Polka tradition lives on through Johnnie Zibert Band & Big Brutus’ Polka Fest
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 … Read More »
Independence celebrates its own Miss Able, who blazed the trail for human space travel when she was launched to space 60 years ago
Mickey Mantle made history in 1949 when he hit his first professional home run at Independence’s Shulthis Stadium. His ball soared over the stadium wall, ultimately landing on nearby Monkey Island at Ralph Mitchell Zoo – or, at least, local legend tells the story that way.
Whether Mickey’s ball really did reach the zoo’s monkeys or not, Monkey Island would produce some big history of its own just a handful of years later with the birth of rhesus monkey Miss Able. The 7-pound primate would go on to become the first successful American astronaut, flying to space and returning home with squirrel monkey Miss Baker in May of 1959. Together, these two tiny pioneers blazed the trail for … Read More »
Fried Chicken ParadiseFried chicken has been famous in Crawford County for decades. Here’s why.
Photo courtesy of Chicken Annie’s Original
In the wee hours of a cold January morning, Donna Lipoglav stood over a fryer at Chicken Annie’s, cooking up some – you guessed it – chicken. A KOAM/Fox14 anchor was on his way to visit Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, and he wanted to bring the governor something that epitomized Southeast Kansas.
Fried chicken it was.
“He called, and I got here at 7 in the morning and fried him some chicken,” Donna says. “It was pretty cool.”
After all, there’s not much that’s more legendary in Southeast Kansas than its tender, juicy, crispy-coated fried chicken. The delicious tradition began 85 years ago with Annie Pichler, Donna’s grandmother and Chicken Annie’s namesake, who began serving food out of her home north of Pittsburg after her … Read More »
Off the Beaten PathBike culture grows as SEK promotes cycling
Photo courtesy of Randy Rasa
Randy Rasa has found a new hobby: dropping by the trailhead for the Lehigh Portland Trails just to peek at the cars in the parking lot. Their license plates hail from all over – from every county in the area and from surrounding states. Think Missouri, Texas and California. Their diversity, Randy says, is indicative of a trend happening in Allen County. A surging bike culture is taking root, thanks to several first-class trails, a new bike shop and a novel bike share programB. And it’s not just Allen County. There are communities of cyclists all across Southeast Kansas, and they’re coming together more often these days. PedalSEK is convening area cyclists for 12 rides in 12 months in 12 Southeast Kansas counties, and the new ABC … Read More »
The Lord’s Diner
Free meals served to the hungry in Pittsburg, 365 days a year, no exceptions
From night to night, The Lord’s Diner never looks the same. The food is always different. The guests, too. Even the volunteers are constantly rotating.
The important stuff, though? That will never change.
Three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, no exceptions, The Lord’s Diner provides dinner to hungry guests in Pittsburg – for free. Operating under the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, which also manages two permanent Lord’s Diner locations and several mobile food trucks in Wichita, The Lord’s Diner serves an average of 150 people in Pittsburg every single night.
The ultimate goal, according to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, is “to combat hunger in the community” by serving “a nutritious meal with dignity and respect to anyone who is hungry.”
In Pittsburg, in a nondescript building at the corner of … Read More »
A Bolder Humboldt
Group dreams big and gets to work in Humboldt
In a town of fewer than 2,000 people, there’s a revolution happening. The proof is found on the downtown square.
An abandoned building, formerly a jewelry store, has been transformed into a luxury candy shop with shiny marble floors and Parisian accents; upstairs, a modern Airbnb is available for rent. Next door, a new restaurant is opening its doors in another once-decrepit building, its mouth-watering menu creating a buzz in town. Around the corner, a mercantile offers upscale coffee drinks and curated boutique gifts.
Also in the works? A brewery. A renovated hotel. A makerspace.
Welcome to a new Humboldt – or, as one group is calling itself, A Bolder Humboldt…
Want to keep reading about A Bolder Humboldt? Check out the winter issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in … Read More »
SEK ghost town comes to life in a big way during annual Fall Tour
It’s been more than 60 years since the one-room Cato School conducted official classroom business. But come one weekend each fall, when more than 600 students descend upon the ghost town of Cato, that tiny historic school and its community come back to life in a big way.
Teachers gather students for turn-of-the-century math and reading lessons. A horse-drawn stagecoach wanders near. Kids play traditional pioneer games outside the schoolhouse windows.
It all happens at Cato’s annual Fall Tour, this year set for the first weekend in November. The event highlights the history of Cato and offers several historical reenactments, music, refreshments, informational booths, tours and more…
Want to keep reading about Cato and its annual Fall Tour? Check out the fall issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It … Read More »
Rural By Choice
Schenker Family Farms and McCune Farm to Market invest in SEK – while serving customers around the world
It was 2008. Cherie Schenker logged on to Craigslist, a relatively new website at the time, to advertise a quarter of Schenker Family Farms’ grass-fed beef to local consumers.
It didn’t work.
“Somehow, it ended up going on the Craigslist in Orange County, California,” she says with a laugh. “But then – someone called.”
And someone else called. Then someone else. Quickly, Cherie and her husband, Kevin, realized: There’s a huge market for this.
“We needed a website and we needed to figure out how to ship this stuff,” Cherie says. “Necessity is the mother of invention … and we just kind of got propelled into it from there.”
Where they’ve landed 10 years later is one of the largest direct-marketing livestock operations in the state … Read More »
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.
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 … Read More »
Fall in Love at Summit Hill Gardens
There’s just something about Summit Hill. It captivated Patsy Smeed from the very beginning.
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 … Read More »