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Museum’s annual celebration marks 144 years of Kansas history

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- One of Kauffman Museum’s most popular annual events, Celebrate Kansas Day!, will take place this year on the 144th birthday of the 34th state, January 29. Special activities are planned from 1:30-4:30 p.m., with admission free to all ages.

Celebrate Kansas Day! highlights Kansas pioneer history through demonstrations, make-it-and-take-it craft activities, and area performers.

The first performance, at 1:45, will be Kurt Harder portraying Kansas explorer and war hero Frederick Funston (1865-1917). Harder, from Hesston, farms and teaches history at Hesston High School.

Funston was born in Ohio and grew up in Iola in southwest Kansas. As a newspaper reporter and field agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he explored Death Valley, Yosemite and the Yukon. Funston’s love of adventure led him, in 1896, to join Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain, which in turn resulted in his being called to head the 20th Kansas Infantry in the Spanish-American War.

In 1906, Funston helped keep law and order in San Francisco and provide relief to sufferers after the great earthquake. In 1914, he commanded American troops on the Texas border during the difficulties with Pancho Villa. Also in that year, he was promoted to major general.

The 2:45 performance will feature the Lindsborg Folkdanslag, a group of adults who perform traditional Swedish dances and instrumental music.

At 3:45, the musical group Black Kettle will perform. Black Kettle is Gail and Mark Stucky and their children Matt and Marike from Moundridge.

Black Kettle has been performing together for about three years. They play old-time, Celtic and traditional music using a variety of instruments, including autoharp, mandolin, guitar, banjo, bodhran and spoons. Gail Stucky added, "We also have a limberjack who occasionally shows up as a guest star."

Other Celebrate Kansas Day! events will go on all afternoon. These include make-it-and-take-it crafts. New this year are mini covered wagons, Valentine leaf rubbings and spool snakes. There will be a variety of other craft options, including candle dipping with Alex Young, Newton, a senior at Newton High School who is working on his Eagle Scout badge.

There will also be an old-time photography booth, guessing games and a new activity for Celebrate Kansas Day!, playing marbles, which is actually an old-fashioned game.

A new demonstration this year is log hewing with David Kreider of North Newton. Elaine Sauerwein of Newton will demonstrate rug-making. There will also be spoon making and wood turning demonstrations.

Kauffman Museum curator of education Andi Schmidt Andres invites everyone to stop by the Voth-Unruh-Fast House on the museum grounds to see volunteer Susan Rhoades of Newton bake zwiebach, a Russian Mennonite yeast roll, in a traditional, Russian-style brick oven. Samples will be available.

Favorite events that return this year include old-fashioned schoolyard games, popcorn popping in a large iron kettle over an outdoor wood fire, blacksmithing, wagon rides and the chance to visit the Voth-Unruh-Fast farmstead with its house and barn.

There will also be a bake sale, flea market and silent auction featuring original art, handcrafted items and antiques, all sponsored by the Friends of Kauffman Museum and going on all afternoon.

All activities will be held at the museum at 27th and North Main in North Newton. For more information, call Kauffman Museum at (316) 283-1612.

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