DON’T ASK WHY

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
Summer vacation is only a few weeks away. This means that my family has begun discussing this year’s fun-filled-family-trek-to-someplace-other-than-
Kansas.

Those conversation mostly consist of me asking things like, “Can we go back to Hershey?” numerous times a day. But I’m hoping that the others will catch on, and begin responding similarly with “Ummm, we’ll see.” Well, it’d be better than nothing.

Like all families across the nation, we always are on the lookout for a trip that will include the following: historic sights, beautiful terrain (mountains, oceans, etc.) and a limited amount of money. Most vacations usual end up containing a few weird stops at tourist traps, too.

Popular places like these can be found in states such as Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, California…. Well, practically any state. Except Kansas.

For some reason, you never see families wearing matching outfits taking pictures at various places along the road in our state. You see plenty of Kansans in Colorado, but rarely Coloradoans in Kansas; people just aren’t attracted.

In fact, The Great Almanac of Tourism Inside the United States, Canada and Mexico states that Kansas is the least-toured place in Mid and North America. The book estimates-which means that I’m making this up as I go-that Kansas actually encounters only 11 vacationing families each year, six of which were just traveling through it to get somewhere else.

The number of families would be bigger, but many people go out of their way just so they don’t have to come into Kansas.

This is because our state has been getting bad publicity, starting in 1939 when the hit movie “The Wizard of Oz” was introduced to the world. While the rest of the movie was filmed in color, the parts in Kansas remained a monotonous black and white. Unfortunately, people still think that the sunflower state remains colorless.

A while back, I was talking to a new Kansan who said that when they told their friends that they were moving to Kansas, their friends could not believe they would move to someplace so boring!

“But all your stuff is color,” they probably said, “will those hicks allow you to keep all of it?”

So, one way that we can increase tourism to Kansas is to demand that Hollywood reproduce all of the Kansas scenes in “The Wizard of Oz” so people will realize that we’re not just a bunch of black-and-white hicks.

It would also be nice if they would take the Miss Gulch character out, too, so people would understand that we aren’t a bunch of dog-hating farmers. (As long as the owners clean up after them.)

Another way we could increase tourism to our state is to print a whole bunch of colorful brochures, and distribute them throughout the country. Or at least drop few billion out airplane windows.

The brochures would contain short snippets of various Kansas attractions that the whole family will enjoy (or at least endure).

So, I have taken the liberty of doing a write-up on a Kansas spot for each of the four Vacation Stop Requirements (historic sights, beautiful terrain-mounts and oceans, weird stops and tourist traps). Enjoy.

— Historic sights: The first Pizza Hut. Now located on the campus of Wichita State University, the first Pizza Hut restaurant was opened in 1958 by two brothers, both WSU graduates. The building was originally located at Kellogg and Bluff. We here at the Kansas Tourism Assoc. Corp. Inc. doubt that they still serve pizza in that building.

— Beautiful terrain: Mountains. Visit Mount Sunflower, the tallest peak in all of Kansas. With its summit reaching 4,039 feet above sea-level, this is definitely an attraction you and your family won’t want to miss.

Mount Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas, and is conveniently located just a few miles from the lowest point in Colorado. We here at the Kansas Tourism Assoc. Corp. Inc. suggest you visit it soon, before rain washes it away.

— Oceans: Your best bet for finding an ocean in Kansas would be to visit after a nice rain shower, and frolic in the waves of standing water in a field somewhere. But if you want something more permanent, visit one of the many lakes in the state! One of our personal favorites (because of its name) is Tuttle Creek Lake. Also, don’t forget to stop by Marion Reservoir, where you can enjoy the beautiful sight of blue-green algae. (Seasonal.)

— Weird stops: World’s largest ball of twine. We’re sure you and your family will get hung up with fascination at this glorious attraction located in Cawker City. Beginning in 1953 as one farmer’s means of storing scrap twine, this big ball of twine has inspired a city-wide holiday: Twine-A-Thon. After 2003’s event, the total length of twine making up the ball was recorded as 7,049,191 feet!

We, here at the Kansas Tourism Assoc. Corp. Inc. recommend visiting the big ball of twine soon, before it turns into a big blob of twine. Kids climbing on the ball are also a problem, as it has begun to sag at the bottom. (This generally happens with age.) So when you visit, please keep your children on a leash…. Just make sure you’re not using part of the twine ball.

— Tourist traps: Prairie Dog Town. We here at the Kansas Tourism Inc. Assoc. Corp….or was that Corp. Inc. Assoc.? Oh well. We highly recommend one of the funnest tourist traps you’ll find in the great plains. (Yes, we know that “funnest” isn’t a word, but the owners of this attraction probably don’t.)

Proudly advertised as the home of the world’s largest prairie dog, this stop in Oakley is full of fun sights, including a five-legged cow and a six-legged steer!

You can bet there’s an admission fee, as well as a real high-class (not) gift shop.

You’ll probably also find a veterinarian plastic surgeon hiding in the back. By the way, the 8,000-pound prairie dog is concrete.

I’m sure you agree with me that this would be a great way to quench our state’s tourism thirst. But the only Kansas sight that I hope to see on my family vacation is a sign saying, “Thank you for visiting Kansas. Now ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”

Yee-haw.

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