Thrive Allen County makes big strides for Southeast Kansas
You don’t have to search hard to see the impact Thrive Allen County has had in Iola.
There’s the new Allen County Regional Hospital, the soon-to-be-constructed grocery store in the heart of town, the bike sharrows painted in the streets. There’s the 7-plus-mile trail system on the south edge of the city, the Happy Tails Dog Park, and even the less-visible projects – like a pilot program to help public housing residents quit using tobacco to comply with new federal requirements.
Thrive Allen County either initiated or had a hand in every one of those projects – and they’re really just the tip of the iceberg…
Want to keep reading about Thrive Allen County? Check out the spring issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much … Read More »
Dine & Dream
Traditional B&B meets reservation-only fine dining at the Smittle House
Ena Smittle likes to say that she has the most fun job she could possibly have in Columbus, Kansas.
You can’t argue with that.
At Smittle House Bed & Breakfast, Ena and her husband, John, have entertained guests from France to Costa Rica to just down the street. Some visitors come for a relaxing overnight getaway. Others come to eat one of John and Ena’s famous reservation-only, six-course dinners. One thing’s always the same, though: John and Ena make sure their guests leave happy.
“Who else in Columbus is getting to entertain these incredible people from all over the world?” John says. “There’s nothing else we could be doing that our lives would ever cross paths with them. It’s amazing…”
Want to keep reading about Smittle House Bed & Breakfast? Check out the … Read More »
Iola attracts multiple candy companies over the years, including Sifers Valomilk
Next time you spot Valomilk, that vintage chocolate-coated treat with a runny marshmallow center, make sure you thank Iola.
Valomilk’s creator, Sifers Candy Company, originated in Iola and was based there for several decades before moving its entire operation to Kansas City. It is one of a handful of candy manufacturers that have called Iola home since the late 1800s – including one of the country’s four Russell Stover factories, which is still based there today.
“You know candy was profitable here when three different men came to town before Sifers and all made big, big money from it,” says Donna Houser, volunteer with the Allen County Historical Society…
Want to keep reading about Iola’s candy history? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story … Read More »
Hickory Creek Farms
Pumpkin patch provides family fun on the farm in McCune
Ruth Zimmerman unfurls a map on the floor of her family’s farmhouse kitchen. On it is a hand-drawn, intricate design of twists and turns, dreamt up by her son Will. It’s the basis for this year’s corn maze at Hickory Creek Farms – and it just might be the farm’s most challenging maze to date.
“Originally, we went into doing designs, but we realized we can make it a lot more complicated if we just go out and put random paths in the field,” says Steve Zimmerman, fifth-generation farmer and husband to Ruth. “Our son has done it the last two years, and he does a good job; last year we had people say it was pretty difficult!”
The corn maze is indeed a popular feature of Hickory Creek Farms – … Read More »
Made by Hand
Elk Falls Pottery celebrates 40 years of craftsmanship
It was in college that Steve and Jane Fry fell in love with pottery – and with each other. They haven’t looked back since.
This year, the Frys celebrate 40 years of running their family business, Elk Falls Pottery, a huge attraction in tiny Elk Falls. (They’re also celebrating 42 years of marriage.) While many of their peers consider retirement, Steve and Jane are staying as busy as ever: Just a few months ago, in fact, they moved Elk Falls Pottery to a new, larger, more scenic (and historic) location at the corner of Hwy. 160 and Seventh Street.
“People my age are thinking about retiring and finally doing what they really want to do,” says Steve, who just turned 64. “Well, I’m already doing what I really want to do. And I’ll … Read More »
Down-Home Dinner Theater
Chicken-N-Pickin’ serves up food and fun with family at the forefront
Spend one afternoon at Chicken-N-Pickin’ outside of Walnut, and you’ll experience a lot of knee-slapping, toe-tapping, dancing, finger-licking and comments like: “That’s the best fried chicken I’ve had in ages.”
Folks just can’t get enough of this down-home dinner theater, which always features an old-fashioned fried chicken dinner with all the fixins’, plus two hours of live music and comedy. Visitors come by the bus load – from Topeka, Kansas City, Wichita, Springfield – and by the time they leave they’re hooked, hailing Chicken-N-Pickin’ as “comparable to a Branson, Mo., experience – absent the crowds, traffic congestion, long drive and high prices.”
Karen Duling-Zitsch is the woman behind it all: acting as hostess, chef and country music entertainer. She comes by it honestly…
Want to keep reading about Chicken-N-Pickin’? Check … Read More »
Safari in SEK
Monkeys, kangaroos, bears, wolves, lions: Find it all at Safari Zoological Park in Caney
Mary Wyrick presses up to the side of the cage, bucket of raw meat in hand. The zoo employee points to her cheek, and Kojo greets her with a sloppy, wet kiss through the fence. The grizzly bear, 800 pounds, receives a hunk of meat for his affection.
Nope, this isn’t your typical zoo. Far from it.
At Safari Zoological Park in Caney, owner Tom Harvey has created an environment where visitors can view animals up close and personally, while tour guides like Mary direct and educate along the way. It’s a system, Tom says, that’s kept Safari Zoological Park in business in small-town Kansas for 27 years….
Want to keep reading about Safari Zoological Park in Caney? Check out the summer issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out … Read More »
Hunt, fish, explore, or kick back and relax at Timber Hills Lake Ranch
When you cross the gate into the ranch with one of the largest hunting preserves in the state of Kansas, it’s like entering another world.
A world where trophy elk and deer roam free. Where Civil War-era structures still stand. Where the views will take your breath away.
“We are the only place in Kansas that offers what we offer,” Aaron Gibson says. “There’s nowhere else like us.”
He’s talking about Timber Hills Lake Ranch in Mapleton, located around 20 miles northwest of Fort Scott and currently in its ninth year in operation. One of more than 100 hunting lodges in the state – including several premier locations in Southeast Kansas – Timber Hills sets itself apart from the pack, Gibson says, by offering adventure alongside its first-class hunting and … Read More »
ChaGlaz Designs in Glass wows with one-of-a-kind glasswork
Keith Wilson examines three handmade marbles in his Parsons garage-turned-art studio, twirling them in his hand as their colors and sparkly dichroic glass catch the light.
“These are absolutely one of a kind,” he says. “I’ll never be able to replicate them; I can’t even tell you how I got the design. These three – they’re never for sale.”
They’re the kinds of rare pieces you get when you’re in the studio as much as Keith and his wife, Charlean, are. The retired husband-and-wife duo run ChaGlaz Designs in Glass in Parsons, a hobby-based business that practices all five disciplines of a full glass studio: warm glass, hot glass, torch work, cold work and recycled glass.
“We are probably the only studio of our kind in Southeast Kansas,” Keith says…
Want to keep reading about ChaGlaz … Read More »
They’re popping up all across SEK these days, thanks to a fundraiser in Woodson County
Woodson County might be one of the newest members of the Flint Hills Barn Quilt Trail, but you wouldn’t guess it.
Just a year after it launched, the Woodson County Barn Quilt Trail boasts more than 100 hand-painted wooden quilt squares displayed on homes, on barns, throughout downtown Yates Center and all across the area. They’re the handiwork of a dedicated group of Yates Centerans who aspired to do or create something to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Woodson County Historical Society – but they wanted that something to be “more lasting than a dinner for members or a commemorative mug.”
What they came up with – the Woodson County Barn Quilt Project – turned out to be much more than a successful … Read More »