Friday, October 12, 2012

Collaboration and Celebration

I like to think of this time of year as the calm in the eye of the storm at work. The summer music series is wrapped up, Scottish Fest is over, we’ve shown our last movie in the park and the Christmas holiday chaos won’t start for another month.
It’s a good time to plan the next move and I’m already cooking up some fun projects for the 100th anniversary of All Schools Day next May to collaborate on – a documentary and a commemorative book.
Notice I said collaborate because, goodness knows, I’m pretty limited in what I can do on my own. Both of these projects will require the help and participation of many current and former McPherson residents. We’ll need to borrow photos or videos and record people’s favorite stories of past All Schools Day celebrations. Collaboration, that’s a great word if you think about it. Not many celebrations have a 100 year history like All Schools Day and I think the key to its longevity is collaboration.
If you listen to the news today stories of divisiveness dominate the headlines, especially in this election year. It takes something truly remarkable to pull people together. Most often people will pull together during times of disaster, but it’s even more rare when people come together to celebrate. I’ve seen mass celebrations before but it was usually following a KU victory in March, when someone was defeated. All Schools Day really is the rarest of the rare – a celebration that uplifts 100 percent of the community.
If you have photos or videos or a great story to share about All Schools Day, please drop me a line at  or call 241-3340.
Speaking of great memories, why not make a few more this holiday? Tickets ($5) for the public holiday lights trolley tours go on sale Nov. 1 at our office, 306 N. Main St. Tours are held at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 6, 13, 19, 20, 21 and 22.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It’s time for Olympic basketball!

By Anne Hassler, Director

McPherson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Well the buzz around this year’s Summer Olympic Games in London has already started and I, of course, think it’s an excellent time to promote our own Summer Olympic connection – players from the McPherson Globe Refiners. We are busy putting the finishing touches on the CVB documentary “Oil and Gold” in time for our Basketball Traditions Celebration Aug. 10-11.

Six Globe players were part of the first-ever Olympic gold medal basketball team in 1936. Joe Fortenberry led all scorers in the final game with eight of the 19 points scored and was overall scoring leader for the team with 29 points.

I was lucky enough to travel to Amarillo, Texas recently to interview Joe’s wife Barbara and his son Oliver for our documentary “Turning Oil into Gold” about the team. They seemed a little uncomfortable at first with the idea that anyone would want to hear their stories but once they began talking about Joe, the words came easily.

Joe and Barbara (Bobbie) met after his days of playing professional basketball were over. They both worked in the oil industry in Texas when they married in 1947. Joe had gone on to play for the Phillips 66 Oilers after playing for the Globe Refiners. They made a striking couple – Bobbie was all of 5’2” next to Joe’s 6’8”. They had two children, Oliver and Sally and adopted another daughter Trisha, a niece they had raised like one of their own.

I tried to get a story out of Oliver about his dad’s goal tending prowess, but he said their games on the driveway were very tame.

“You could tell Pop knew how to put the ball in the hole,” Oliver said. “He was just a very kind guy. You never heard him say a disparaging word about anybody.”

Oliver recalled his father’s stories about being in close proximity to Adolph Hitler during the Olympic ceremonies.

“He said if he had known then what was going to happen, he would have jumped him right there. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about that. All of the athletes knew there was a big war coming. It wasn’t a surprise they were going to have to fight these people.”

Oliver said it wasn’t until the 1980s when the Olympics were scheduled to play in Los Angeles and people started showing an interest in the 1936 games that his dad realized his place in history.

“He kept his Olympic medal in a shoe box in the closet. The only time it ever came out is when I played with it,” Oliver said.

The Fortenberry family kept articles, photos and scrapbooks of Joe’s career. Oliver showed me his dad’s many medals from AAU tournaments, the ship’s manifest from the S.S. Manhattan, pages of autographs from other Olympic athletes like Jesse Owens, a sweat shirt from the Olympic team and even two pairs of his old basketball shoes.

One point that I’ve always wondered about in the Refiners’ story was what happened to the team when they returned from Berlin. The Globe Refinery no longer sponsored the team past 1936 though a competitive, non-AAU team still existed with Tex Gibbons as the coach. Gene Johnson moved on to coach a team at the Antler Lodge in Colorado with his brother Francis and Willard Schmidt. I asked Oliver and Bobbie if Joe had a job at the refinery when he got back.

“No, his brother had lined up a job for him with Greyhound Bus Lines. Not playing ball for them or anything, just working at the bus station. He’d already accepted it, just happy to have any job, when the offer to play for Phillips 66 came,” Oliver said.

Owners of Lario Oil, formerly Globe Oil, have said the company supported the team’s trek to the Olympics. Unlike the players for the Hollywood Universal team, Globe players weren’t given an ultimatum about going to the Olympics or losing their jobs.

My guess, and it’s purely a guess, is that Gene Johnson would have liked to have a bigger venue than the community building to play in and found greener pastures in Colorado. A copy of the original agreement was shared with me by Brett Whitenack, curator at the McPherson Museum. Gene Johnson received $1,500 to organize the team that was to be used to cover uniforms, travel and any other team expenses. I don’t know who kept the gate from home games – Johnson or the refinery. The refinery probably thought they had ridden the publicity out as far as they could by sponsoring the team. Given that it was the middle of the Great Depression I can understand why they might have wanted to fill the Refiners jobs with men dedicated solely to working at the refinery. I can also see why Johnson might have wanted to take advantage of their recent success and find better opportunities. But man, it sure was an excellent team while it lasted!

This is our first documentary production by the CVB but I hope not our last. McPherson has so many great stories to tell. The premiere of the documentary will be at the McPherson Opera House Aug. 11, 2012 followed by a question and answer session with Keith Cantrell, Rich Hughes, who wrote a book called “Netting Out Basketball 1936” on the team, and me.

Follow the progress of our documentary project and find out more about our Basketball Traditions Celebration at

Friday, May 18, 2012

June means school's out

Here’s my plan of attack against the “I’m boreds”
By Anne Hassler CVB Director
Like a ninja ready for battle, I’ve done my research to combat the inevitable chorus of “I’m bored…” that emanates from my kids right around the end of May.
It’s a five-pronged approach:
Community Activities This town has never been short on kid-friendly activities. Case in point: the McPherson Opera House is hosting a free children’s show “Billy Goats Gruff” performed by the Wichita Children’s Theatre at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sat., June 9. The McPherson CVB will host five free movies in the park this summer: The Muppets, June 2; Pride of the Yankees, July 7; Enchanted, July 21; Back to the Future, Aug. 4 and Local Hero, Sept. 21 at Lakeside Park San Romani band shell. The CVB will also host the Basketball Traditions Celebration Aug. 10-11. Kids’ games, alumni scrimmage and slam-dunk entertainment will rock the Roundhouse once again. The McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation will host its Summer Music Series. Live music is scheduled every other Friday beginning June 22 at the band shell. Look for a full schedule soon.
While some parents have their kids wrapped up in competitive traveling teams (and more power to them), I just try to get my kids to part company with the couch whenever I can. We have a fine rec league offered through the McPherson Recreation Commission for soccer, baseball and softball. I also insist my kids make regular excursions to the McPherson Water Park and take swim lessons or compete on the swim team. My family is getting to be a regular fixture at Starlite Lanes on Friday nights where you can bowl for $8/person for two hours.
My biggest fear is that my children’s brains will turn to mush over the summer from too much exposure to video games and not enough social interaction. So I try to pick at least one camp for them to attend each summer. My favorite local camp is Camp Invention (July 16-20 at St. Joseph Catholic School). They have a great scholarship program and my kids are really engaged by the activities. Be warned though, my youngest now thinks he is qualified to disassemble most small appliances. Another science-y camp I’ve found that won’t break the budget is the Kansas Starbase summer academies in Salina and Wichita. Kids learn about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields at this free camp funded by the Department of Defense.
Thankfully we live in a town that’s blessed with a first-rate public library. The McPherson Public Library has great children’s activities year-round but I’m particularly excited about this summer’s “Dream Big … Read!” reading program kick-off June 1. The list of activities for the kick-off which runs from 5:30-10:30 p.m. in Wickersham Park is extensive (let me just say free hot dogs and the Cosmosphere is bringing a telescope) so go online to check it out. But the fun doesn’t end with the kick-off. Thad Beach and Dan Dan the Magic Man will perform at the library this summer as well.
Paid Entertainment
The list of festivals and concerts in Central Kansas is long but my favorite festivals always seem to cluster around the month of June. The Wichita River Fest is June 1-9 and a $5 button will get you into most events. Listening to the Wichita Symphony play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and watching fireworks on the bank of the banks of the Arkansas River is well worth the price. We plan to see the geektastic “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” at Exploration Place during River Fest and save some money with our buttons ( My favorite art festival is held June 7-10 in Salina. The Smoky Hill River Festival was a pleasant surprise the first time I went with its giant sand sculpture, ribbon-wrapped trees and kid-friendly entertainment. Buttons are $10 and there are some very unique, make-and-take, hands-on art activities you don’t find at most large-scale festivals.
Whatever your summer has in store for you, I hope it’s filled with memorable moments.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A little cooperation goes a long way

Last year we added an event planner/ convention coordinator to the CVB staff and she's been great assistance in getting the word out and attracting new groups to town. But as anyone in this business will tell you, it’s frustrating to lose out on bid simply because the facility you need is not available.
One such case almost occurred in 2011 when we hosted Biking Across Kansas for an overnight stop. There were 800+ cyclists and their support crew in town for one night each buying lunch, dinner and breakfast, many staying in hotels and stocking up at local stores. It’s tough to measure the economic impact of groups like this but conservative estimates would put the BAK stopover at $40,000. Finding a facility that could accommodate the cyclists was the real challenge. Both colleges were not interested and following the example of other towns that host BAK, I put in requests to the school district to use the high school. At first we were told air conditioning would not be on in early June at the schools per an agreement with BPU. After some checking I found out the AC really wouldn’t be turned off until July. The administration told us we couldn’t use the Roundhouse because volleyball practice was scheduled in the morning but we could use the middle school. Everything seemed to be working out but since the middle school was having its HVAC system redone, the area we could use kept shrinking until it became unfeasible. So after much begging and pleading and some intercession by the mayor it was agreed we could use the high school after all.
Since then I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how to make relations with the school district go more smoothly. The truth is there has to be a spirit of cooperation present by all parties and a desire to see the community as a whole succeed. While I can understand that students are the priority for school administration, they need to realize the value of being flexible with scheduling. The truth of the matter is all school facilities are built with taxpayer money and when an opportunity to help the community economically comes along, the district should show more cooperation.
We are currently bidding on another conference for 2013 that would bring between 600 and 800 people to town plus their spouses for a three-day barbershop quartet convention. While many may come for just a day, past attendance shows 250 hotel rooms have been booked. This could mean close to $80,000 pumped into the McPherson community for meals and hotel alone. Hopefully we’ll entice many of them to our local retailers to do some shopping too.
But again we are faced with the challenge of finding appropriate facilities. The group needs an auditorium that will seat 800 people which limits it to McPherson College or the high school auditorium. To be able to use the high school we asked them to schedule prom on the same day as the ACT next spring. It’s not ideal but it’s been done before. Unfortunately, our request was denied and here we sit with a golden egg and nowhere to hatch it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Community Building deserves our attention

Well the women’s show is over and considering it was our first year, things went fairly smoothly. Hopefully we can tweak things and have an even better show next year.
While cleaning up the community building from the show, I was shooting baskets with wads of paper into the trash can. After sinking a particularly long shot, my arms shot straight up in the air and a deep-throated “Yes!” shot out of my mouth. I looked around to see if anyone had seen my moment of triumph but the only onlookers were the faces of the Refiners from the photos we’ve put up in the balcony.
I had to laugh at the thought of the Refiners cheering me on. The Community Building saw more than its fair share of amazing basketball courtesy of Coach Johnson and his helter-skelter players.
The Community Building has seen quite a few amazing things over the years – games, musicals, pancake feeds, trick-or-treaters, school dances. I didn’t grow up here and as I’m sometimes reminded I’m not a true “McPhersonite” but I imagine the Community Building is the backdrop for many a happy childhood memory.
There’s been talk off and on the last several years about what to do with this aging building. I, of course, have ideas but in the interest of staying employed, have kept them to myself lately. Now there’s talk of renovating the building again and since I got to sit in on a meeting I’m going to go out on a limb and say what I’d like to see happen.
First I’d like to see the gymnasium restored to have balconies on all four sides that are secure and safe for fans to sit in. I’d like the exhibit we’ve put in about the Refiners and local basketball history expanded and protected with plexi-glass.
The floor could be put back to wood and the drop ceiling removed to show the beams above.
It would be great to make the whole building into a basketball center. This could be done by converting the auditorium to a basketball court giving the Rec Commission additional courts to work with. I know Mayor Tom Brown has also looked into funding to make the Community Building a community storm shelter.
I’d like to see the kitchen expanded and made into something more useable. I’d like it better maintained with a new roof, heating and add an air conditioning system.
At one time the building was called Convention Hall and I think if proper sound and A/V were installed it could be a more usable facility for meetings of all sizes.
Any changes though will be a little while in coming to fruition. I hope McPhersonites – both native and adopted -- support efforts to preserve this cornerstone of our community.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Art and government: not an unheard of match

I’ve been working on plans for our latest mural that will celebrate the 100th anniversary of McPherson County All Schools Day in 2013. We’ll have the mural up in late 2012, hopefully well in advance of May Day. Luckily, local artist R. Bolton Smith has agreed to create an original painting for us to base the mural on. The tricky part is now finding a location for it.
Using guest tax to support the arts seems like a natural way of enhancing our community’s culture. With the recent actions of our governor to dissolve the Kansas Arts Council and his new plan to combine it with the Kansas Film Commission and seriously underfund it, I have to wonder if arts and government ever coexisted in a mutually supportive way.
My investigation of the topic on the Internet quickly led me to the murals and statues funded through the New Deal of the 1930s. As a country struggling to recover from the Great Depression, it would have been easy to get tunnel-vision and funnel all recovery funds into infrastructure and agriculture, but as Roosevelt’s relief administrator Harry Hopkins said “[artists] have got to eat just like other people.”
The result is we now have more than 225,000 government–funded works of public art available for every American to enjoy.
The majority of murals created through the New Deal were actually funded through the Section of Fine Arts of the U.S. Treasury Department (not the WPA). As new courthouses and post offices were built, 1% of the building budget was earmarked for artwork. There are 38 such post office murals in Kansas with the nearest one located in Lindsborg. For a list of murals go to
Also going on at the CVB, we’re set to host our “Leap into a New You” women’s show at the community building Feb. 25-26. To spice things up a little we added a Charity Cookoff competition with six competitors facing off on the auditorium stage. This is a great example of how we are delving more and more into event planning at the CVB. Tickets are available for the women’s show from participating vendors (free) or from the CVB for $2, or $3 the day of the show. Cook-off tickets are $10, available from the CVB, with the proceeds split between the six charities involved.

Bad service experience? Here’s what to do

Why is it that bad experiences stick in our mind much more prominently than good ones? I could go to the grocery store 100 times and have no problems, but the one time my Diet Pepsi doesn’t ring up at the sale price and, man, this store stinks.
The same could be said of bad service experiences. I hear from travelers who have had a bad experience at a McPherson business. Having gotten nowhere dealing with the business directly they will contact the CVB or the Chamber to file a complaint.
If only I had some sort of “be good” enforcement power to make businesses give better customer service. The steps I usually follow are to document the complaint, write a letter to the business, copy it to the owner of the business and if necessary, send a letter to the franchise offices. I can’t say it’s been terribly effective. For one, since I’m a third party to the disagreement, I’m not able to lodge a formal complaint with most franchises. Secondly, most of the complaints I receive are for the same few businesses. They’re used to my letters.
So I’ve decided to put together a list of steps for people to take if they have a bad service experience. One thing to remember though is, if the business makes an honest effort to correct a situation, stop at that step. Don’t pursue the matter further if you’ve received a sincere apology and/or refund for any overcharges.
1. Talk to the manager. Give them a chance to make things right before you “go public.” Any manager worth his/her salt will appreciate the opportunity.
2. Put it in writing. Send letters to the business, the franchise, Better Business Bureau and local Chamber of Commerce or CVB. Follow up with the business to see if they received it and if they plan to take steps to correct the situation. Allow reasonable time for a response.
3. Go public. There are a myriad of different travel sites that let you review a business. (;,, just to name a few) Objectively document your experience and save future travelers from having a similar bad experience. Use social media to let people know about your experience. Most chains have a Facebook page; try posting on their wall. Start a Twitter hash tag like #badservice if you want to Tweet about it.
Some other useful information:
To file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau go to and click the “File a Complaint” link.
To report a business for health code violations go to the Kansas Department of Agriculture – Food Safety Division website KDA also handles lodging complaints.
My email is, phone (800) 324-8022. If you’re planning a visit, meeting or convention in McPherson, start with the CVB office. We know the facilities in McPherson and can help you find the one that will work best for you.