The sculpture paying tribute to the area’s rich agricultural past will be officially dedicated in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday. The “Breaking the Prairie Sod” memorial is located in the park at K-96 and 10th Street on the west end of Great Bend.
Master of ceremonies Mark Calcara will introduce guests, dignitaries and committee members as well as the keynote speaker Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale A. Rodman. The event is open to the public.
“I’m glad that Great Bend is recognizing our strong, agricultural traditions in Kansas,” Rodman said. “Agriculture is the foundation of Great Bend and other towns across the Kansas prairie.”
Today, Rodman said, agriculture remains Kansas’ largest industry, producing 2.7 billion in exports a year. “I hope this statue will serve as a symbol of our deep agricultural roots and remind us how far we’ve come, from horses and plows to 499 horsepower tractors.”
“How fitting we have a tribute to those early pioneers who broke the sod,” said Dan Bonine, memorial committee chairman. “The strength and growth of our community has a lot to do with those settlers.”
According to Bonine, long-time local historian Ray S. (Jiggs) Schulz shared his idea for constructing a sculpture as a tribute to early agriculture in this area. Jiggs was raised on a farm in Stafford County and had fond memories of his youth.
So, a committee was chosen and members included Bonine, Robert Leroy, Dale Oliver, Herman Fischer Jr., Robert Parrish, Clark Rusco and Jon Briel. December marks two years since the idea was planted.
The metal sculpture was designed and installed by B&B Metal Artworks (Bruce and Brent Bitter) of Hoisington. It was put in place in early October.
Those early families endured sparse accommodations, nature’s harsh challenges, and breaking the tough grassy sod so it could be tilled for crop production, Bonine said. “Some lost everything, including their lives; some gave up for an easier life elsewhere. The work honors the ones who stayed, endured, and hung on as tough as the prairie sod.”
“Looking into the future, I’m confident Kansas will continue to break new sod as a global leader in agriculture,” Rodman said.