The JFK committee in Hays, Kansas and the Ellis County Democratic Party are pleased to announce the keynote speaker for a banquet honoring John F. Kennedy’s campaign visit to Hays in November 1959.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Oliphant, who co-authored a best-selling book about Kennedy’s 1960 campaign for the presidency, will share his insights at a 7 p.m. banquet on Nov. 20 at Kennedy Middle School, known as Jefferson West in 1959. Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie wrote The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign, in which they detailed Kennedy’s unconventional path to the presidency.

General admission tickets are now on sale at $50 each. In 1959, tickets were $10, which today would cost $88. VIP seating includes assigned seats near the main table and is available at $100 per ticket. Event sponsors will meet Mr. Oliphant at a private reception before the banquet. Sponsorship levels are $2,500, which includes eight tickets and priority seating near main table; $1,000 for four tickets and priority seating; $500 for two tickets and priority seating. Sponsors also will have their name or company name on the banquet program. Those interested in becoming a sponsor can either email, call 785-628-6162 or stop by 1500 Vine. Copies of Mr. Oliphant’s book will be available for purchase at the banquet, and signed copies will be part of a raffle for prizes. Tickets are available at 1500 Vine, Hays, Kansas or online at (or go to, and search for JFK in Hays, Kansas).

In addition to the banquet honoring the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s visit, Mr. Oliphant will hold a 3:30 p.m. news conference that afternoon in the Memorial Union.

The evening before the banquet, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19, there will be a panel discussion at the Fort Hays Ballroom on the FHSU campus focusing on Kennedy’s trip to Kansas in 1959 and Norbert Dreiling’s role. The panel discussion is free and open to the public.

In addition, Mr. Gonzales will discuss his thesis at 3 p.m. Nov. 7 at Forsyth Library on the FHSU campus, at the opening of an exhibit focusing on Kennedy and Dreiling.

Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy toured five cities in a Kansas tour Nov. 19-20 of 1959. Prior to arriving in Hays, Kennedy stopped in Kansas City, Wichita, Dodge City and Salina. Instead of relying on party leaders to choose a candidate at the national convention, Kennedy ushered in a new era, traveling from state to state to win delegates. While in Hays, Kennedy gave an interview to the local television station, held a press conference in the Memorial Union on the campus of Fort Hays Kansas State College (now Fort Hays State University), rode in a parade down Main Street, and was the keynote speaker at the banquet. There was an overflow crowd at the fundraiser in the school’s gym, with 645 in attendance.

For updates on the banquet and other planned events, visit the committee’s Facebook page, JFK in Hays, Kansas.