Three counties in western Kansas are getting ready for hundreds of visitors next week when the second Big Kansas Road Trip gets underway.
From May 2 to 5, Cheyenne, Sherman and Wallace counties will show off what they have to offer, including museums, history, geography, business and agriculture.
The first road trip in 2018 featured Barber, Comanche and Kiowa counties.
“We see the BKRT acting as a magnet to draw people to a destination area that maybe they wouldn’t have gone to otherwise,” said Marci Penner, executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, which began the Big Kansas Road Trip in 2018 as a replacement for its Kansas Sampler Festival.
The road trip will bring Kansans to parts of the state that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t have been able to host the Sampler Festival, she said.
“We just think that those three counties have some incredible geographic/geologic features that we really wanted the rest of the state to see,” Penner said about the northwest Kansas counties.
That includes the Arikaree Breaks, a 36-mile long, 2-3 mile wide formation of deep ravines and gullies on the northern edge of Cheyenne County. Known as the “Grand Canyon of Kansas,” much of it is on private property, but public roads allow for self-guided driving tours.
Mount Sunflower, the state’s highest point is also in the area, and road trippers can visit around sunset to hear stories from “the Ol’ Man on the Mountain.” Then in Weskan, they can screen print their own commemorative “Ski Mt. Sunflower” t-shirt at Shortgrass Studio.
For history buffs, there will be activities and tours at at Goodland’s High Plains Museum, the St. Francis Motorcycle Museum, the Fort Wallace Cemetery and Fort Wallace Museum, the Sherman Theater, and historic homes.
Businesses such as the 21st Century Bean Factory near Ruleton and Olde Westport Spice Factory will offer tours, and Northwest Kansas Technical College will feature its precision agriculture technology program and teach people to weld a decorative metal star.
But the real highlight of the road trip, Penner said, is to just let the towns show what they have to offer every day.
“We only ask the communities to be the best they can be at being themselves,” she said.
Visitors can enjoy Keller Pond and River Walk or watch the high school promenade in Bird City, shop in the non-profit United Methodist Thrift Shop in St. Francis, play some lawn games at Mid-American Camp Inn, take in a high school basketball game or the junior high spring concert in Goodland, play a round of golf, tour a private garden, play bingo, watch a movie and check out local dining.
And in Goodland, Gary Garrett, owner of Garrett Liquor and Laundry Center, invites road trippers to join him and sit outside his store. He’ll have extra chairs available. The BKRT guidebook notes he’s a former railroad worker and has a vast knowledge about local history.
“He sits out on the front sidewalk every day down here on Main Street. People stop and talk to him. He’s a great guy,” said Donna Price, director of Sherman County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“To me, that’s the epitome of what this is supposed to do, because Gary does that all the time anyway,” Penner said.
“We really don’t want these towns to dress up and try to be something they are not,” she said.
The counties began organizing for the Big Kansas Road Trip over a year ago, Price said, and have heard from people from not only Kansas, but also Colorado and even Australia.
Residents and business across the three counties have really stepped up to show what they have to offer, Price said. She said it might be difficult to see everything in the road trip’s guidebook during the few days, but people can always come back.
“They’re always around, but sometimes people don’t know about them,” she said of the things to see in the area. “We hope people will come back a second or even third or fourth time to see them.”
Guidebooks for the Big Kansas Road Trip are available in each county seat, Penner said, and www.bigkansasroadtrip.com provides information as well.