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Come Visit Kansas - The Sunflower State
My Home Town, Wichita, Kansas
My Home Town
Whenever people hear the state I am from, I am almost always met with surprise. "You live in Kansas? But why?" Or, "So how is Oz?" "How are Dorothy and Toto?" Once even, "Do you guys still travel by covered wagon?" I always have to take a step back and take a deep breath before I answer.
Why Do I Live Here?
Why do I live in Kansas? To me there is not a more beautiful state to be in. When the song says “amber waves of grain” I know the songwriter had been to Kansas. Anyone that has seen a Kansas wheat field right before or at harvest time has seen those amber waves. I love the color of the wheat just before it ripens – there are no words to describe that color – no crayon in the box can match it. Not even pictures give the color justice. The color is an almost green-gold - that color cannot be captured...it is just too beautiful for man or machine to recreate.The color is almost a golden-green. There is just a hint of green as it is turning to the golden amber color. The ends of the wheat stalks are tinged with that green, making the golden color sparkle and shine. Seniors in high school and couples getting married want their pictures taken in the wheat fields on those few days that the wheat is that awesome color. As I said, though, the pictures do not do that color justice. That is only one of the reasons I love my state.
Kansas State Fair
If you want to know and see the best of Kansas there are two times to visit. One is in September, during the state fair in Hutchinson. At the fair, as with any state fair in our great country, you can see a variety of the things that make Kansas what it is. There are samples of every crop that you could imagine growing, along with any animal that may be used in any capacity on a farm. Horses, rabbits, chickens, pigs and goats all share barns with different colored ribbons hanging from most enclosures. There are men and women who share their special skills – from milking, baking and vegetable growing, to horseback riding and herd dogs going through all of their “tricks.”
There are also a variety of businesses showcased at the fair. You can find tractor dealers on the same aisle as people hawking a variety of aircraft. Schools and colleges also show what they have to offer, as do many of the service industries. There are several buildings filled with baked goods, soaps, lotions, candles, make-up and cooking products. If you want the latest appliances for your kitchen or barn, you will find it at the fair.
And don’t forget the carnival rides! There is the Ferris wheel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the train and the tram. There are rides for toddlers and teenagers and every age in between and above. On those warm days of the end of summer, you can also enjoy the water rides. For a unique experience found only at the Kansas State Fair, try the Old Mill ride – a trip through a winding river with all kinds of surprises.
Wichita River Festival
Another time to visit the state of Kansas is the first week of June. That is time for the “Party on the Prairie,” also known as the Wichita River Festival. The River Fest, as it is commonly known, started in the 1970’s. It has gone on every year since that beginning so many years ago. Just recently the celebration has moved from its original month of May to the beginning of June. This move was made in part due to the weather in Kansas during May and partly to accommodate school children.
The River Fest is just one big party that lasts nine days. It showcases many of the museums and other attractions in Wichita. For the price of a button - this year a reasonable five dollars - you can get into many of these places.
One place that you should visit is Cowtown. Cowtown is a recreation of Wichita in the 1800’s during the cattle drive days. People dressed in period clothing give tours of homes, businesses, schools and churches that made Wichita what it is today. There are also animals that were used at that time. School tours can visit the one room school house and have lessons taught from that time period. You need to be careful walking down main street – you never know when a gun fight will break out. Don’t forget to visit the saloon to wet your whistle and watch the dance hall girls perform.
Not far from Cowtown is Botanica. Botanica is an oasis in the middle of a busy city. There are many varieties of plants and flowers to admire on paths around the park. If you are lucky, you can visit the butterfly hut and have butterflies land on you as you walk through. It is a beautiful place to go if you are interested in plants and flowers. It’s also a cool place to come to get out of the heat of the day.
Not downtown, but a part of the River Fest nonetheless, is the award winning Sedgwick County Zoo. The zoo is on many hundreds of acres on the west side of town. It features lions, tigers, and bears…as well as a variety of animals from all around the world. Newer exhibits include the funny penguins and the ferocious tigers. One of my favorites parts of the zoo is the North American Exhibit that features black bears, buffalo, bald eagles and the ever popular prairie dogs. My grandson enjoys the gorillas and the lions. He is thrilled that he can see “Simba, Timon and Pumba” from the Lion King.
After visiting these attractions, you can go back downtown and enjoy the dances, food and fireworks that are always a part of the River Fest. As the name suggests, many of the activities take place in and around the river. This year there were even two zip lines to make your travel across the Arkansas river a little quicker.
Many of the activities surround Century II, a unique building that holds a convention center and theaters for community theater as well as national touring shows. This building is unique because of its shape. It has been called the "UFO" building by many for years. The building is round with a blue roof that really stands out. At night, the lights are reminiscent of pictures of Hollywood spaceships.
I Love My State
Of course, there are many more reasons to love the state of Kansas. The people are some of the nicest and kindest people you will ever meet. You see that in the aftermath of tornadoes when whole communities come together to help one another. You see it in the the way that communities decide to help one family that has been affected by illness, house fires, or other disasters. You see it in the way that communities come together to help out charities. You see it in the way individuals decide to come together to help a local cause.
Kansas is a wonderful state to live in. We have everything from very rural towns with less than a thousand people to big metro cities that have many thousands of people and everything in between. People can decide to live out in the middle of nowhere in peace and quiet or in a bustling metropolis that has everything anyone would need.
I love my state!