It amazes me how many towns in Kansas I have never visited even though I have lived in this state all my life. When I meet people on the Faces & Places Tour and encourage them to take vacations in Kansas, they say “oh I’ve lived here all my life.” But as I have been learning over the summer, just when you think you know all that Kansas has to offer, along comes a surprise."[[endteaser]]"
My trip started in Belleville for the Midget National Races. I had never heard of midget racing and I’ll admit I had the wrong idea about what they are. I stopped into the High Banks Hall of Fame Museum to get a history lesson before the races. I learned that the races began in 1910, making Belleville’s the longest continuously running dirt track in the United States. The track is also the world’s fastest half-mile banked dirt track, with drivers reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour! I had some extra time so I stopped at the Boyer Museum to check out this unique collection of animated woodcarvings. I was greeted by Paul Boyer’s daughters who told me all about their father, a self-taught artist with only a fourth grade education. Boyer’s creations are absolutely impressive and the $5 admission price is well worth it.
Then it was off to the races! I know I was supposed to be watching the competition, but I was so taken aback by the beautiful view, that I spent the first 10 minutes just taking it in. As the sun set behind the dirt track, I enjoyed an endless view of fields and green grass with a pond on the other side. My attention returned to the races. The stands are so close to the track that dirt was flying into the bleachers. It was exciting to see where racers such as Jeff Gordon got their start and to meet the people who came to enjoy the show. I was sitting next to a woman in her 70’s from Utah who had reunited with an old friend at her recent high school reunion. He used to race in the midget nationals and was in Belleville to help with the races. She was there to support him, so together we learned about the races.The next day I continued my trip west, making a pit stop at the “Home on the Range” cabin. This little cabin is where Dr. Brewster Higley wrote what later became the official state song.
Then I drove on to Phillipsburg, home of Kansas’ Biggest Rodeo. The city kicks off the big night with a parade, the highlight of which was seeing longhorn cattle walking down the main street to the fairgrounds.The rodeo started with a ride from the Prairie Dusters drill team, followed by ranchers, farmers and their families riding horses through the arena. I was amazed by the number of people involved in the rodeo, working to keep this lifestyle alive. Then the longhorns were brought into the stadium as a choir sang the national anthem. This was one of my favorite moments of the night because it embraced what makes our state so unique and made me respect all the men and women who continue feeding our country. The crowd couldn’t have been more excited. After each cowboy rode bare back or tried to wrestle a calf, the audience cheered loudly, no matter where that cowboy was from. No wonder people from all across the country come to watch this rodeo.
As I headed home the next day, I stopped to see one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas—the Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria. I noticed it immediately as I drove along I-70 because it looked like a big, beautiful castle resting among the trees. As I got closer, I was amazed by the beauty of the cathedral and the artwork inside was so intricate.My weekend of races and rodeos wasn’t just fun, it was an experience I have never had. So just when you think you’ve seen all that Kansas has to offer, think again because I promise there is some sight, event or person that will make you even fonder of the Sunflower State.
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.