IT’S KANSAS DAY: Ten Ways to Celebrate Kansas becoming the 34 State in the Union
Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Marking the 161st year of statehood for the Sunflower State.
Kansas Day is a treasured holiday in our state. Becoming more revered each passing year, with each generation. Other states may not recognize statehood quite as Kansans do. Our story is different.
During its territory days, Kansas was a battleground. A fight between two contrasting ideologies. Freedom or slavery. Even with the tumultuous events - often including bleed shed and destruction - leading up to January 29, 1861, the founders of our state never lost sight of their convictions. Kansas, and those you chose to make their home here, would be Free.
The immense pride I feel as a Kansan is something I at times struggle to put into words. Our state has been the birthplace of many great explorers - Amelia Earhart, Bob Ballard, and Martin & Osa Johnson to name a few. Our farmers and ranchers feed not just Kansas or the United States, but the world. For generations of us, the pioneer spirit is rooted deep inside.
Kansans are kind, and we're humble. We band together. January 29th is a day we should celebrate not only our state but celebrate each other and honor those who came before.
Fun Fact: Along with Kansas being the 34th state, Dwight D. Eisenhower - son of the Sunflower State - was the 34th President of the United States.
1. Hike a Kansas Trail
With over 4,000 miles of trails in Kansas, there is no shortage of areas to get out and experience the great outdoors. You’ll find hiking opportunities for all levels of difficulty at all 28 state parks - that’s not including the many local city parks and trails. A popular destination to hike, no matter the year, are the Flints Hills. Longer hikes can be found at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Konza Prairie Biological Station. During the winter months, early morning or late evening, warm sunlight gives the Tallgrass prairie a golden hue.
2. Read a Book about Kansas
When you think about a book that takes place in Kansas, your first thought might be the story of the girl who was swept away by a tornado only to find herself in a fantastical land. After going on a remarkable journey she realizes in the end - there’s no place like home. Yes, the Wizard of Oz. Though anymore, I think more might connect with the movie than the book. There’s also Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie - another classic.
Sticking with fiction stories, a book released in 2020 called The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia has been a popular read. Even becoming one of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club picks in 2020. The Chicken Sisters is loosely, very loosely, based around the idea of Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s in Pittsburg, Kansas. Except this story takes place in fictional Merinac, Kansas. One thing is the same… fried chicken.
If you prefer non-fiction, there’s Revolutionary Heart - about the life of Clarina Nichols a Kansas journalist and part of the suffrage movement. Or, Hidden History of Kansas by Adrian Zink. Also, be on the lookout for Zink’s coming book A Humorous History of Kansas. Another book recommendation is Ladybird, Collected by Meg Heriford. A collection of essays written by Heriford about the community built around her diner also named Ladybird in Lawrence.
Locate these books at a community library or local independent bookstore.
3. Watch a Kansas Sunrise or Sunset
Montana may be known as Big Sky Country, but I think Kansas gives some pretty big, beautiful sky. It’s particularly remarkable at sunrise and again at sunset. In fact Golden Hour, the time before or after the sun breaks the horizon, is a vibrant watercolor masterpiece of warm and cool hues swirling together. Here is a quick list of places to experience a Kansas sunset or sunrise.
Sunrise: Four State Overlook
Sunrise: Teter Rock
Sunset: Point of Rocks at Cimarron National Grasslands
Sunset: Mount Sunflower
Sunrise/Sunset: Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park
Sunrise/Sunset: Gypsum Hills
More to Read: Sunset Hike at Little Jerusalem Badlands
4. Tour the Kansas Capitol
An iconic structure, the government house built for the people of Kansas. Open during the week and on Saturdays, visitors can walk the Capitol on their own, or take a guided history tour. Abundant with art features - murals, stained glass, and statues - the Capitol itself is an architectural marvel.
More to Read: Ultimate Guide to the Kansas Capitol
5. Attend a Special Kansas Day Event
From Lawrence and Fort Scott to Salina and Wichita, several Kansas communities and local museums are hosting festivities. On Saturday, January 29, the town of Seneca is presenting a Kansas Day Bingo full of activities and trivia. If you complete the card it will be entered into drawings for prizes. Lecompton begins their annual Bleeding Kansas Series on Sun, January 30, featuring a talk “Kansas Day” Faces of the Free State House by author and educator Bill McFarland.
6. Cruise a Backroad
Fill up the tank, pack a snack and grab a map. It’s time to cruise. When you venture off the main highways in Kansas, you never know what you might find. Driving the backroads around Cassoday you may catch sight of the mustangs of the Flint Hills. You can locate a scenic drive across our state. From the Arikaree Breaks in the west or the Glacial Hills in the east to the red Gypsum Hills of southwest Kansas.
7. Become a Kansas Explorer Club Member
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to explore Kansas more, then I encourage you to consider becoming an official Kansas Explorer. A program of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the Kansas Explorers Club is a community of passionate people who love the Sunflower State. As a fellow explorer (#6450), it’s choosing to support rural, daring to take the dirt roads, getting to know the locals, and creating your own Kansas adventure.
Stewarded by Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe, the Kansas Sampler Foundation has founded and supports numerous programs to build up, promote and preserve rural Kansas. Along with the Explorers Club, they also host the Big Kansas Road Trip and are authors of the Kansas Guidebooks.
Kansas Explorer Giveaway: For Kansas Day, I'm giving away a Kansas Explorers Club membership & a copy of the Kansas Guidebook. Go to my Instagram or Facebook to learn more! (closes January 29, 2022)
8. Plan Your Next Kansas Road Trip
There’s never a better time to plan a road trip than right now. Need a head start? This is a big anniversary year for Kansas businesses. Hays House Restaurant in Council Grove - the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi - marks 165 years. Cozy Inn in Salina, known for its scrumptious burgers, turns a century old. Other anniversaries include Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere is celebrating 60, and the newly renovated Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City is looking fine at 75.
As mentioned above is the Big Kansas Road Trip. A weekend-long event, held the first weekend in May, hosted by three neighboring counties. Which rotate each year. In 2022, immerse yourself in the southeast counties of Bourbon (Fort Scott), Crawford (Pittsburg), and Cherokee (Galena) counties.
9. Raise a Glass to Kansas with a Local Drink
Cheers to 161 years of statehood, Kansas! Once one of the driest states in the US - thanks Carry Nation - every year handfuls of craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries are opening. One of our state’s newest breweries, Ladybird Brewing in Winfield will be releasing a special Kansas Day brew. In Basehor, sip on international award-winning wines at Holy-Field Winery & Vineyards while you have your cake (birthday cake) and eat it too.
10. Eat a Kansas Signature Dish
What is a Kansas signature dish? A few things come to mind. Barbecue might be the most popular, but being deep into winter another favorite is chili and cinnamon rolls. Of course, there are the three main options of our comfort food - fried chicken, steak or chicken fried steak. With our traditional Midwest cuisine, Kansas is a foodie delight.