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Students learn different way of life





Wednesday was a day of good, old-fashioned fun for many Ellis County students.

Laughing and hollering children teemed around the starting line of gunny sack races, waiting for their chance at the game.

"My favorite activity is the games," said Fernando Zarate, a fourth-grader at O'Loughlin Elementary School.

Ellis County Historical Society hosted its 12th annual Pioneer Day, which is intended to give local children a hands-on look at Kansas history.

Students learned how early settlers shelled corn and made saddles.

They also had a folk music sing-along and got a look at some of Hays' oldest buildings.

"The building over there was from Kathryn O'Loughlin, and that's our school," said fourth-grader Mataya Quinby, pointing to a small white building where O'Loughlin's law office was in the early 20th century.

It's said a family of 11 once lived in the tiny structure. Quinby didn't have to think twice when asked if she could live there.

"It would be too crowded," she said.

The event has become an annual spring field trip for many Hays teachers, such as O'Loughlin teacher Rhonda Windholz.

"We're excited to bring sack lunches and enjoy something free we can do that's educational," she said. "It goes with our social studies and Kansas history.

"I don't think they realize how hard it was to live back then."

Approximately 500 students were expected to visit the historical society throughout the day.

New to this year's activities was a tour of the Hays Fire Department Museum and a lesson on fire history from Darin Myers of the Hays Fire Department.

The museum opened a year ago, said Don Westfall, executive director of the Historical Society.

"Children seem to have fun, especially when the weather is nice," Westfall said. "It's a little more interactive, hands-on. It's a first-person interpretation (of history) on the part of some of our costumed characters."