Who is the Catfish Capital?
Burlington or Chetopa? We’re breaking down these Southeast Kansas towns’ long-running catfish-catching rivalry
“My God, it’s gone!”
Fifty-one years ago, Burlington’s beloved Catfish Capital of the World trophy had been stolen on Mayor Charles S. Foster’s watch, and he wasn’t happy. According to a December 1966 article in the city newspaper The Daily Republican, “The mayor could see no reason that this Christmas season, when the hearts of all are filled with love and good will, that anyone would stoop to such a dastardly deed as stealing.”
Mayor Foster might not have understood it, but he surely thought he knew who was responsible for it: Chetopa. The battle between the two towns to decide which was the rightful Catfish Capital of the World had been raging for most of 1966, and now with the mysterious disappearance of that trophy, … Read More »
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 »
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 »
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 »