Sale of concrete boots gives Florence park project a kickstart

Members of the Florence PRIDE Committee gather around three samples of the 80-pound concrete boots they are selling to raise money to renovate Veteran?s Park. ?When you?re going to do a project that big, you?re going to need funds,? said committee chair Sue Klassen (standing, far right). ?That?s where the boot project came in.? Click image to enlarge
The re-bar sign, now marking the entrance to Veterans? Park, will be replaced with a new one. The numerous changes planned for the park are projected to cost $41,000. The eagle and flag painted on an adjacent building adds to the park?s patriotic theme. Malinda Just / Free Press. Click image to enlarge

Lugging nearly 80 pounds of solid concrete in the form of a cowboy boot, Sue Klassen was full of PRIDE as she displayed the boots on a table in the Florence ambulance building.

Klassen, chair of Florence PRIDE since October 2003, said the organization is selling the concrete boots, painted or unpainted, as a fund-raiser for the renovation of the downtown Veteran?s Park.

According to the official Kansas PRIDE Web site, the organization is a partnership of K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and Kansas PRIDE Inc.

The purpose of the organization is to encourage and assist local government and volunteers in making their community a better place to live and work.

?For us, when I think of Florence PRIDE, I think of a very positive organization that only works for positive things in town,? Klassen said.

While a small organization can?t meet a lot of needs in a community such as street repairs, Klassen said Florence PRIDE could work to renovate the park.

?We finally came up this spring that we could redo Veteran?s Park downtown and maybe add that spark of life that downtown Florence needs,? Klassen said.

?If we get the park fixed up and add a wow factor, then maybe some of the other people who own some of the other buildings downtown will also add a bit of wow factor. ?

As the idea for the park renovation continued to grow, the organization began to identify ways to raise funds for the project. For the bare minimum, Klassen said, the project has been estimated at $40,000.

?When you?re going to do a project that big, you?re going to need funds,? she said. ?That?s where the boot project came in.?

Initiated by ?someone? who saw the boots at Sutherland?s, Klassen and PRIDE decided cowboy boots fit well enough with the area to sell them for donations to the park fund.

?This is cowboy country,? Klassen said. ?We?re so close to the Flint Hills that we have a lot of ranchers and farmers around this area that wear the good ol? cowboy boots.?

Since the July 28 kickoff party??Kick off your boots, hang up your hat and stay awhile in Florence,? 27 boots have been spoken for. The organization also raised $1,900 at the party for park renovation.

?The city as a whole has been very receptive,? Klassen said.

About half of the boot orders are from businesses, she said, and the other half from individuals.

But she was quick to say that the goal isn?t for Florence residents and businesses to exclusively purchase the boots.

?We?re hoping this opens the door for a lot of people wanting a cowboy boot,? she said. ?We?re hoping that people will see these boots and actually think, ?Oh wow, what a cool Christmas present for somebody,? and order them from us and inadvertently help our park project.?

The requested donation for a boot is $50 per unpainted boot, and $100 per painted boot.

Klassen and husband Gary make the boots in their garage. They bought the mold, and make four boots per week.

After the boots are purchased, buyers can make specific paint requests of Klassen and two other local artists, or the buyers can paint the boots themselves.

So far, artists have been requested a range of paint patterns, including traditional boot print, sunflowers, wheat, Wildcats, Jayhawks and even an ambulance.

Of the completed boots, Klassen said the Wildcat has been the most difficult request.

?It really was,? she said, ?because how do you paint a wildcat with all those crinkles on there??

But those ?crinkles? will help make the planned park renovations a reality.

PRIDE plans to put in a new entrance, new sidewalks, a new shelter, a fountain, some type of military artillery, new playground equipment and trees in Veteran?s Park.

The group has also discussed putting in a winding, brick sidewalk with the names of veterans, their branch of service and the war in which they served printed on the bricks.

?The park is really small, so you?re really limited on what you do,? said Klassen. ?We have an eagle and flag wall that was painted in 2001. That?s one of the things we feel is a high spot of downtown and we?d like to make this park kind of coincide with that wall,? she said.

Florence PRIDE has additional fund-raising opportunities planned for the upcoming Labor Day celebration in Florence, including food booths.

?We are just a little committee that is trying to do everything and anything positive that we can around town,? Klassen said. ?If it ain?t positive, we ain?t doin? it.?

To place an order for a boot, contact 620-381-4349. Currently there are no deadlines for placing an order.

?As long as the mold holds out, I don?t see any end,? Klassen said.

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