BIRD CITY — It was started as a way to simply raise money for their children’s school supplies. In turned into a family reunion of sorts.
Since 1974, Rodney Klepper and his sisters, Julia Wilkens and Anita Burton, along with all of their families, have run The Klepper Konnection lemonade and limeade stand at the annual Tri-State Antique Engine and Thresher Show. During the three-day show that celebrated its 63rd anniversary at the end of July, the family members split time squeezing lemons and limes, stirring the drinks, taking orders and money and picking up the necessary supplies.
“The neat thing is, it gets the cousins together,” Burton said. “In this day and age everybody’s so busy. You don’t get that family time. This is like the one time of the year when all the cousins come back.”
An operation the siblings started as just a way to make a little money for their children’s supplies has become a three-generation family business once a year. Family members come from across the Midwest from Springfield, Mo., Nebraska and Texas to around the northwest part of Kansas. Not everyone is always able to make it, but for the most part, the majority are there to help out.
On the Klepper Connection sign hung behind the stand is a lemon tree with the 40-some family individuals’ names. Everything used for the production of the drinks from the lemons and limes to the sugar and ice is purchased at Bird City’s grocery store Hometown Market.
“This stand has been going every year since we started,” said Wilkens, who has a home in McDonald and is a sorority mother at Kansas State University. “That’s pretty neat.
“When we first started, the ice we got was from a dairy barn. It was all crushed ice.”
While most of the family is running the stand, Rodney Klepper usually is around the grounds helping out. He is the treasurer on the Engine and Thresher board. Klepper’s sisters call him the heart and soul of the lemonade stand.
“We started it as a way to help make some money for my sisters to be able to buy clothes for their kids before school,” Klepper said. “Now, all my nieces and nephews and all our grandkids take part in it now. It goes back a long ways.
For years the lemonade and limeade has been $1 a glass. If there has ever been any thought of changing the price, it is Klepper who always squashes that idea, both Burton and Wilkens agree.