of people out there don’t realize, is that this is still collegiate baseball and it’s played at a very high level.”

“Sitting in the bleachers and watching these young men play, there’s something almost inspring about it,” said Chris Wilson, of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “These students are not playing for scholarships, or to impress a scout to get to the next level. They’re proud to represent their school, they want to win it all, but, it’s also just another game out in the sun.”

The double-elimination tournament starts on Friday, May 17 at 10:00 a.m. and ends with the Championship Game on Tuesday, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. For more information on the tournament, call the Crawford County CVB at 620.231.1212, or visit https://div2.clubbaseball.org/worldseries/ for full tournament information.

About the teams

#1 seed – State University of New York at Binghamton University
Record: 12-0
Points For-Away: 114-35
Week 24 Poll: 4th
Conference: New England – Central
Nickname: Binghamton
Mascot: Bearcats
Enrollment: 17,727
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 1,218 miles
First game: Friday at 7 p.m. versus Pittsburg State University
Twitter: @bubaseballclub

#2 – U.S. Air Force Academy
Record: 11-1
Points For-Away: 210-75
Week 24 Poll: 1st
Conference: Rocky Lone Star – Central
Nickname: Air Force
Mascot: Falcons
Enrollment: 4,237 cadets
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 659 miles
First game: Friday at 4 p.m. versus CMU-Montebello
Twitter: @AFClubBaseball

#3 – University of Maryland
Record: 12-3
Points For-Away: 177-81
Week 24 Poll: 3rd
Conference: Chesapeake – Central
Nickname: Maryland DII
Mascot: Terps
Enrollment: 40,521
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 1,120 miles
First game: Friday at 1 p.m. versus West Virginia
Twitter: @MDClubBaseball2

#4 – University of Wisconsin
Record: 10-2
Points For-Away: 164-62
Week 24 Poll: 2nd
Conference: Northern Plains – Central
Nickname: Wisconsin DII
Mascot: Badgers
Enrollment: 43,820
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark:
First game: Friday at 10 a.m. versus Georgia Southern
Twitter: @ClubBaseballUW

#5 – Georgia Southern University
Record: 10-2
Points For-Away: 145-91
Week 24 Poll: 6th
Conference: Dixie – Central
Nickname: Georgia Southern
Mascot: Eagles
Enrollment: 20,517
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 972 miles
First game: Friday at 10 a.m. versus Wisconsin
Twitter: @CBaseball_GSU

#6 – West Virginia University
Record: 12-3
Points For-Away: 185-108
Week 24 Poll: 5th
Conference: New Penn – South
Nickname: West Virginia
Mascot: Mountaineers
Enrollment: 28,776
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 927 miles
First game: Friday at 1 p.m. versus Maryland
Twitter: @WVUClubBaseball

#7 – California Miramar University – Montebello
Record: 12-3
Points For-Away: 197-117
Week 24 Poll: 9th
Conference: Pacific – Central
Nickname: CMU-Montebello
Mascot: Fighting Falcons
Enrollment: n/a
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 1,543 miles
First game: Friday 4 p.m. versus Air Force
Twitter: n/a

#8 – Pittsburg State University
Record: 9-3
Points For-Away: 187-125
Week 24 Poll: 7th
Conference: Great American – South
Nickname: Pitt State
Mascot: Gorillas
Enrollment: 6,907
Distance from Jaycee Ballpark: 2.9 miles
First game: Friday 7 p.m. versus Binghamton
Twitter: @PSUClubBaseball

Pitt State Roster

President:  #9 Drew Roy – JR – LF/2B – Webb City (MO) HS
Vice President: #24 Luten Warrick – JR – P – Frontenac (KS) HS
Captain: #11 Simon Higginbotham – SO – C – St. Mary’s Colgan (KS) HS
Associate Captain: #5 Levi Kemp – SO – CF – Independence (KS) HS
Treasurer: #3 Kealin Smith – 5SR – P – Joplin (MO) HS
Secretary: #7 Peyton Brown – FR – OF/C/2B – Frontenac (KS)

#23 Jordan Miller – 5SR – 1B/3B/P – Bishop Carrol (KS) HS
#3 Kealin Smith – 5SR – P – Joplin (MO) HS
#21 John Barrows – SR – OF/P – Frontenac (KS) HS
#13 Bailey Gardner – SR – P/IF – Spring Hill (KS) HS
#6 Johnny Maturino – SR – SS/2B – Joplin (MO) HS
#19 Sam Grant – JR – P/1B/RF – Rose Hill (KS) HS
#4 Colan Snodgrass – SO – 1B – Independence (KS) HS
#16 Ryan Long – SO – P/UT – Frontenac (KS) HS
#52 Dominic Piccini – SO – OF – St. Mary’s Colgan (KS) HS
#10 Garrett VanBecelaere – SO – 2B/SS – St. Mary’s Colgan (KS) HS
#8 Cal Bloomfield – FR – 3B/P – Independence (KS) HS
#17 Dawson Fenix – FR – C/OF – Carl Junction (MO) HS
#15 Cordell Bass – FR – P – Columbus (KS) HS

# # #

Travel generates $10 billion in Kansas

This is National Travel & Tourism Week, a celebration of a growing sector in the Kansas economy. In Kansas, travel is a $10 billion industry, sustaining more than 94,000 jobs across the state – with 2,000 leisure/hospitality jobs in Crawford County alone.

“Tourism plays an extremely important role in the Crawford County economy,” said Devin Gorman, executive director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “With over 100,000 hotel night stays in 2018, our local restaurants, attractions, retail stores and many other businesses depend heavily on visitor spending. National Tourism Week is the perfect time to say thank you to all those individuals and businesses that help make visitors feel welcomed and appreciated.”

For many, travel through Southeast Kansas is about heritage tourism. They think of Big Brutus and the areas coal mining and immigration heritage. For others, it has become a recreation destination, with opportunities to have fun like Kansas Crossing Casino, or fishing or kayaking at any of the numerous public wildlife areas like Crawford State Park.

But Crawford County is also a sports destination. Whether it’s indoor track meets at the Plaster Center, club baseball’s World Series at Jaycee Ballpark (May 17-21), or the junior college national football championship (December 5), sporting events frequently bring in thousands of visitors in a single day.

The CVB said it’s also easy to overlook the numerous annual street fairs and festivals held throughout the county, including upcoming events in Mulberry (May 24-26) and Frontenac (June 6-9). These foster hometown pride and are excuses for travelers to stop and learn about our communities, and potentially spend a little money while visiting.

“Travel matters,” Gorman said. “It provides jobs and entertainment, and defines community.”

# # #

CVB keeps close eye on Regionals as World Series approaches

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Thirty-two teams from across the country are still fighting for their chance to earn a slot in the 2019 NCBA Division II World Series, which will be hosted at Jaycee Ballpark in Pittsburg for the fifth consecutive year. The Regional Playoffs are taking place May 3-5 throughout the country and the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is keeping a close eye on those results.

“Last season’s World Series run by the Pittsburg State club team helped generate a lot of local interest, and Jaycee Ballpark was electric during the championship game,” said Devin Gorman of the Crawford County CVB. “It was an exciting game that ended with San Diego State winning, but the quality of play throughout the tournament caught the attention of local baseball fans.”

The Pittsburg State club started 2019 with a 4-7 record, making their return to post-season play a challenge. An eight game winning streak helped them to a 14-8 record, and they earned the at-large bid to their regional playoff.

“These clubs are operated by the student-athletes, with no scholarships and little support from their institutions,” Gorman said. “They play to represent their school and to be national champions, yes, but also for the love of the game. We are proud to welcome these dedicated student-athletes from across the country to Crawford County and look forward to watching them compete.”

Eight regionals will be held May 3-5 throughout the country, with four teams competing in each, in a double-elimination playoff. The Pittsburg State club team will play in the Great American Regional Playoff at O’Fallon, Missouri, from May 3-5. The other three clubs participating are the Great American Central Conference Champion, Creighton University; the Great American East Conference Champion, University of Dayton; and, the Great American South Conference Champion, Oklahoma State University.

Results of the regional playoffs can be monitored at https://div2.clubbaseball.org/regionalplayoffs/

# # #

Foundation honoring #9 Dylan Meier to celebrate 9th 5K run

Get Busy Livin’ announces its 9th Annual 5K Run, Friendship Walk and Kids Fest to begin at 8:30 am on May 11, 2019 at Hutchinson Field, Pittsburg, Kansas. Details for runner sign ups can be found at our website http://www.getbusylivin.org

Each year we select a slogan to reflect upon throughout the year. This year’s quote is “may you stay forever young” a song written by Bob Dylan as a tribute to his son; and it exemplified our commitment to family and loved ones. Please read this lyrical gem at our web page.

Additionally, what a great honor it is to introduce this year’s honorary starter Merle Clark. Coach Clark had a 12 year head coaching career leading PHS during Dylan’s football experience when they were back to back state champ runners up. Coach Clark was born and raised in the PHS and Pitt State traditions and was a great mentor to Dylan. Please read more about Merle at our web page and come out to help him count down the start to our 5k race.

The GBL also proudly announces its continued funding of grants relating to Youth Volunteerism. The following 9 grant recipients will receive matching funds to complete the following activities.

  • “Wildcat Volunteer Leadership Day” sponsored by the Wildcat Extension District will provide a unique opportunity for SEK youth to receive hands on experience and learn how to organize and lead local volunteer efforts.
  • “SEK Track and Field Day” sponsored by the Special Olympics of Kansas will support local volunteers and athletes at their annual event at PSU.
  • “Kids Care Sewing Camp” sponsored by KSU Extension Office will teach basic sewing skills to local youth with participants creating cage comforters for the humane society.
  • “Book Box Program” sponsored by the Northeast 8th Grade will build and maintain a book exchange box in Arma.
  • “Kids Night Out and Family Night at the Pool” sponsored by Fostering Connections will provide two community events for foster and adoptive children and families to enjoy this summer.
  • “Erie High School SEK Special Olympics” sponsored by the Erie High School Leadership group will assist with their local Special Olympics track and field event.
  • “Cystic Fibrosis Penny War Collection” sponsored by the Northeast 4th Grade will be a fund raising event to support the various cystic fibrosis causes.
  • “Junior Humane Society Animal Enrichment Activities” sponsored by the SEK Humane Society will support a youth instructive program to teach children how to properly care for our loved cat and dog pets.
  • “Trash Pickup at the Fair” sponsored by Boy Scouts from Labette County. The scouts will pick up trash and recyclables at the fair each night.

Additionally, the GBL wishes to announce our annual scholarship winners. This year’s 9 winners were selected from numerous applications submitted by well qualified students from our Crawford County High Schools. Each individual represents having a unique value of personal motivation with “no self-limitations”. They illustrate strong academic achievements, extracurricular participation, giving to others, leading by example and are role models among their peers.

This year’s winners are:

Amanda Becker, Southeast High School
Tejay Cleland, Northeast High School
Kreed Curran, Girard High School
Caroline McKnight, Frontenac High School
Madison Nagel, Pittsburg High School
Morgan Noe, Pittsburg High School
Katelyn Radell, St. Mary’s Colgan
Rachel Ruiz, Pittsburg High School
Cecelia Stockard, St. Mary’s Colgan

Several of these individuals will also serve as our GBL representatives to a high school volunteer abroad program. Our students will travel abroad this summer with other high schooler’s completing volunteer tasks in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

Finally, our two football related scholarship awards go to captain and defensive back Joel Kafka, as the recipient of the Pittsburg High School Purple Dragon’s Senior Award; and to the Kpreps Dylan Meier Get Busy Livin’, Kansas Player of the Year award recipient, defensive lineman Jace Frieson from Basehor Linwood High School. (See http://www.kpreps.com site for further information about Jace).

The GBL gratefully thanks all our Friends and Sponsors who have generously contributed to our Programs and Foundation activities.

# # #

Live music on the lake returns to Crawford State Park

FARLINGTON, Kan. – Live music returns to Crawford State Park each Friday beginning May 17. Musicians perform at 6 p.m. at Lake View Cafe, either from the patio or from the deck overlooking the lake.

Performers for the 2019: May 17 – Johnnie Zibert Polka Band with Gerald Azember; May 24 – Jason Richison and Kinley Rice; May 31 – Todd East; June 7 – Dan Duling and Shana Lynette; June 14 – Dust Devil Choir with John Duling; June 21 – B.J. Pruitt; June 28 – Allen Ross; July 5 – Johnnie Zibert Polka Band with Gerald Azember; July 12 – Dan Duling and Shana Lynette; July 19 – Jason Richison and Kinley Rice; July 26 – Todd East; August 2 – Shane Duling; August 9 – Stone Cutter Union with John Duling; August 16 – Jeff Simpson; August 23 – Allen Ross; August 30 – Jeff Culver; September 6 – Todd East; September 13 – Jeff Simpson; September 20 – Jeff Culver; and, September 27 – All Aboard Jam Session.

This will be the second year for the live music on the lake series hosted by the Friends of Crawford State Park.

To monitor changes to this schedule and to learn about other events in the area, visit CrawfordCountyEvents.com

Miners Hall Museum’s quarterly exhibit “spins a yarn”

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas is proud to announce the 2019 Second Quarterly Exhibit, “Spinning a Yarn & Weaving a Tale” opening April 1 and continuing through June 28, 2019. The exhibit is hosted by Jean Jack. Jean obtained a BSED with a major in Art Education from PSU. She has worked in the fiber arts, including weaving, spinning and dyeing, and related areas. Since 1979 she has been teaching classes for Girl Scouts, 4H and fiber guilds.

This exhibit will showcase portable looms with examples of projects woven on each one. On display will be samples of loom-woven items from a multi-harness floor loom. The exhibit will also include spinning fibers and yarns, spinning and weaving tools, and equipment and baskets.

There will be special monthly programs during the quarter. We hope you will join us for these free and interesting programs. Programs held each month include Weaving on Portable Looms presented by Sue Horner and Jean Jack on April 28; Basket Weaving presented by Jean Jack on May 19 and Spinning presented by Colleen Brooks on June 9. For further information on our programs you can follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter or become a member of the museum.

If you have artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit and would like to donate or loan them for this exhibit or future display at the museum, please contact the museum to share this wonderful history.

The museum is open for viewing Monday through Saturday 10:00 am through 4:00 pm. Call 620-347-4220 to set up tours for large groups. Admission to the museum and the programs is free. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

Monthly Programs

Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m.: “Weaving on Portable Looms”, presented by Sue Horner and Jean Jack. They will be demonstrating techniques you might not have considered, using a variety of materials, weaving simple projects for any age or ability.

Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m.: “Basket Weaving”, presented by Jean Jack, who will demonstrate making a melon basket using imported reed. We will also display other materials to use, such as vines and cat tails, etc. along with historical information.

Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m.: “Spinning”, presented by Colleen Brooks, will include a demonstration and a discussion of fiber preparation, plying yarns together, dyeing, and uses for finished products, e.g. knitted products. Colleen will be using raw materials such as locally obtained alpaca and mail order wool.

# # #

New indoor Track & Field youth meet to be held January 12

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A new event is coming to the Robert W. Plaster Center on Saturday, January 12. The Missouri Valley Border War Championship is open to all youths who participate in track and field. Even though it’s the first time the event will be held, it is expected to bring in 250 to 300 competitors. Locals are invited as well.

“All are eligible and welcome to participate,” said Dion Lewis, Youth Chair of the USA Track & Field Missouri Valley Association. “This meet in not age specific, it is open to all youth, open, and master level athletes. Athlete from any state can participate. Athletes can be unattached or with a track club.”

Mr. Lewis said the idea for the Border War came up during last year’s 2018 USATF Regional Championships, and Pittsburg’s indoor facility provided an ideal location.

“Pitt State University has a great venue and is prime central location for most of the athletes who will be participating,” Lewis said. “We’ve hosted track meets at PSU in the past and we look forward to hosting many more in the future.”

“It’s always a great time to stay active and compete against the best of the best, sharpening your skills as the outdoor season quickly approaches,” Lewis said. “Track and Field is the fundamental to all sports, therefore; competing will help athletes with speed/agility during off season competition for other sports.”

“There are a lot of appealing things to track and field. For one, it is the foundation of all athletic components (i.e. running, jumping, and throwing). Secondly, track and field has something for everyone. With the right attitude, anyone can excel in track and field. Lastly, track and field offers the most athletic scholarship opportunity. There are many other appealing factors but these are just a few.”

Registration is due Thursday, January 10 and is $24 for three (3) events, including relays. To register, visit http://mv.usatf.org/, and click on “Missouri Valley Border War Championships” in the list of Upcoming Events.

# # #

Miners Hall Museum celebrates Frontenac

Media release from Miners Hall Museum

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Miners Hall Museum has announced its 2019 First Quarter Exhibit, “Little Balkans Coal Camps – Celebrate Frontenac”. Opening January 2nd and continuing through March 30, 2019, the exhibit is hosted by Frontenac Homecoming, Inc., and highlights the mining history of Frontenac.

In conjunction with this special quarterly exhibit that features artifacts donated by area families, each month there will also be a free special presentation.

On Sunday, January 20 at 2 p.m., Seth Nutt of Frontenac Heritage Hall will present “Frontenac, A Town of Immigrants”. The coal town of Frontenac sprung to life in 1886 with the hard work of immigrants who came to America from all over Europe in search of a better life.  Many became miners, railroaders, and local business owners.  As the town continued to grow, churches, fraternal organizations, and the educational system began to take shape.  Come witness the photographic history and stories of Frontenac come to life. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.

On Sunday February 17 at 2 p.m., Debbie Restivo will present “Americanization through Education”. As immigrants poured into Frontenac, bringing the customs and traditions from their native lands, schools were a way to bring citizens together as Americans.  Children gathered together each day to learn and celebrate their success, while adults gathered to prepare for naturalization.  Although citizens came from around the world, and had many differences, the school united the town and still does so today. So much so, the towns citizens still celebrate the ethnic heritage of Frontenac each year with Festa Italiana. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.

And, on March 10 at 2 p.m., Seth Nutt of Frontenac Heritage Hall will present “The Taste of Frontenac”. The aroma of Italian sausage cooking mixed with hints of simmering garlic and tomato sauce awaiting their partnering with the rigid rigatoni as you walk into the infamous Palluccas. The smell of fresh baked bread just out of the Vacca Bakery oven. These are the smells that every Frontenac native has grown up with. Palluccas Grocery and Butcher Shop founded in 1909, and the Vacca Bakery in 1900, are two Frontenac staples that are still in operation today. Come learn more about these two Frontenac businesses and maybe you will just get a taste of your own. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.

If you have artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit and would like to donate or loan them for this exhibit or future display at the museum, please contact the museum to share this wonderful history.

The museum is located at 701 South Broadway in Franklin, and is open for viewing Monday through Saturday 10:00 am through 4:00 pm. Admission to the museum and programs are free. Donations are accepted and appreciated. Call the museum at (620) 347-4220 to set up tours for large groups or for other information.

For more information about Miners Hall Museum programs, follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter, or become a member of the museum.

# # #

Albers Marine Annual Outdoor Show

This annual Outdoors show features boating, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation, and is usually held the weekend prior to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Dates: TBA
Saturday’s schedule: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday’s schedule: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Events and Exhibits Include:

  • Indoor Exhibition floor including new boats, RV’s, ATV’s and vendor booths
  • Tracker Marine Bass Pro Fishing Seminar on the Auditorium stage
  • Kids casting contest Saturday 10am – 2pm on the Auditorium stage
  • Fishing tackle, scuba gear, pet supplies, taxidermy, guns, ammo, and archery
  • Food, snacks, crafts, freezer food and more!

Indoor Track & Field Championships

Winters are a busy time at the Robert W. Plaster Center, the home of several league, regional, and national indoor track and field championships, including junior college (NJCAA), NAIA, NCAA, as well as youth meets.

Get a crash course in what it’s like to set up for the indoor meets. Eat and shop in Downtown Pittsburg. If you’d rather stay on campus, check out this Pittsburg State University cheat sheet.

Pumpkin Patches

Crawford County has three pumpkin patches open through October, each offering something different for visitors.

Ol Yale Farms

Ol Yale Farms

306 S 250TH, Pittsburg, KS 66762
(620) 235-0664
Includes a kid-friendly “playground for giants”, Tire Mountain & zip line. Local artisans frequently do demonstrations.
Read More
Widmar Garden Produce

Widmar Garden Produce

107 W 2nd St, Franklin, KS 66735
(620) 762-2857
Pumpkins of all sizes and shapes, gourds, hay bales and mums. Open sunrise to sunset through Halloween.
Read More