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?