Fall 2019: Beautifully Orchestrated

Raúl Munguia likens his job to that of a magician. When the spotlight is hot, a paying audience is in their seats and his wand is primed and ready, it’s time for a show.
“It’s the job of the conductor to manage the magic on stage,” said Munguia, the Music Director and Conductor of the Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State University. “My wand is the silent instrument.”
Munguia is now in his seventh year as an associate professor of music and the symphony conductor at PSU, and there’s actually been no trickery involved in the way he has built the program, just a lot of hard work, relationship building and nurturing of talent.
“I was hired to energize (the symphony),” he explained. “Music is totally different than teaching a regular class. It goes well beyond the classroom. It’s about collaboration and bringing the best out of the students.”

Magnolia Blossom Inn

Jenny Sands Revitz Soper always wanted to live in a big house.
That was pretty much the entire premise for the adventure she has undertaken in the last year.
It began in July 2018, during a visit to Independence to clear out the home of her late parents, Bud and Millie Sands. The home had recently sold and there was “stuff” to be dealt with. Maybe it was the nostalgia of that task or perhaps the recollection of fond memories of the community where she lived as a child that caused her to begin percolating a plan. She needed a way to bridge her lifelong house dream with her current reality as a practicing attorney in West Los Angeles.
“I decided I wanted to retire, but I wasn’t retirement age,” Jenny said. “So, I thought, ‘Let’s start a B&B. That way, we can have an excuse for buying a big house.’”
Why not?

Summer 2019: “Polka Party” Sneak Peek!

Polka Party
Polka tradition lives on through Johnnie Zibert Band & Big Brutus’ Polka Fest

Photo courtesy of The Morning Sun (Marcus Clem)

On a late summer evening each year, Johnnie Joe Zibert lugs his 30-pound accordion beneath the towering shadow of Big Brutus – and he puts on a show.

His fingers flying, Johnnie plays dozens of tunes on the accordion, watching as old folks and kids alike dance to the music across Big Brutus’ pavilion floor. Others can’t help but clap and sing along.

He plays a little bit of everything – country, rock ‘n roll, slow songs – but he’s best known for his polka, the same music his dad famously played across Southeast Kansas for 75 years. And for Big Brutus’ annual Polka Fest, this summer to celebrate its 29th anniversary, there’s no better group to run the show than the Johnnie Zibert Band.

“Polka Fest is a tradition in Southeast Kansas, and I’m really proud to be able to carry on that tradition,” Johnnie says. “I feel honored…”

Want to keep reading about polka in Southeast Kansas? Check out the summer issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Summer 2018: ‘Welcome to The Lavender Patch’ Sneak Peek!

Welcome to The Lavender Patch
Fort Scott family farm features 1,000+ lavender plants

When you enter Davin and Betsy Reichard’s home, you can’t miss it: that familiar, unmistakable scent of lavender.

Photo courtesy of The Lavender Patch Farm

It’s inevitable. The Reichards are surrounded by lavender, from the hundreds of lavender plants that are blooming just outside their front door to the dozens of homemade lavender products they make in their home each week.

That’s just everyday life (“I don’t even smell it anymore,” Betsy says) as the Reichards run The Lavender Patch Farm in Fort Scott. Their small family operation centers on just over 1,000 lavender plants, plus a gift shop filled with Betsy’s lavender creations…

Want to keep reading about The Lavender Patch Farm? Check out the summer issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Summer 2018: ‘Summit Hill Gardens’ Sneak Peek!

Fall in Love at Summit Hill Gardens

There’s just something about Summit Hill. It captivated Patsy Smeed from the very beginning.

Photo courtesy of Hope’s Perspective Photography

She moved there – one acre of land south of Chanute, the site of an old one-room schoolhouse – more than 40 years ago with her late husband Larry, an artist and professor. All these years later, she still hasn’t left.

“I just fell in love with Summit Hill,” she says. “It’s been a lot of great therapy for me.”

Since her arrival, Patsy has slowly expanded her land from one acre to 65 acres. The sprawling property is much more than her home or the location of a historic schoolhouse: It’s also the site of her business, Summit Hill Gardens, which offers a soap shop (all products Patsy makes herself) and wedding venue/event center in partnership with her sister-in-law Gretchen Brant.

No matter what brings people to Summit Hill Gardens, they often leave captivated by the place – just like Patsy.

“We want people to feel that this is a very peaceful part of the world,” Patsy says. “Just a little bit of Eden.”

Want to keep reading about Summit Hill Gardens? Check out the summer issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Spring 2018: ‘Shaw’s Story’ Sneak Peek!

Shaw’s Story
Galesburg innovator’s legacy lives on in Southeast Kansas – and across the country

Everyone who knew him says Stanley Wilbur Shaw was an inventor by nature.

Photo courtesy of Galesburg Historical Society and Museum

At age 8, in the late 1880s, he assembled his first bicycle, using the wheels from his dad’s cultivator (come corn plowing time, he later wrote, he had to return those wheels). By 10, he had made a crude clock and was repairing farm equipment and guns. A few years later, as a young teenager, he built his first engine.

It’s no surprise, then, that Stanley would go on to make inventing his life’s work, finding success making small engines that converted bicycles to motorbikes in the early 1900s. He would later make automobiles and vastly popular small tractors and garden equipment, like the Shaw Du-All and Peppy Pal tractors. Stanley’s company, Shaw Manufacturing, was located in Galesburg, bringing national recognition to his small Neosho County hometown.

In 1962, 59 years after it was established, Shaw Manufacturing was sold to Bush Hog. But Stanley’s ingenuity lives on at the Galesburg Historical Museum, where several pieces of his equipment are always on display. This summer, the SEK Old Time Gas Engine & Tractor Club will feature Shaw equipment at its annual show in Pittsburg, with a corresponding Shaw display at the Crawford County Historical Museum.

These exhibits honor the work of a hometown innovator who, according to an old Galesburg pamphlet, was “a rare combination of good common sense, good business judgment and high-class mechanical skill, which is seldom found in one man…”

Want to keep reading about Stanley Shaw, Shaw Manufacturing and Galesburg? Check out the spring issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Winter 2017: “Art is Ageless” Sneak Peek!

Art is Ageless
Art competition for seniors emphasizes creativity and encouragement

Aggie Keesling, 89, has taken up painting just in the last several years. She’s teaching herself, experimenting with colors, learning from trial and error. She even paints over old canvases multiple times so she doesn’t have to drive to town to buy more. 

“I paint quite a bit, especially in the wintertime because it’s so quiet out here,” says Aggie, who lives in Farlington. “When I have nothing to do, I’ll sit and paint. It gives me so much enjoyment, I wonder where the hours have gone.”

This year, for the first time, Aggie submitted her artwork to a contest: Art is Ageless, hosted by Fort Scott Presbyterian Village. She selected two of her paintings to enter into one category – and, much to her shock, she took home first and second place.

“A friend got me involved,” Aggie says. “I told her no way would I ever take my paintings up there, but she finally convinced me. I was really surprised and just thrilled to death to get second, and to get first – I’m real pleased.”

Aggie’s story is the epitome of Art is Ageless…

Want to keep reading about Art is Ageless? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Spring 2016: “Glorious Glass” Sneak Peek!

Glorious Glass
ChaGlaz Designs in Glass wows with one-of-a-kind glasswork

ChaGlaz Designs in Glass in Parsons produces artistic glass pieces, including handmade marbles.

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 Designs in Glass? Check out the spring issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Winter 2015: “Barn Quilts” Sneak Peek!

Barn Quilts
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.

This is one of hundreds of barn quilts sprinkled around Yates Center, hand-painted by a group of locals.

This is one of hundreds of barn quilts sprinkled around Yates Center, all hand-painted by a group of locals.

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 fundraiser and tribute to the WCHS…

Want to keep reading about the Woodson County Barn Quilt Project? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.

Winter 2014: “Fab Lab ICC” sneak peek!

Fab Lab ICC
Turning ideas into creative solutions, one project at a time

Of all things, Wes Koschke needed to make a hand. And a fully functional one, at that – for 13-year-old Kara Marr, who was born with a condition called symbrachydactyly, leaving her right palm with no fingers.

Photo courtesy of Fab Lab ICC

Photo courtesy of Fab Lab ICC

Koschke didn’t have $42,000 to purchase Marr, the daughter of a family friend, a prosthetic hand – and he also didn’t have access to a 3-D printer (going rate: $3,000) to print his own.

The solution? Enter Fab Lab ICC, a new creative space on the Independence Community College campus that provides access to cutting-edge tools for design, experimentation and problem-solving, both for students and members of the community and region.

Its mission statement: “to realize that anyone, anywhere can make (almost) anything.” No one knows that better now than Koschke…

Want to keep reading about Fab Lab ICC? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.