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Museum’s Kansas Day to be a celebration of state’s symbols

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – “Kansas Symbols” will be the emphasis for Kauffman Museum’s popular Kansas Day event this year.

The museum’s 16th annual Celebrate Kansas Day!, in honor of Kansas’ 152nd birthday, is Jan. 26 from 1:30-4:30 p.m., with the museum and all activities and exhibits free and open to the public.

The three special presentations of the afternoon begin at 1:45 in the museum auditorium with veteran birder Gregg Friesen of Newton, and his program “Western Meadowlark: From Neglected Starling to State Bird.”

Friesen, a native of Hesston, says he became interested in birds when he was in college and that by now “this interest has become a bit of a passion.”

He is well known in Kansas birding circles and admits to taking his “long-suffering family to many vacation destinations where there is no cell phone or internet access, no paved road and no other tourists [besides] a stream of birdwatchers – some of the kindest, most pleasant people with whom one could spend time away from home.”

Friesen’s program will cover the natural history of the Western meadowlark and the attributes that led to its adoption as the state bird of Kansas.  

The 2:45 p.m. program will feature the Suzuki Strings from Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts, under the direction of Rebecca Schloneger, playing several folk songs, including “Home on the Range” and “Red Wing.” 

The final presenter, at 3:45 p.m., is Gary Ewert with “Little Blue Book of Kansas Symbols.”

Little Blue Books, published in Girard between 1919 and 1978, were small, low-priced paperback books – made to fit into a pants or shirt pocket – published with the goal of getting works of literature, a wide range of ideas and various points of view out to as large an audience as possible.

Ewert, a public school teacher for 30 years, the past 15 of them as a Kansas and U.S. history teacher at Chisholm Middle School in Newton, will talk about Kansas symbols familiar to most people, with a few exceptions.

Participants will be encouraged to complete their own Little Blue Book during the program, using the information presented.

“We are excited to celebrate Kansas symbols this year,” said Kauffman Museum curator of education Andi Schmidt Andres. “They represent the history, geography, animal and plant life and natural history of our state and are a good way to learn more about Kansas.”

There will also be three author signings during Celebrate Kansas Day!, including Glen Ediger, North Newton, with Leave No Threshing Stone Unturned, and Keith Sprunger, North Newton, with Bethel College of Kansas, 1887-2012.

The third book is A Kansas Bestiary, described as “a book of 15 portraits in word and image” of Kansas wild animal and bird life, by Jake Vail and Doug Hitt of Lawrence, with illustrations by Lisa Grossman. Vail and Hitt will be at Celebrate Kansas Day! to sign their book.

The make-it-and-take-it craft and activity stations will feature Kansas symbols – among others, an ornate box turtle craft, Build a Bison, sunflower hats, “Ad astra” window stars, origami meadowlarks, a Kansas scavenger hunt and a Kansas sunflower scene for participants to take pictures (with your own camera or phone) of friends and family posing as sunflowers using a wooden cut-out stand.

There will be demonstrations and activities at various locations inside and outside the museum, including schoolyard games; horse-drawn wagon rides (weather permitting) from Country Boys Carriage; kettle popcorn popping; wood splitting; log hewing; woodshop work; blacksmithing; rope making; a Native American teepee; and, back by popular demand, goats from Gravels End Goat Farm near Hillsboro.

The restored farmhouse will be heated and open for touring.

The Friends of Kauffman Museum will sponsor their annual Kansas Day bake sale, flea market and silent auction. The museum store will be open, with all wheat weaving on sale at 20 percent off.

The 2013 Celebrate Kansas Day! event is supported by a North Newton Community Development Grant, with cooperating partners Bethel College, the Kansas Native Plant Society and the Kansas Land Trust.

For more information on the 16th annual Celebrate Kansas Day! at Kauffman Museum, call Andi Schmidt Andres at 316-283-1621.