Friday, October 30, 2009

The best reward

In every community I visit I always make a point of stopping and looking at murals that I see painted on the sides of buildings. As a tourism promoter, my job is to get people to come to town, not just pass through it, but stop and stay a while. So it wasn't a big stretch to see the opportunity for murals in downtown McPherson. There is no shortage of big blank walls downtown and we are fortunate enough to have a mural painting class at Central Christian College. I love when the opportunity to use a local resource to create something that is not only a draw for tourists but something that can improve the quality of life of the residents comes up. It's the best reward of my job.
Keep your eyes peeled for a new downtown mural next summer. If you own a building and would like to participate in our mural program, give me a call at 620-241-3340.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It takes a village to promote a village

I’ve been diligently trying to get my house ready to sell, fixing all the little things that I’ve ignored since we moved in. My four-year-old Jake, with the best intentions, decided to help me out by peeling the wallpaper on the stairway last week. While I’m sure Jake’s heart was in the right place, he wasn’t all that helpful, especially since peeling the wallpaper was not on my fix-up list.

As we sought out volunteers to cover the McPherson booth for 10 days at the State Fair in Hutchinson (check out Kelsey and Jo from KBBE, just two of our volunteers), I came across that same helpful spirit in many members of our community. It got me thinking how it really does take a village to promote a village.

Many of the events I attend to promote McPherson require the cooperation of many businesses and individuals. Here’s just a few examples:

· Holiday group tour planner in Oklahoma: Graber’s Ace Hardware loaned us Christmas lights and a Christmas village lighthouse, Cook’s Nook loaned us painted snowman plates, mugs and bowls, The Bookshelf let us use brass courthouse ornaments to decorate our tree and Artshirt had some great KU and K-State snowmen to set out.

· Great Bend Women’s Expo: The list is long here as we tried to pamper the ladies at this event and entice them to come to Mac for a ladies day out trip. Cook’s Nook gift basket for a door prize, Integrity Salon, Java John’s, Courtyard on Main, Rural Rooster, Stone Chimney, Brushes N Bling, Sassy Bags, The Cake Lady and Creative Hairlines.

What is great about businesses helping the CVB with donations is that we are able to distribute information for them to a group they might otherwise be unable to reach.

There are plenty of opportunities in the near future to partner with the CVB on events. The trolley holiday lights tours are coming up in December. We plan to have public tours on Thursdays starting from the Opera House again this year, but we’d also like to add another night during the week for tours since they sold out so quickly last year. If your business, group, church or school would like to host one of these tours and provide refreshments and possibly entertainment, let me know. We plan to continue our movies in the park next summer. If you’d like to sponsor a movie, give me a call. If you have an idea of your own for a community event – be it entertainment or sports-related, I’m always open to new ideas.

Remember, no man is an island, and if he was, good luck promoting it without a little help from the natives.

Become a fan of Visit McPherson on Facebook --

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Overheard at the State Fair

We like our volunteers to write down comments from the people that stop by the booth at the State Fair. Here's a few of them and some commentary.

Compliment McPherson on being progressive Thank You!

McPherson is a nice town

Miss the The Button Hole

Chamber needs better signage directing visitors to downtown from the interstate. Actually, the CVB put up signs just this year directing visitors to several local attractions from the east and west entry points of town.

Miss the The Button Hole. We heard this a bunch!

Like Krehbiels Meat

Love McPherson – great community

Love the Italian restaurant by the bowling alley

Miss The Button Hole – pretty town Go Pups!

McPherson – Clean town and friendly people

The Scottish Festival is too much money and it doesn’t change. Heartily disagree. There are many ways to volunteer and get free tickets and every year they add something new!

It would be nice to open & make safe the underground town like the Opera House. This is interesting. I wonder where the tunnels are?

RV Park is expensive. ?

Is Trolley wheelchair accessible YES

Miss The Button Hole

Best give-away table. Thanks for noticing! We gave away frisbees, hand fans, pens, pads of paper and 2010 calendars.

A lot of interest in the Opera House. Grand opening is the end of Jan. 2010.

Need info on Central Christian College as well as Mac College.

Are they done with the Opera House?

There are no holes in Calendars to hang on the wall. This one cracks me up! Use a thumb tack!

Lots and lots of questions whether or not we will get another quilt shop. I've not heard anything.

Many disappointments about The Button Hole closing!

Surprised McPherson has a Trolley! Holiday light tours 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 Tues. and Thurs. nights Dec. 1-22.

Excited about The Well and all it will offer. I saw Pastor Neufeld-Dunn hanging flyers for a performance there later this month. Can't wait to see what all goes on in this new business.

Drove down from Manhattan to go to the fair. Signed up for Scottish Festival & said “you always have good things going on in McPherson.” :)

Couple from K. City. Stayed all night in McPherson last night at Best Western & heard trains all night !!!! Don't they have trains in KC?

Does McPherson have an RV Park? Showed him on a map. Said that would be a good place to camp.

Many nice compliments on the City of McPherson

One said housing was too high in McPherson would have liked to live there but couldn’t afford it.

Hated to see the quilt shop close

Love McPherson CVB Really? Thanks!

Loves the Opera House! Wants to attend Grand Opening

Water Park Flyers? Didn't think to send any since it's closed for the year.

Love McPherson’s Backdrop (in the booth)

You guys have a great diner Neighbor’s Café has the best cinnamon rolls in the world. I totally agree!!

Excited about Haunted Forest. Making a trip to visit the Deli, Cooks Nook & Stone Chimney.

Enjoyed the Opera House

Is $1 off Festival coupon just good at gate or also for advanced ticketing? Just the gate.

From Derby – McPherson is a great place! Knows MAC football player & brother minister in town.

Used to have the best fabric store ever

Were we called the “Light Capital”? In the 60’s . . . . had most street lights in town. Yes, we were known as the Light Capital because downtown lights could be seen on interstate.

2 women from Great Bend are now planning to attend Scottish Festival & stay 2 nights based on the brochures. Excellent!

Thanks for the calendar & welcome book!

Sad to see The Button Hole close Wow, someone really needs to open another quilt shop!!

Info for Central Christian College? We had McPherson College information because they volunteered to work three shifts in the booth. It wasn't a deliberate oversight. We'll bring some next year.

Is it a Scottish town? The fourth weekend of every Sept. it sure is.

You have to have a ticket for the Scottish Festival?

Terrible that The Button Hole went out of business.

Need bags for all the give a ways! They were under the table ;).

Great Calendars!

Several People wanted to know dates & times for Trolley rides.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Some interesting stats about McPherson

I don't know about you, but I find statistics very interesting. The Institute for Policy & Social Research has just released the 43rd edition of the Kansas Statistical Abstract.
Here's some facts about McPherson County
McPherson Count population in 2000 was 29,554.
It dropped by 510 to 29,044 in 2008.
Population is projected to grow to 30, 592 by 2020.
There are approximately 604K acres of land in McPherson County and 93.7% of that land is farmland.
McPherson County (212,105) is second only to Reno County (232,736) in the total number of acres of wheat harvested (and that's just because there are 200k more acres of land in Reno County). Kansas exported over $1B in wheat and products in 2007.

So, who cares? Statistics are fun but they are also easily manipulated. Some newspapers might proclaim population in McPherson County to be plummeting. For the purposes of tourism, I can see in what areas McPherson stands out. The fact that we are tops in wheat production gives me ideas for marketing.
The full abstract is at if you'd like to look at it further. Take from it what you will. It's a fascinating read.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sour grapes lead to sweet ideas

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been a little grumpy at work lately. All my grousing to anyone within earshot was beginning to sound like sour grapes.

Then it dawned on me that I was approaching my 6-month mark at work and would be able to officially take my first vacation day. Thoughts of escaping for a long weekend with my sweetie perked me up considerably.

At Charlie’s suggestion we drove to the Missouri wine country and visited the wineries in and around Hermann, Mo. One of the funny things about being in the tourism business is even when you’re on vacation, you’re gathering ideas and thinking of ways to incorporate them into your job.

Here’s a few ideas that resulted from my vacation:

· Hermann had a staffed visitors center open – on a Saturday. We could really use a visitors center and a much more visible CVB office here in McPherson.

· When we ventured into St. Charles for dinner on Saturday night we were able to go to the historic downtown area and have dinner after 9 p.m. While this was a predominantly tourist retail area, it was still bustling with activity long after the shops closed.

· On our way home, we stopped at the Bourgeois Winery near Rocheport, Mo. This little town was full of unique stores and antique shops. I’m told its recent revival is largely thanks to the Katy Trail that runs along the Missouri River. Since returning home, I spoke with a representative of the Central Kansas Conservancy that is part of the Rails to Trails movement. Some exciting developments in connecting the trail from Marion to Herington are underway. Hopefully the stretch of the trail connecting McPherson to Lindsborg will be traversable soon and can help bring more visitors to town.

· The Stone Hill Winery in Hermann hosts a grape stomp competition every year, drawing in visitors from as far away as, well, McPherson, Kan. While the McPherson Main Street, McPherson Museum and Chamber of Commerce put on many events in McPherson, and volunteers coordinate our two biggest events – All Schools Day and the Scottish Festival – maybe businesses could host their own events. How about a Krehbiel’s/Cook’s Nook grilling competition? An Orscheln’s/Tractor Supply Co./Prairieland Partners harvest festival? A Neighbors Café cinnamon roll contest?

One other epiphany I had while sitting on the deck overlooking the Missouri River, nibbling cheese and sipping wine is that Catawba grapes make the best wine, according to my palette. No sour grapes on this little trip!

Ideas don’t go far if they’re just left on paper so it’s time to get back to work for me. Become a fan of Visit McPherson on Facebook and let me know your ideas!


4 Family Reunion, 11 rooms, Best Western

10-13 Wedding, 8 rooms, Best Western

16 HydroChem, 21 rooms, Best Western

17 KS Claims Association, 39 rooms, Best Western

17 Cenex, 60 rooms, Best Western

18-19 American Legion Auxiliary, 20 rooms, Best Western

18-20 Wedding, 30 rooms, Holiday Inn Express

22-24 KS Animal Control, 19 rooms, Best Western

25-27 Scottish Festival, 19 rooms, Best Western

25-27 Turlach UR Pipe Band, 12 rooms, Holiday Inn Express

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Community Building

I recently had a man stop by my office and ask me what the vision for McPherson is. By the pleased look on his face I could tell he felt he stumped me.
The problem with such an open-ended question as that is there are as many visions for the future of McPherson as there are people in McPherson.
Mr. X went on to tell me his vision for the community building -- he'd like to see a large post office/arena/office space.
Truth be told my vision for the future of the CVB has much to do with the future of the community building.
It's no secret the latest budget session left the city commission looking for areas to cut and one place it looked was the community building. The two part-time staff members were cut with one going to work for the park department and the other retiring. The building is now "closed" but is still available for rent.
Earlier this year, the commission looked at using a half-percent sales tax to raise money to renovate the community building. Then the Opera House line-jumped and got the half-percent sales tax to complete the auditorium and the commission pulled the community building question off the ballot. I'm tickled pink the Opera House has found the funds to finish its renovation, but I hope no one forgets about the community building which has an interesting history of its own.
I've been churning over ideas in my head about ways to use the building and the one I keep coming back to is for it to be a visitors center.
I've stopped at the visitors center in Lawrence which is in a rehabilitated train station. The LVC has a large room that is available for rental for meetings and other functions in one end and visitor center with information from all across Kansas in the other end. The building is beautiful and the grounds around it are gorgeous.
The community building in McPherson serves an important function as a place for the annual Community Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners. The annual book sales, train shows and plant sales are all held there plus many more community events.
I would love to see the basketball court area used as a visitor center and Globe Refiners Museum and the auditorium turned into space that could be rented for public functions or basketball games. If my offices were located there I could pursue bringing in home and garden shows, family movie nights during the winter, and a variety of other activities geared at bringing visitors to town as well as improve the quality of life for McPherson residents.
There does not appear to be any immediate plans to tear down the building or renovate it so I think I will continue to let my plans churn over in my head, dropping suggestions, seeking input. Send me yours at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Courting the sporty

Heads in beds. That is the criteria the CVB uses to judge whether an event is something we want to promote. It's kind of self-serving since we get our funds from the transient guest tax charged to hotel guests.
One area I think we've neglected is all of the sporting events that go on in McPherson. Already I know of at least three large tournaments that have come to McPherson this summer. I suspect there are a great many more out there.
What does the CVB have to do with sports you might wonder. Here's a few of the ways we can help:
· Marketing Grants – If your event is open to the public and brings overnight guests to town, you could qualify for a marketing matching grant from the CVB. The Mid America Classic girls basketball tournament has received funds to help pay for programs in the past. An easy-to-follow fillable grant application is available on our Web site or a paper copy can be picked up at our offices at 306 N. Main St. Please contact me for more information if you are interested.
· Information dissemination – The CVB can let stores and restaurants know if a large group is coming to town to help them better prepare and staff for the event. This advance notice helps McPherson businesses put their best foot forward.
· Welcome bags – The CVB has bags with community information, coupons and giveaways to help welcome teams to town. Information on local attractions, shopping and dining options let visitors take advantage of the recreation opportunities in McPherson.

If you are an organizer of a sport tournament or competition I'd like to hear from you about your event and how the CVB can help. Call me at 620-241-3340.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Ding ding

To say every job comes with its challenges is not an inaccurate statement. Even in my job promoting McPherson, which is the best job I've ever had, I have days where I wonder "What next?"

One of the particular challenges of my job is managing our trolley. You gotta love the trolley. It's green and red and festive. It turns heads going down the street. You feel like you're stepping back in history about 80 years when you get on board. It's more fun than riding a school bus. It goes "ding-ding" when you pull the cord.
The bigger the vehicle, I've discovered, the more problems crop up. Right out of the shoot, my second week on the job, the battery died. That wouldn't have been a big deal but the door to get into the trolley runs off the battery and the keys to open the battery compartment were locked inside. Thankfully Gerry Tillett at the street dept. lent me some help to crawl around underneath the trolley and connect jumper cables the hard way. The street guys have saved my butt on a number of occasions with the trolley.
Then there was the driver's seat saga which began way before I took the job. We had to have it swapped out at least three times so far this year. I couldn't get the manufacturer to believe me the new seat belt did not fit in the old seat belt receptacle until I videotaped it and put it on Youtube for them to see. They finally sent the right part, paid our expenses and we rolled on down the road.
One ongoing challenge I have with the trolley is parking it by the Opera House to load for our tours. The curb along the south side of the Opera House is a bus loading zone. It's marked with two signs but people still park there. We're looking into better signage and marking but please keep in mind the police will ticket you if you park there. We like to pull right up to the curb because some of our riders have a little trouble getting around and we want to make it easier and safer for them.
This last week was a particularly busy week for the trolley. We had four private rentals booked, two public tours and shuttle service Friday night for Shop the Night Away. Our driver tells me more than 200 people rode the trolley Friday night.
Our trolley wouldn't get far without all of its drivers. Jeannie and John Werner, Ralph Barringer, Sam Stuckey and Jerry Fithian take great care of her. We also have a wonderful group of volunteer tour guides -- Virginia Luty, Bev Nye, Verla Thomasen, Phillipa Read, Trevor Wilson, Judy Carson, Veryl Leach and a few others I'm sorry I've forgotten. Even my predescessor Judy Casey fills in in a pinch. All of these drivers and volunteers are coordinated by Pam Jumonville, my ace assistant.
I hope my grousing hasn't turned you off the trolley. It is a wonderful way to see McPherson, a one-of-a-kind way to get to your wedding reception (she's very photogenic) or a fun way to shuttle around town for an event. Call me at 800-324-8022 to book the trolley. We'll have her washed and polished and fueled up for you.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday afternoon blog

I've decided to start blogging on Friday afternoons. My fiance just rolled into town so my urge to scoot out the door is pretty strong today!
We just had a lady from southwest Kansas stop in to pay for a trolley rental for her son's wedding this weekend. She commented on how wonderful our downtown is. Many of the Main Streets in her neck of the woods are dying out and she liked how our downtown is bustling with activity.
It's always interesting for me to hear an outsider's take on McPherson.
We're, well mostly Ann Engel, Main Street director, prepping for tonight's downtown sidewalk sales. The theme for Shop the Night Away this year is Shop, Rattle and Roll! The plaza area will host food vendors, music and later tonight a free screening of American Graffiti. The Mac Cruisers car club will display restored automobiles.
Hopefully many people will come to town and shop at our downtown stores.
I love occassions like this where so many people work together to make something happen. I think that's why you see so much right in McPherson -- there's a spirit of cooperation and generosity in the community. We really can accomplish more together. That's not to say folks don't have their disagreements, but in the end we all want the same thing -- a vibrant and thriving community.
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A visitor's view of McPherson

We recently gave a one-night stay (Best Western) and free dinner (Bella Casa) at a travel show. The winner came to McPherson over Memorial Day weekend and had this to say about her stay.

Dear Anne,
We had a very lovely stay in McPherson. It was a beautiful drive, and we were treated with care and friendliness at both the hotel and the restaurant. I am glad that you provided us with a gift certificate to someplace that was unique to McPherson. The calamari and the pizza was incredible! Our room was well appointed and we had a restful nights sleep. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful as well. We will be back for the Scottish festival, we saw many little stores downtown that were unfortunately closed for Sunday or the holiday, that I would like to spend some money in. As well as the gallery at the Opera House. We thought also about bringing our bikes next time as well. You might suggest that, you have a lovely little town for riding around in.We also stopped in Lindborg on the way back. What a fun place! Its nice to see that the Swedes and the Scotts get along well in Kansas. :)
Thank you again,
Charlotte and Peter Neukirch

What Charlotte wrote reassures many of the ideas that have been kicking around in my head lately.
  • It would be nice if the downtown businesses stayed open all weekend and for later hours. No one wants to drive to McPherson to see a closed sign.-We have some wonderful hotels and unique dining opportunities.
  • Visitors to McPherson are likely to stop at another nearby community if they come for a weekend. It makes sense to try and partner with towns like Lindsborg, Canton, Marquette and the like to bring people to the county.
  • We need to develop walking and biking trails throughout McPherson. Paul Katzer has done a wonderful job with this in Lakeside and Wall Parks. Jim Boyer has formed a committee to develop better sidewalks throughout town. I would love to see the bike trail from McPherson to Lindsborg developed so we can attract more cyclists. A dog park at Hess Park at the trail head would also be a draw.
  • Like it or not, McPherson is seen as a Scottish town. Better to embrace it than deny it. I'm a Scot and proud!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An afternoon in Marquette

Just got back from a road trip to Marquette to see the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. Wow. I was greeted at the door by LaVona Engdahl, widow of "Stan the Man" Engdahl -- the museum's founder and racing legend.

In what has to be one of the more touching stories I've heard, LaVona is at the museum 7 days a week keeping Stan's dream going. Stan passed away in 2007 and LaVona has worked as the museum curator ever since.

A little bio on Stan: Marquette's own motorcycle racing legend and FIVE TIME National Racing Champion, "Stan the Man" Engdahl. On display at the museum are more than 600 trophies Stan won and his legendary Harley Davidson custom-built racing motorcycle he rode during his motorcycle racing career which spanned six decades from the 1940s to the 1990s.

The museum first opened in Stan's old TV repair shop where he also worked on Harley Davidson motorcycles in the back.
Jerry Jones, one of the museum board members, was working on setting up displays and tidying up with other volunteers in preparation for this weekend's Thunder in the Valley motorcycle ralley.
According to Jones, the streets of Marquette are completely filled with motorcyclists for this annual event that began in 2005.
There are more than 100 motorcycles on display at the museum which is open 10-5 Monday- Saturday and 11-5 Sunday. It is entirely supported by free-will donations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trip to Mo's Place

Well Marci Penner would be proud that I took a little side trip to a place off the beaten path last week. The fact I squeezed in a road trip during All Schools Day week is impressive in and of itself, but it was a dear friend's birthday, so I found the time.
My friend, Fr. Laird, is a real beer connoisseur and I enlisted the help of two mutual friends -- Scott and Kristi Fowler -- to surprise him with a trip to Mo's Place Brewpub in Beaver, KS (pop. 30). It wasn't much of a surprise because he suggested we go there anyway.
Mo is short for the brewpub's owners' last name, Len and Linda Moeder. They gave up the corporate life and moved to Beaver from California in 1999. They opened Mo's shortly thereafter but had to wait until 2004 to get a microbrewery license.
Len was nice enough to sit down and answer all Laird's brewing questions. (Laird makes homebrew in his basement.) He prefers beer from oats or barley over beer from wheat. (I personally liked the Harvest Moon Wheat the best.) Len has even put in a field to grow his own hops catty-cornered from the brewpub. Mo's has had visitors from all over the U.S. and even from as far away as Scotland.
Here's a list of Len's brews:
Lights Out Stout
A legendary and almost forgotten oatmeal stout, smooth, with medium bitterness, a chocolaty finish, a hint of roasted barley, and oatmeal for a silky texture. Drinking a glass of oatmeal stout gives one the feeling of nourishment.
Elm Street Porter
A dark, full-bodied, smooth beer, similar to the famous Anchor Porter of San Fransisco. Made with a blend of 5 different kinds of malted barley and both Perle hops and Cascade hops.
Beaver Creek Brown
A real crowd pleaser, with just the right blend of 2 row malted barley, crystal malt barley, and black patent barley makes a luscious, mildly sweet brown ale. We use Fuggle hops to complete the flavor profile of this ale.
Crazy Hawk" Red
A rich tasting "bitter ale" with excellent body and malt aroma from 2 row malted barley. The deep garnet color is contributed by the addition of roasted barley. The use of American Cascade hops and German Hallertauer hops brings this beer to its refreshing flavor.
"Purple Cat" Pale
An excellent and authentic "ordinary bitter" served in London & Southern England. Our beer is distinctly hopped using a blend of Cascade and Willamette hops. As an authentic "bitter ale", it is traditionally lightly carbonated.
Harvest Moon Wheat
Our fine golden wheat beer features 35% wheat malt and 65% 2 row malted barley. We've brought the flavor of the beer to completion by using German Hallertauer hops for authentic German character. A delightfully light beer!
We ordered the sampler which was a small glass of each beer for 50-cents each.
Len invites anyone interested in watching beer being made to drop in on Tuesdays (call first). Here's some info. on how he does it:
The whole operation is done by Len and Linda including cooking, brewing and waiting tables. Definitely worth the trip.
So if a brewpub can make a go of it in a little town like Beaver, why not in McPherson? Hays, Manhattan and Lawrence all have successful microbreweries. Any entrepreneurs out there?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sampler Fest wrap-up

Here is a release from the Kansas Sampler Foundation. We noticed some of the most common feedback we heard about McPherson was "Sorry to hear the Button Hole closed" and "Wow, cool water park!"
The 20th annual Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia's city park came to a close just before the rain started. Local festival director Susie Haver reported that more than five thousand people attended the May 2-3 event.The Kansas celebration showcased 135 communities promoting Kansas day trips, entertainment, food, products, and historical performances. The festival is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Director Marci Penner said, "Exhibitors were very pleased with the steady flow of interested people and, as it is every year, the most familiar audience reaction was surprise to all that Kansas has to offer." "One of the most rewarding aspects of the festival is seeing a first-time community exhibitor react to the interest from the public and to being a part of this collective education about Kansas." Penner continued, "There is a vitality to the event, a bond among those that participate. We'd love every city in Kansas to be part of the showcase."Concordia, population 5,171, was the smallest city and the first community north of I-70 to host the event. Every motel room in the city was taken and area restaurants were busy with exhibitors. Festival-goers had the opportunity to take shuttles to visit the Orphan Train Museum, the Brown Grand Theatre, the Nazareth Motherhouse, and other downtown attractions. Leavenworth County will be the host for the 2010 and 2011 event.

Friday, May 1, 2009

McPherson needs an art festival

As I pack up to head to the Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia, I'm overwhelmed by the amount of preparation it takes to exhibit at a festival of that magnitude let alone plan and coordinate it.

I'm sure the festival will be great fun even if the weather doesn't cooperate and that it will run smoothly. Marci Penner, Wendy LaPlante, and all the staff at the Concordia CVB have got it down to a science.

This week I received flyers and posters from the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina. I'm a huge fan of this festival because it celebrates the arts and is extremely kid-friendly. My kids and I love to go to the art project tent and be creative, listen to children's bands or watch puppet shows on the children's stage or pig out at all the food vendors. The giant sand sculptures never cease to amaze me. The festival planners seem to come up with new ideas every year.

You have to wonder though at the sheer number of manhours that go into planning something like this. I know from the few hours I've volunteered for the Scottish Festival here in McPherson it takes many volunteers and many hours to put the festival on.

Of course this has all got me thinking. With Art in the Garden cancelled and the art walk not taking place for a couple of years and the news the school district will not exhibit its art collection for alumni weekend as it has in the past, there's a real gap in access to the arts. Don't get me wrong, VAAM does have events planned like the multi-media event May 9, but given what an artistic community we live in, why can't McPherson have an art festival? It doesn't have to be just like Salina's art festival but we could start with a small festival with local artists displaying their work. Goodness knows we have parks every bit as nice as Salina. McPherson definitely is not lacking in volunteer spirit either.

I'm not writing this to criticize but to start a dialog and get some feedback. The CVB would help in whatever capacity possible because events like the art walk and art in the garden bring visitors to town.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How would good walking and biking trails contribute to Mac?

I attended a meeting last night led by Jim Boyer about walking and biking trails in McPherson. Jim is a member of the city planning and zoning commission (p&z). The p&z have officially taken the stance in favor of developing better walking and biking trails through out McPherson.
My initial interest in attending was the idea of developing the biking trail between Lindsborg and McPherson because I get calls at the CVB about biking trails in the area -- not a ton of calls but enough to get me wishing we had one. The trail, the Meadowlark Trail, apparently already does exist and begins near Northview and Hwy 81 Bypass on the northwest edge of town. The path is still pretty primitive and can only be hiked and not biked yet. Brad Hall who has worked with the group trying to develop Meadowlark Trail was at the meeting last night.
Here's a little info. and history on the project from
At the trailhead in McPherson is Hess Park, which in my opinion is the perfect location for a dog park. More on that later.
The meeting last night focused more on sidewalks inside the city. The consensus on the top two priorities was putting in sidewalks along Ave. A and Northview. Some other areas noted were the area around the middle school north along Hartup to First Street and continuing on north to N. High Drive. At least three of McPherson's six schools would be hit on this path. All of Euclid Street and the streets around McPherson College, particulary Sharp were singled out as needing either better sidewalks or sidewalks period. If you've ever gone to a Bullpups football game at McPherson Stadium you'll know firsthand what a nightmare parking and walking is in that part of town.
I wish Jim and his group good luck in pursuing better walking corridors throughout McPherson and hope the Meadowlark Trail becomes a viable bike route. I'm told there is a work day on the trail this Saturday. If I find out any more information, I'll let you know.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tree City, USA

If you've spent any time in McPherson you won't be surprised to know McPherson is a Tree City USA and it has been for 30 years.

To become a Tree City, USA, a distinction given by the Arbor Day Foundation, a city must:

  • Your city must have a Tree Board or Forestry Department . This only means that if your city can't afford a department for tree care and management, you can create a board of volunteers. This is the only way to go in smaller communities.
    Your city must have a local tree ordinance. Every community should have an annual work and action plan. This tree ordinance helps define the action plan. It will provide clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public places.

  • Your city must spend $2 per capita. In most cases this amount, and probably much more, is being spent by city work crews. If not, you may need the Tree City USA program more than you know.

  • Your city must promote Arbor Day. This may be the easiest of the four standards. Proclaim Arbor Day in your city and plant a few trees.

Today the city commission approved a proclamation in honor of Arbor Day April 24. The tree board will plant a tree in Lakeside Park across from Washington Elementary at 9 a.m. Friday with the help of WES fourth graders.

I can't say enough good things about our park department which maintains 14 public parks in the city as well as the planters downtown. Parks Superintendent Paul Katzer and his staff are very dedicated. When we first visited McPherson in 2006, the beautiful parks were one of our first stops. They speak volumes about the quality of life in McPherson.

Now if we could just get a dog park up and going...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

All Schools Day -- 96 years of tradition in Mac

One of the things I loved most about Mac the first year we lived here was the All Schools Day celebration in May. For those of you have never been, it's a celebration of the county's students that began 96 years ago. It used to be to honor those graduating from 8th grade as many of them were leaving school for good come May Day to help with the family farm. The 8th grade facet has sort of died out and now it includes many more activities.
May fete: is the traditional May pole dance, crowning of ASD royalty and other performances. It takes place two nights -- usually one at Lakeside Park and one at the Roundhouse at McPherson High School
Parade: This is one parade that hasn't died out. It has actual floats and marching bands and clowns and horses and dignitaries. It's awesome. It's what a parade should be. Most small town parades have died down to people riding in pickups and throwing candy. ASD is still going strong and draws close to 30,000 to Mac.
Madathon: A competition between various teams of eighth graders doing silly competitions. I laugh hard every time I go. I think there are also 5th grade teams and a high school version of it the next day. The 5th and 8th grade teams compete at Linneas Park the afternoon of the parade.
Fireworks at Wall Park Friday night.
Carnival: the carnival sets up at Wickersham Park for a week more or less and has plenty of rides for all ages.
The CVB is getting into the spirit of ASD and planning some events. The trolley will be in the parade and offer historical tours for $5 afterwards. Saturday morning we're planning a stained glass tour starting at the Opera House (10 a.m.) that's free. Saturday night we're putting on a movie in the park at the bandshell in Lakeside Park.
Plenty of fun to be had in McPherson May 8-9. Come enjoy a little slice of Americana!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Road trip to Abilene

I make twice weekly road trips to Abilene to meet my ex and swap kids so I'm always on the lookout for stuff to do in Abilene. This Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton exhibit at the Eisenhower library caught my eye. As a student at KU, I worked for a non-profit called Kansans for the Improvement of Nursing Homes, now called Kansas Advocates for Better Care. Grandma Layton drew a poster for KINH and it appeared on most of our promotional items. Check out this from the Abilene CVB for a little history on this amazing artist.

Here's the link for KABC to find out more about their organization.

Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton Exhibit

The Arts Council of Dickinson County is pleased to announce that a collection of Elizabeth Layton drawings will be on exhibit in Abilene from April 17 through May 5. The Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum is partnering with the Arts Council to host the Opening Night Festivities at the Eisenhower Presidential Library on Friday, April 17. The exhibit will be open for viewing beginning at 5:30 p.m. and a short film on age-related depression will be shown at 6:30 p.m. with a reception immediately following. RSVPs to 263-6700 are requested for those planning to attend the Opening Night Festivities. The exhibit will remain at the Eisenhower Presidential Library through April 25. The exhibit will then be available for viewing at Frontier Estates through May 1 and then at the Senior Center through May 5. The exhibit is open to the public and free of charge at all of the locations. Elizabeth Layton, a native of Wellsville, Kansas, had no way of knowing the change that drawing would make in her life. She took one contour drawing art class at the age of 68 while fighting a 35-year bout with depression. By taking that art class, she cured her depression and changed the lives of many. Few artists have depicted such far reaching social concerns as capital punishment, homelessness, hunger, racial prejudice, AIDS, aging and the right to die. Each drawing challenges us to walk in the shoes of the less fortunate and work not only for a kinder and gentler nation, but for a kinder and gentler self. The Elizabeth Layton Exhibit was made available to the Arts Council by Central Kansas Mental Health of Salina to help raise awareness of mental health issues during Mental Health Awareness Month. The Arts Council of Dickinson County is a non-profit organization supported by its members and dedicated to promoting the arts among families in Dickinson County. This concert is presented in part by the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes a great nation deserves great art.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A few thoughts on the Opera House

I know the discussion surrounding the April 7 ballot question about a 1/2 percent sales tax currently being used to renovate the library being continued and used to complete the remodel of the McPherson Opera House is a hot one right now in McPherson, but I'm going to give my two-cents anyway.
I went on a tour of the auditorium this morning and learned a few things. The bottom floor of the Opera House will have space for the McPherson Arts Council which will offer a wide variety of children's programs. I really like the idea of the Opera House housing something kid- and family-friendly. I was kind of on the fence until I heard this.
The auditorium recently had the second balcony reinstalled after being removed in 1925. We stood on stage and looked up at the balconies. It was very impressive to think what that must have been like when the Opera House first opened in 1889. I got goose bumps.
My concerns that the Opera House would be an elitist institution were laid to rest today. I see it as a community building more now instead of as a potential draw for visitors. It's still that, but now I can get on board and support the sales tax question wholeheartedly -- as CVB director and a taxpayer. I hope you'll support it too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

You have 3-minutes, now sell it!

One of the exercises we did at the recent We Kan! conference I attended was to make a sign promoting an event in our community. On the sign was the name of our town, the spokesman and the person who would promote the event. Fighting off the urge to go with the obvious idea of having General McPherson in front of the Opera House I opted for Miss Wickersham at the All Schools Day parade. We had 30 seconds to give our "commercial" to the rest of the group. Standing up in front of a crowd, even a friendly crowd like you find at We Kan!, was scarier than you think.
This week we are shooting a 3-minute promotional piece with KWCH for the Kansas Shopper program. This is new territory for me so I'm hoping it goes well. The spots will air in April and May on Channel 12. I'll post the video on Visit McPherson once I have it.
How do you summarize all that McPherson has to offer in a 3-minute segment? Of course, it's important to know who your audience is, but it's also important to think of who your audience could be. Is it families looking for a weekend getaway or retired folks curious about our history? Is it ladies' groups looking for a day of pampering and shopping or an organization looking for a central location to hold its annual meeting? Is it hunters, cyclists or hikers? Is it art enthusiasts or the many people that come into town for sporting events? Is it the person who's been to Mac many times but never made it over the overpass to see the heart of the town or maybe it's the lifelong resident who's become so used to his hometown he's forgotten about all the wonderful opportunities for recreation?
I hope to condense McPherson's many attractions into a fun segment with the host Amy Jo. If nothing else it will be a fun way to spend the day talking about my hometown of choice, McPherson.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Neighbor's cinnamon rolls and the almost famous Shelly

Platter-sized cinnamon rolls. Not plate-sized or as big as your hand, but platter-sized. Neighbor's Cafe owner Shelly Wiggin's cinnamon rolls were featured in a recent issue of Kansas magazine, but much to Shell's chagrin, the photo that ran with the story was not of her (or her rolls).

Check out the article below and a picture of an actual Neighbor's cinnamon roll.

Fresh from the Oven

Warm, moist and gooey cinnamon rolls slathered with creamy icing are decadent treats at any size. We found Kansas restaurants that create irresistible giant versions.

Cinnamon rolls are tempting whether the size of a saucer or a platter. However, it's the giant from-scratch kind that create fanatical followings for the restaurants that serve them. Here's a sampling of sources for rolls of immense proportions.

"Our cinnamon rolls are what we've become known for, and it was kind of a fluke; we never intended for them to be that big," says Shelly Wiggins, owner of Neighbors Cafe in McPherson.

Shelly and her husband, Cameron, purchased cafe more than a decade ago. With only one oven in the cafe dinner rolls were baking, and a batch of cinnamon rolls continued to rise, which led to their enormous size.

"Some people call them hubcaps or frisbee-size," Shelly says of the pecan-filled rolls toppped with coffee-flavored icing and dollops of butter. One cinnamon roll covers an entire platter and easily can feed four people. Although, once in a while someone eats the whole thing!

The long, narrow cafe, with seats at the counter and booths, allows Shelly to keep an eye on her customers (

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some thoughts on Go McPherson

I just got out of a Chamber meeting where I heard Gary Hess of Go McPherson Inc. talk about the group's efforts to attract potential employees to McPherson. I like what Gary has to say but, unfortunately for Gary, the recession has dealt his plan a blow by drying up the job market.
What Gary would like to do, if I can capsulize it, is start a landing page at that will show visitors what it's really like to live and work in McPherson, hire a community development director and develop ads and a video of McPherson.
When it comes right down to the basics, I think the CVB's goal and Go McPherson's are similar -- to attract people to our community. I will meet with Gary soon and hope we can work together on some projects. Specifically, I'd like to see how we could work together on a Web site presence that is less static and more interactive. There are other advertising possibilities we could partner on too.
Change and new ideas are not a bad thing. Adding 15-20 new employees and their families to the community would be a good thing.