Little House, Big Story
Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s former home near Independence
In its seven open months each year, the Little House on the Prairie Museum welcomes 20,000 visitors.
Some are locals. Many are families. A good number are “bonnetheads” – superfans of author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her “Little House on the Prairie” series – who travel there from hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Regardless of who they are and where they come from, they all pay a visit to that simple plot of prairie 13 miles southwest of Independence just to get a glimpse of where Laura and her family lived in a one-room log cabin in 1870.
“Every season, we get visitors from every state and about 20 different countries,” says Kristin Schodorf, executive director for the Little House on the Prairie Museum, which is one of a small handful of … Read More »
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 »
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 »
It’s the perfect time of year to discover this state park and its ancient forest
According to park manager Kim Jones, if you’re looking for fall foliage in Southeast Kansas, Cross Timbers State Park near Toronto “is the place to be.”
Of course, Cross Timbers is the place to be for a lot of reasons. Not only does it impress with its natural beauty, but the park is also home to popular hunting and fishing, free water recreation, cozy cabin accommodations, and, get this: an ancient forest of post and blackjack oaks, its trees dating from as far back as 1727.
According to the University of Arkansas, the Cross Timbers region “may be the least disturbed forest ecosystem that survives in the eastern United States.”
“There’s just a little finger of the Cross Timbers here in Kansas, and I think we resemble the … Read More »
Galena’s Schermerhorn Park stands out in Southeast Kansas
Of the 11 designated geologic areas in Kansas, the Ozark Plateau is the smallest.
But don’t let size fool you.
Nestled in the extreme corner of Southeast Kansas, the impressive 55-square-mile region is one of the most biologically and geographically diverse in the state, housing landscapes and wildlife not found anywhere else in Kansas. And there’s no better proof of that distinctiveness than in Galena’s historic Schermerhorn Park…
Want to keep reading about the Little Ozarks and Schermerhorn Park? 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.
Hidden ‘castle’ keeps ghost town’s colorful history alive
You might expect an old 1800s community, one with a history of just five short years, to be relegated to not much more than a fable – nothing to prove its existence other than memories and a few stories passed down through the generations.
But Kalida? This short-lived yet historic Woodson County ghost town has much more to show for itself. In fact, if you travel along the small dirt roads just outside of county seat Yates Center, you might happen upon the impressive remains of Kalida yourself – including the town’s very own 120-year-old castle…
Want to keep reading about Kalida and its castle? 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 … Read More »