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SPOTLIGHT
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It was a hot, hot day at the old cabin

Published on -7/13/2012, 9:40 AM

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By EL DEAN HOLTHUS

The first "hot" describes the weather on the bank of the Beaver on July 4; the second "hot" describes the quality of entertainment and activities as the Ellen Rust Living Trust hosted more than 300 visitors at the 140th anniversary celebration of the construction of the Higley "Home on the Range" Cabin.

A common question posed to the trustees the next day was "How did it go?" The answer is this: We had fire protection at the site and emergency medical services and none were needed.

As visitors arrived they were directed by members of the Smith Center FFA, under the supervision of Mitch Holthus, the "Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs," through the parking area.

We have no electricity in the entertainment area; generators were provided by funding from ITC and neighbors to the cabin. LanMark Implement provided the tractor for the large generator.

There was a great group of "tough" vendors providing a variety of products for sale.

Our opening warmup (not too brilliant a choice of words on a 106-degree day) was provided by homegrown talent from Smith Center, Phillipsburg and Overland Park.

We had only two pies donated by Jean Overmiller, Bellaire, so they were auctioned and together raised more than $100.

The main program was opened by the Rev. Dennis Lambert, Thornburg, who rode in on his horse in the character of a circuit rider preacher; the Overmiller sisters plus one sang a patriotic medley that included the hymns of the armed forces. Each veteran was asked to stand and be recognized as he heard the song of his branch of service. This medley set the tone for our speaker, state Rep. Elaine Bowers, Concordia.

Elaine shared the background of the Declaration of Independence and how our forefathers -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and 53 others -- declared their freedom from England and set in place the founding of a government that provided and guaranteed all people certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She then shared personal memories of how she and her sister looked at their father's uniform as it hung in his closet with his medals; they dreamed how handsome he must have been and how proud they were of his service in the Korean Conflict.

She closed with a tribute to all those currently serving in the military by repeating their oath as they join in the service to their country. At the conclusion of her speech, she led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

Visitors were invited to receive their free food, courtesy of ITC, prepared and served by Johnson Catering, Smith Center. Volunteers were present to assist visitors with their food and water. People after receiving their food were directed to the cooling tent where they received a free bottle of water courtesy of Orshlen's Farm Supply, Smith Center. According to the plate count, 270 meals were served.

The music was everything we had advertised and more as Marshal Bailey, wife Cowgirl Janey and the Ozark Alliance (Vaughn Family) sang and played their hearts out. They never once took a break continuing their performance for 90 minutes. The audience heard excellent old and new cowboy songs by the Baileys and bluegrass by the Ozark Alliance. There is an opportunity to hear clips of what you missed as Marshall Bailey had posts on Facebook. Tami Holthus also has many pictures from July 3 and 4 on Facebook.

After the concert, the Deer Creek Regulators, members of the Cowboy Fast Draw Association, explained their timing equipment and rules of shooting. After their demonstration, they invited public participation by starting with a "celebrity" contest between Mitch Holthus and his dad (me). Fun times continued as family members competed with each other. The Deer Creek Regulators are under the leadership of Kansas Law Dawg, aka, Paul Wisinger, Phillipsburg.

ITC sponsorship funded the entertainment, the large tent, the cooling fans, the generator, the portable toilets and the free food. Those who attended would agree that, without their sponsorship, our event could not have been held.

If you haven't read Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," please do so the following paragraph will make sense. The Greatest Generation manifested itself again on July 4, 2012, in the form of volunteers who prepared the site, worked the shuttles and stayed for the concert. These friends and neighbors are the one who understand the sacrifices made for our freedoms; they have served in the military, they have buried their comrades, they have done without on the home front. Once again, they showed their love for their country as they celebrated this holiday in a special way in a special place.

We have been asked and will be asked again, "How did it go"? Our answer: "It couldn't have been better" -- if we measure success by those things that are under our control. The weather, while a factor, did not deter the dedicated. A few thoughts: We celebrated 236 years of freedom as a nation; we had the largest 140th celebration ever on the bank of the Beaver; we heard the first concert by professional musicians on the site; we heard more voices sing "Home on the Range" at its birthplace than ever before; we were a part of the largest coming-together of communities crossing county and state lines ever in a rural Smith County setting; and, most of all, we were a part of illustrating what can happen when corporate America and volunteerism come together.

A final note: Your contributions totaled $1,400. Thank you.

The trustees appreciate all who worked so hard to make this event successful. There are several sub-stories that will be shared in later columns.

El Dean Holthus is a trustee of the Ellen Rust Living Trust, current owner of the Higley/Home on the Range Cabin and surrounding acreage. He serves with Gerald and Robert Caspers.

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