8 Wonders of Kansas historyofthe8wonderscontest


Though it was the updating of the 7 Wonders of the World that started this modern day craze of choosing 7 Wonders from a multitude of different regions, the decision to find the 8 Wonders of Kansas was recognition of the 8 rural culture elements used since 1993 by the Kansas Sampler Foundation to identify tourism assets of a community.


The Kansas Sampler Foundation has identified architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people as something that every town has or has a story to tell about and everything in a town fits into one of these categories.


Von Rothenberger, Kansas Explorer #8, approached the Kansas Sampler Foundation about Kansas being involved in the craze to determine the 7 Wonders of a specific geographic place. The Kansas Sampler Foundation suggested that we recognize the 8 elements of rural culture and find the 8 Wonders of Kansas--and then do a contest for each of the 8 elements: architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people!


The 8 Wonders of Kansas contest series is a perfect project to fulfill one of the Kansas Sampler Foundation's objectives of educating Kansans about Kansas.  In the end, we're literally educating the world.    Every contest began with public nominations followed by a selection committee choosing 24 finalists from the public nominations.  In June 2007, the list of 24 finalists was announced for the overall 8 Wonders of Kansas.  Voting ended in December of that year and on January 29, 2008, Governor Kathleen Sebelius announced the top 8 in a Kansas Day ceremony in the state capitol rotunda.  Later, in alphabetical order, a 4-month contest cycle for each of the 8 rural culture elements (architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people) was held and was completed in 2010.   The most numbers of votes were 19,000+ in the History contest.  In each contest there have been votes from every state and some several foreign countries. In the end, over 100,000 voted for their favorite wonder. This was a one-time contest series.  It's one for the ages and will be looked upon with historical interest as the years go by.


The goals of the contest are to educate the world about what there is to see and do in Kansas and to encourage travel in Kansas!


The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a public non-profit whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture. Find out more at www.kansassampler.org. The Foundation was founded by Mil Penner and daughter Marci Penner in 1993. The offices are located on a farm near Inman.

WHAT IS THE KANSAS EXPLORERS CLUB? The Kansas Explorers Club is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and was created to inspire, educate, and encourage the exploration and appreciation of Kansas...and to have fun doing it. The main benefit is a bimonthly membership newsletter that helps Explorers see Kansas with new eyes! Go to explorekansas.org to learn more or e-mail wendee@explorekansas.org for a sample newsletter.

The 8 Wonders of Kansas project has done more than educate the world about Kansas. It has also caused an increase in business at many of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce finalist locations! Don Koerperich of Koerperich Bookbinding in tiny Selden, Kansas was a recent finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce contest. Although they didn't make the top 8 they were still honored to be a finalist and said, "The publicity has been great for us. No big customers yet, but our web traffic has increased considerably and we are getting quite a few small jobs from it." Don Walsh, owner of MarCon Pies in Washington, Kansas was one of the top 8 winners in the Commerce category. Don reported that, "business has picked up since the contest, and with the downturn in the economy I'm smiling!"

The following is commentary written by Rex Buchanan for Kansas Public Radio prior to our first 8 Wonders contest--so it was written sometime in April or May of 2007.  He does a great job of describing why Kansas is so "wonder" full.

Rex Buchanan is co-author of Roadside Kansas: A Guide to Its Geology and Landmarks and Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills and co compiler of Kansas Groundwater, published by the Kansas Geological Survey.

This winter the Kansas Sampler Foundation, out in Inman, decided to let the people of the state pick the eight wonders of Kansas. They solicited public suggestions, then this spring brought together some folks to select a list of 24, which will be announced on June 1. People can then vote, via the internet, until December 31. The Governor will announce the winners on Kansas Day, 2008 (that's January 29, for those of you who don't have the date marked on your calendar).

I went to the meeting that selected the 24 candidates, and narrowing the list of 24 was tough. Some of the choices were obvious, but those final few selections weren't easy.

Now picking these places was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it was surprising to see what some folks really cared about, and how much they cared. They would argue and defend certain locations with all the persuasive passion they could muster. They clearly believe that some of these spots are special, and they believe that so strongly that they want the rest of us to see for ourselves. Their theory is, I reckon, that if we just see some of these spots-give them a chance--we'll think they're special too.

The process also made me think of the state a little differently. If you live any place long enough, you get used to it. A place might hold something special and wondrous, but you don't even notice. And given our long-standing inferiority complex, lots of Kansans probably think there isn't anything wondrous here. But when you try to look at this place anew, like somebody coming here for the first time, maybe there are wonders.

Now I'm not sure exactly how to define a wonder, but it seems to me to be something that makes a strong first impression. Something that makes you say, "I'll be damned" when you first lay eyes on it. Something you remember. All of these argue against the subtle, I suppose, and many of the best parts of Kansas are subtle. They don't reach out and grab. They make you work to appreciate them. So can something be subtle, and a wonder, at the same time? Well, you decide.

Come June 1, the list of 24 will be unveiled and you can vote for your favorite. I won't say what made the list, but I can say this. Some of these places make you scratch your head and say "Wow." Others require some contemplation for their appreciation. I hope there's room on the final list for both. Keep an eye out for the announcement. Vote if you feel like it. But, maybe more importantly, consider visiting some of these places. Especially the subtle spots, the ones whose charm can't be conveyed in a photograph or in words. Give these places a little time to work on you. Maybe the places you like will win, and maybe they won't. But we could all use a little more wonder in our lives. And maybe the easiest place to look is right at home.