This weekend’s activities:
• Early Rod Run, Atwood: This is the 31st annual car show, with a record number of cars preregistered for the event. It starts Friday with registration from 4-8 p.m., a social at 6, music from 8 to midnight, and fireworks over Lake Atwood at 10 p.m. or dark. Saturday is the biggest day, with the show and shine slated to run from 9-3:30. Drag races, sponsored by Atwood Lions Club, follow at 4 p.m. The car show continues from 9-noon Sunday, with a poker run at 9:30 and awards from the weekend presented at noon. See more information on the event’s website.
• Hell Creek Hoedown: This weekend event begins with a jam session Friday night at Otoe State Park at Wilson Lake. Bands begin performing at 6 p.m. Saturday, with more “jamming” to follow. A gospel jam is slated for 10 a.m. Sunday. For more information, contact email@example.com.
• The 25th annual Run for the Wall will travel through northwest Kansas this weekend. The group will stop in Goodland on Saturday night, with estimated departure Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m. Mountain time. Stops on Sunday will include Oakley (between 10:30 and noon) and Bunker Hill (between 2:30 and 3:15).
I spent Mother’s Day with a crew from Morland that just might not be beatable. The Morland Lions Club — 29 strong in a community of just 150 — is one of the funnest, most hard-working groups around.
Club president Mary Goddard said she would put her club up against any other — that’s how much she believes in her organization and the things they accomplish.
Writing and photographing a group of people like this — one that cares deeply about its community and one that has so much fun doing it — makes working weekends well worth it.
And I discovered Prairie Junction. Alex Leslie — you know, your average, everyday financial planner/firefighter/Lions Club member/master barbecuer — apparently makes some ribs on Fridays and prime rib on Saturdays that makes the trip worth it. I’ll definitely be checking that out in the future.
See more in today’s Hays Daily News.
The first weekend of May really kick-starts the summer of events in northwest Kansas. Here’s a guide to what’s happening this weekend (that I know of):
• Th’ Gatherin’ — O’ the Scots are taking over WaKeeney. A venue change this year for the annual Celtic festival. Runs 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Trego County Fairgrounds.
• Utica May Day — This is where I’ll be. 10th annual event featuring antique tractor and car show, craft fair, parade and lots more. Starts at 9 a.m., with the parade beginning at 3:30 p.m.
• Barbed Wire Super Show — La Crosse’s pride and joy — barbed wire — will be on display in full force. Visit the City Auditorium to view collections, and Saturday features a world champion splicing contest and auction.
In Utica, there’s a small, but determined effort behind the annual Utica May Day. The town of approximately 150 grows exponentially one weekend a year, and a handful of people are responsible for making the event go off without a hitch.
“Kids may not make it home for Christmas, but they’ll make it home for May Day,” said Laurie Bernbeck, one of the organizers of the event.
Bernbeck and her husband, Terry, joined the planning committee for Utica May Day in its third or fourth year. The day’s events include an antique tractor and car show, craft fair, parade, dance and lots of other activities.
“The whole atmosphere of just sitting around the park and visiting with friends while the car show’s going on” is one of Laurie Bernbeck’s favorite things. Though, she rarely gets the chance to slow down and enjoy the day.
A barbecue wagon from Colorado pulls in for the day to feed the sometimes thousands who arrive to celebrate the community of Utica. And a Colorado blacksmith makes something to be auctioned off to support the May Day event.
The entire event revolves around volunteerism, much like events in other small communities in northwest Kansas. But I’ve never been to Utica, so I’m looking forward to Saturday.
Things kick off at 9 a.m., and a parade is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
There are many events in our area that act as fundraisers for communities, foundations and other activities. So it was a surprise when I talked to Larry Lyder at Hill City High School this week and found out his FFA is planning something so selfless.
No, it’s not a fundraiser. The high school rodeo the Hill City High School FFA is sponsoring April 20 and 21 is for a greater purpose — to stimulate the economy of Hill City.
“The community response has been really amazing,” said Lyder, the FFA adviser at the school.
His group is 30 members strong, and along with volunteers from the FFA alumni association and the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo committee, they will be organizing and running the rodeo for the first time.
Lyder said rodeo participants and their families are expected to spend $30,000 on fuel, food and lodging for the weekend, which would be a boon to the community of Hill City, population 1,500.
Check out the rodeo next weekend. It begins at noon Saturday, April 20, and 10 a.m. Sunday, April 21 (cowboy church at 8 a.m.) at the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo grounds on the south side of Hill City.
I headed to Alton early Sunday morning for the community’s annual Easter Sunrise Pageant. I had been there two weeks prior to check out the rest of the community, and the Rev. Homer Smuck had shown me the bluffs where the pageant takes place.
It was muddy then, still drying up from the late winter snows we received. But little did I know the area had received quite a bit of moisture in the two days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Needless to say, the climb up the hill to the bluffs where the pageant took place was more than a little muddy.
I came home with each of my shoes easily weighing 5 pounds.
But I won’t complain. You see, I “cruised” northwest Kansas last year for 14 weeks during the summer, covering various events in communities throughout our area. Not once did I see a drop of rain — and very rarely did I see cloud cover. The 100-degree days nearly did me in.
So it’s been a welcome relief to see rain and cool temperatures so far this year. Maybe it’s a good sign for things to come.
The stage at Bull City Cafe reflects the history of Alton and the surrounding area.
I knew two things about Alton before I took a trip there two weeks ago — they have good fried chicken on Fridays and a world-famous gun shop. Little did I know I would find such pride in the town of 100.
That pride starts with Wilda Carswell, president of the Alton PRIDE organization. The group sponsors monthly events including a recent Ladies Night Out, a spring cleanup, Halloween party for kids and the annual Alton Jubilee, which will be Aug. 24 this year.
“Our big thing is the jubilee every summer,” Carswell said. “We almost talk about it year-round. We already know something we want to do next year.”
The PRIDE group started in 1985, and one of the main focuses has been to revamp the city park. A basketball court, skate park, picnic tables, shelter house and restrooms have been added through the years.
“There’s kids in the summer nearly day playing,” Carswell said.
And keeping kids and their parents in the community is one of the most important reasons for keeping the park in good shape, as well as sponsoring their monthly community events.
“It’s just a friendly place,” Carswell said. “We just feel like it’s a close-knit community.”
I’m headed out this week to talk to people from my next two stops: Rush Center and Alton.
I hear it’s Fried Chicken Friday at the Alton Cafe, so I’ll be stopping in to check it out. It turns out Pastor Homer Smuck, whose Mt. Ayr Friends Church puts on the Easter sunrise service each year (the whole reason for my trip), also owns the cafe with his wife. He’s promised me some chicken — and as much information about Alton as I want to know.
I’ll head back up there on Easter Sunday to capture what we all hope is a beautiful spring morning as the community celebrates Easter.
On Saturday, I’ll be donning some green and heading out to Rush Center. This is the 24th annual St. Patrick’s Day event, which will feature a car show, parade, bed races, Irish Stew — and probably a few green brews.
The St. Patty’s Day event started because someone in Rush Center bought a new car on March 17th 25 years ago and called everybody in town to parade their cars with him as he showed off his new prized possession. I would imagine he had no idea his small parade would turn into nearly a quarter century of celebrating the Irish holiday.
The car show starts at 10, bed races at 1 and parade at 2. If you drive through Rush Center on Saturday, I’m sure you can’t miss it.
Karla Rohleder, left, and Susan Keith cut, season and bread fish before it is put in deep-fat fryers Friday at Collyer’s Lenten Fish Fry.
It’s always nice to walk into a town and feel welcomed by anyone and everyone.
I spent Friday evening in Collyer at the town’s first Lenten Fish Fry of the year. (I think I’m still trying to wash the smell of fried fish out of my hair, by the way.)
Nonetheless, it was a great way to kick off a new year with Talk of the Town. I had people walk up and wrap their arm around me, welcome me to town and want to know my backstory. That’s just the way life is in small towns.
I ran into two couples who trekked from Grinnell to take in their first fish fry in Collyer, and they made a great point. People from all over northwest Kansas come to Grinnell for Stag/Stagette on the first Wednesday of the month, so why shouldn’t people from Grinnell return the favor by visiting events like the Lenten Fish Fry in Collyer?
“Small towns helping small towns,” Loren Percival of Grinnell told me.
And as I learned Friday, Collyer can use all the help it can get in order to keep the town going strong. With only a post office and a repair shop left for business in town, there’s not much going on, but not for lack of trying … or frying … by the Collyer Community Alliance.
It’s a new year, and a new focus for The Hays Daily News is in order.
I had someone ask me today just what Talk of the Town was going to be. Well, that’s a good question.
I’m still centering my trips to your towns around a specific event like I did with Cruising NWKS last year. But this year, I want to get a better idea for what’s really going on in your community. What’s new? What’s old? What’s interesting? What’s unique?
And I really want to find that one person that makes your community tick.
Obviously, until I hit the road, I have no idea what I’m going to find. So my expectations and ambitions might be way off, but a girl can dream, right?
Talk of the Town from Collyer will premiere in The Hays Daily News on Tuesday, March 5. I guess we’ll all find out that day just exactly what I find.