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Oakley unveils tourist center

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

OAKLEY -- The sparkling Buffalo Bill Cultural Center received its first christening Friday, even though it won't officially open until Nov. 30.

That's when city officials and representatives of the Kansas Department of Transportation, providing a big part of the money necessary to build the center, will be on hand for the official grand opening.

Raelene Keller, one of the key proponents of the center, wasn't about to wait, considering she had Gov. Sam Brownback as something of a captive audience.

He was in Oakley on Friday and Saturday for the second annual Kansas Governor's Ringneck Classic, a chance for Kansas to herald the opportunities it offers for pheasant hunting.

Soon after arriving, Brownback was pressed into service to officially cut a red ribbon held by hunters and supporters of the 8,000-square-foot building.

The size of the center was doubled soon after the Wild West Historical Foundation received word of the grant, with Logan County and local residents kicking in the extra money necessary to pay the cost.

Keller said the center's grand opening will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 30, with the ribbon cutting tucked in during the day.

"This is the inaugural event," Keller said of the reason why she pressed Brownback into an early ceremony. "We just got the key."

The center served as hunt headquarters during the weekend. Friday night's concert was sold out.