By Jim Misunas
LEAVENWORTH — Larned’s Doerr-Vernon Park received a Spotlight Award at the recent Kansas Sampler Foundation at Leavenworth. There were more than 150 tourism booths that were eligible for the annual award.
Larned was part of the 22nd annual Kansas Sampler Festival at May 7-8. More than 7,500 people attended the 2-day event in Ray Miller Park to visit with the festival participants and find out what there is to see and do in Kansas. Larned’s booth featured displays from the local attractions as well as showcasing the community as a whole hoping to encourage people to come to Larned.
Attending from Pawnee County were volunteers Vicki Gillett, Donna Stejskal, Allison Stejskal and Tom Seltman, who were presented a $100 award in behalf of the Larned Pride Committee. They took turns staffing the booth and visitied with people who were interested in the Larned community.
Gillett said Donna Stejskal prepared photos that were displayed on a poster board illustrating the renovation work at Doerr-Vernon Park.
“Winning the award was a testament to Donna Stejstal for her fabulous pictures,” Gillett said. “We were recognized in front of the whole crowd. The women who choose the winner looked at every tourism booth.”
Sally Frame and her daugther, Anne (Frame) Hertzog present the Spotlight Award in memory of longtime Kansas Explorers Jim Mathes and Fred Burgess of Kinsley. Mathes and Burgess were California television executives who moved to Kansas in 1985. Burgess was general manager of KVCR-FM/TV in San Bernardino, Calif. Mathes was a producer and executive at KCET in Los Angeles.
Sally Frame planted an oak tree from a seedling that Burgess gave her and she never forgot it. Burgess and Mathes established a greenhouse for orchids and an aviary and opened a restaurant, Prairie Oak Farms that was home to local cultural events. They entertained and prepared gourmet meals. They taught cooking classes in the 20-foot by 30-foot kitchen and gave tours of their greenhouses filled with orchids and the aviary filled with tropical birds.
A tornado that passed through Greensburg destroyed the Edwards County farm near Trousdale in 2007. Burgess served as economic development director for Edwards County after the tornado destroyed the property.
Debbie Call, Burgess’s niece, supervised the salvage of some of the French antiques. A crew of about 100 volunteers from Youthville of Dodge City and Newton picked up the rubble of the 100-year-old barn. Burgess donated kitchen countertops and cupboards to the Methodist Church of Trousdale.
The Kansas Sampler Festival is designed to bring communities and attractions from all over the state together to make it easy for the public to discover day trip possibilities. In other words, the primary purpose of the festival is to provide the public a sample of what there is to see and do in Kansas.
Hiking trails, historic sites, natural landmarks, unique restaurants, off-the-beaten track eateries, architectural gems, hole-in-wall performing centers, artists-at-work, specialty shops and Kansas festivals are featured.
In 1990, Mil and Marci Penner had a book signing party for their first Kansas guidebook, Kansas Weekend Guide. They invited people from places profiled in the book to inspire travel throughout Kansas. A 1,000 people came to the farm on a cold November day. The event developed into the Kansas Sampler Festival in 1991, which was held until 1997 on the Penner farm near Inman. The Festival became a project of the newly formed Kansas Sampler Foundation in 1993.
The festival went on the road starting in 1998 to expose more people to the festival exhibitors. Pratt was chosen to host the event in 1998 and 1999 in a bidding process.