I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “Stop and smell the roses.” For my latest trip on the Faces & Places Tour, I did the Kansas version of that. I stopped and enjoyed the prairie.
I’ve lived in Kansas all of my life, with about nine of those years in the area known as the Flint Hills, but it wasn’t until stopping by the new Flint Hills Discovery Center, that I realized how little I knew about the place I call home and all the beautiful things I take for granted.
The center just opened in Manhattan and my first stop was the immersion experience. A wondrous view of how the prairie became what it is today, on a large screen filling three-quarters of the room. When they say immersion, they mean it. Not only did the lights change for dramatic effect, but I could feel the breezes on the prairie and breathe in the smoke from the flames of the burning grass. I don’t want to give it all away so if you truly want to experience the Flint Hills, you should go and see it for yourself.
After I had seen the progression of the Flint Hills, an area that holds the last 4 percent of remaining Tallgrass Prairie (if you don’t know how SIGNIFICANT this is, you need to visit), I headed into the museum area. Now, I have to admit, I kind of have the attention span of a six year-old in museums. Although I love learning, I have a hard time focusing on reading dozens of walls and plaques. The good news is, that’s not how the set-up is in the Flint Hills Discovery Center! The information was presented in so many unique and interactive ways, from scavenger hunt clues to areas where you could try “auctioneer karaoke” to learning how to tie a knot like a true rancher. One of the best things about the center is the extra opportunities they give visitors. Most stations highlighted places you could go to get a glimpse of that prairie or lifestyle and before you leave the building, there is a kiosk which helps you plan out future trips and even mails you all the information!
After beating the heat for a bit, I was off to Junction City for Sundown Salute, the state’s largest FREE Fourth of July party. It is basically four days of music, games, food and some really cool entertainers.
My visit to Sundown Salute gave me an opportunity to enjoy the art that the people in our state craft in so many distinctive and beautiful ways. As I arrived, I heard a loud noise and had to investigate. I found a humming chainsaw, and discovered a beautiful work of art in progress. Lyn Robinson of Concordia uses his chainsaw like a knife and carves amazing pieces of art into tree trunks. Lyn travels across the state displaying his handiwork, and I’m sure that if I had a yard (I live in an apartment), I would have definitely invested in one of these Kansas-made creations. Check out the before and after pictures.
Next up was a man I had heard about before coming to the festival. He takes a delicious summer favorite—watermelon—and turns it into art. Russ Leno, the “Master Watermelon Carver” is not technically from Kansas, but he was born in the state. I think if I was to learn a new craft, this is the one I would try. After all, if you mess up, you can always eat your mistake. An added benefit to seeing Russ’ show is that he lets people uses his leftover seeds for a good ol’ seed spitting contest.Next up was someone from my hometown of Salina, although we have never met: Brent Dellinger, also known as “Spinmaster.” No, his talent isn’t deejaying or pottery—he’s a master yo-yo handler. He’s so good that he’s a National Champion and came incredibly close to becoming a World Champion. Brent not only performed his tricks, but also told the audience what challenges he had to meet in order to be the best. I was fascinated by his skill because I can hardly even get a yo-yo to go back and forth, yet he was putting the yo-yo through loops, behind his back and over his head.Each different in their own way, these artists showed me the impressive array of talent in the Flint Hills and Kansas. I ended my trip inspired to find a creative hobby. Who knows, maybe you will see my skills at next year’s Sundown Salute.
Lindsey is graduate student at Kansas State University studying journalism and mass communications. She has lived in Manhattan for eight years but is originally from Salina. She enjoys watching K-State sports, going to the lake, attempting to learn how to cook and taking her dog on fun adventures. Some of her favorite Kansas places are Pillsbury Crossing in Manhattan, Scheme Pizza in Salina and Holyfield Winery in Basehor. She joined the 2012 Faces & Places Tour because she loves the idea of road tripping all summer to unique Kansas towns and meeting the friendly people.