On the last day of the 2022 Big Kansas Road Trip in Bourbon, Cherokee and Crawford counties, Marci Penner of the Kansas Sampler Foundation announced that the 2023 Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) will take place in Jewell, Republic, and Smith counties in North Central Kansas on May 4-7.
The BKRT is a multi-day event that feels like a tri-county open house of communities and their attractions and locally-owned shops and restaurants, and it’s a time to travel back roads and take in short activities that help locals tell their story. Penner said, “All we ask is that communities be good at being themselves. The public wants to have first-hand experiences in our rural communities and countryside to get to know them as they are.”
A menu of things to see and do is presented in a variety of ways from a printed piece to a web site, with updates and encouragement on social media. Each person, family or group attending can choose where they want to go and make their own schedule. It’s adventure ala carte at your own pace.
Penner said, “It’s impossible to know how many attend the BKRT each year because everyone is spread out over three counties. No one gets overloaded but everyone gets more traffic than usual.” Visitors to the 2022 event in southeast Kansas came from every region of Kansas and sign-in sheets showed that there were many people from out-of-state as well.
County seats in the 2023 showcase are Mankato (Jewell County), Belleville (Republic County) and Smith Center (Smith County). A few highlights are the Home on the Range cabin (near Athol) and the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states (Lebanon) in Smith County; a WPA-built courthouse (Mankato) and Lovewell Lake and State Park in Jewell County; and the Pawnee Indian Village state historic site (near Republic) and the National Midget Auto Racing Museum (Belleville) in Republic County.
“Belleville is the biggest city in the three counties with a population of 1,900,” said Penner. The 2023 road trip will have a different feel than this year which is what makes it exciting. These counties will provide visitors many intriguing ways to get to know them.”
The mission of the Kansas Sampler Foundation is to preserve and sustain rural culture. For more information on the BKRT, go to bigkansasroadtrip.com.