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Jon de Vos: Wonder of wondrous Kansas wonders

Jon de Vos
Friday Report

Brace yourself for a hoe down.

The State of Kansas turns 147 years old next week. I hope you took the time to vote in the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s contest to choose the Eight Wonders of Kansas from among 24 would-be wonders. The winners will be announced by the Governor from the capitol steps on Jan. 29, 2008 ” Kansas Day.

If you know anything about Kansas and the people who live there, you’ll know that they make an excellent lemonade, taking life’s lemons and turning them to their own advantage. Take Big Brutus, for instance. What do you do with the world’s second largest steam shovel looming over your rusting community, after the coal runs out? Pack and move? Not in Kansas. In Kansas you slap a coat of paint on it and charge eight bucks a head. Brutus is a true wonder whose bucket scooped three train cars full of coal at a time. Standing next to it makes you feel like the little R2D2 robot in Star Wars.

Colorado attractions often include the words “majestic” and “grandeur.” Kansas attractions vary between “different” and “downright odd.” I love Kansas, but no one in the entire English-speaking world would hesitate to couple the word “peculiar” with the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. located in Cawker, Kan. Wound tightly by tightly-wound locals, the Ball weighed in last May at a hefty 18,032 pounds. Look for the lemonade stand next to it.

Greensburg, Kan. is home to the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well. The municipal well, dug in 1887, is 32-feet wide and 109-feet deep well, cased with two-feet thick, native stone walls. You can’t go to the bottom right now. Last May’s tornado filled it with debris. Probably cows and such.

My favorite of all the potential Wonders was the Family-Style Chicken Dinner at the Brookville Hotel. Well, it ain’t the Colossus of Rhodes but for Kansas, it’s darn good eatin’.

Other contenders are the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, located in Abilene, Kan.; the Arikaree Breaks is a notable canyon in Cheyenne County; the Chase County Courthouse located in Cottonwood Falls is a finalist just because it “looks French”; The Kansas Wetlands Complex of Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge stand together as one entry; The Cimarron National Grassland; Constitution Hall; the Davis Memorial; the John Steuart Curry Murals; the Fort Larned National Historic Site; the Garden of Eden; the Gyp Hills Scenic Drive; the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center; the Kansas Underground Salt Museum; the Keeper of the Plains; the Lake Scott State Park; Monument Rocks and Castle Rock; the Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site; St. Fidelis Cathedral of the Plains; and lastly, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church. More details on each of these can be had at http://www.8wonders.org/

Just think, eight of these contestants will be crowned The Eight Wonders of Kansas. I’m sure it was tough narrowing the field down to 24 wannabee Wonders from all that Kansas has to offer. Just look at some of the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Oakley, Kan., named after sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, is home to the World’s Largest Concrete Prairie Dog. No, incidentally, none of these places are made-up and there’s so many of them, how could they possibly choose a mere eight? How could they exclude the World’s Largest Salt Deposit in Hutchinson, or the museum of losing presidential candidates, the Gallery of Also-Rans in Norton? Medicine Lodge, Kan. is the home of temperance crusader, Carrie Nation, herself a World-Class Wonder. At 4,039 feet elevation, Mount Sunflower is the tallest point in all of Kansas.

From its summit, one can almost see the Barbed Wire Museum In LaCrosse.

Dorothy’s Yellow Brick Road is located in Liberal, whereas the World’s Longest Yellow Brick Road is located just outside the Emmet Kelly museum in Sedan. Who overlooked the World’s Largest Outdoor Concrete Free Municipal Swimming pool in Garden City? The geographical center of the U.S.? There’s the Central Kansas Flywheels Museum in Salina, the Chalk Pyramids, Rock City, the Greyhound Hall of Fame and so many other Wonders one wonders how they’ll ever narrow it down to eight.

Happy Birthday, Kansas.


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