Eisenhower Park and the F-14 Fighter Jet of Trego County

Trego - Eisenhower3.jpgAs anyone who loves history knows, Kansas native Dwight D. Eisenhower was a celebrated World War II general prior to becoming the 34th president of the United States. His list of achievements is long, indeed. As Supreme Commander, he led American soldiers on D-Day and as president he sponsored and signed the Civil Rights Bill and connected the entire country via the interstate highway system.

Following the old Highway 40 on its parallel path with the Butterfield Overland Trail, highway planners developed a route that would bring travelers right past WaKeeney. Today, as travelers exit I-70 at WaKeeney’s west exit, Exit 127, they’ll find themselves at the entrance to our city’s beautiful memorial to the man behind the highway, Eisenhower Park.

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The park hugs the southern edge of WaKeeney and is easily accessed via a paved driveway that marks the borders of the park. There’s plenty of space for your pets to explore and kids will be able to stretch their legs after enjoying lunch at one of the many covered picnic tables.

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In 2006, a retired Navy F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet was added to the park to represent the many military men and women who have fought for this country. The Tomcat, at 62-feet and 40,000 pounds, was dismantled in Ohio and packed onto two trucks (the wings, tailpiece, and flight controls in one, the fuselage on another), which took up nearly two full lanes of the highway.

When the jet arrived in town a team of four retired military men from Virginia rebuilt the jet right in the center of Downtown WaKeeney and many people stopped by to see their work in progress. After it was completed the Tomcat was towed to its’ permanent home in Eisenhower Park, where it can be seen by everyone.

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Today, when you pull off of Exit 127 in WaKeeney, you are able to visit this monument to the military in a park that memorializes one of our country’s greatest commanders.

The Changing Face of the Trego County Courthouse

The borders of a town may be defined by its streets, and its economy is found in the fields that surround it, but if you’re looking for its civic heart you’ll find it beating inside the walls of its county courthouse.

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It was 1888 when the Trego County Courthouse was plotted in the center of WaKeeney’s city square. George R. Ropes, an architect from Topeka, had drawn up plans for a Queen Anne style Victorian building with an Elizabethan frontage. Upon completion the most prominent feature was a cupola imported from Europe that sat 100-feet high atop a tin roof. The main part of the building was ringed by a row of paired windows and peaked false fronts over the entryways, providing a grand look to the overall design.

Inside, the original pair of staircases still flank the east and west doors. The rich, dark wood used for the construction of the stairs was continued throughout the building, including in the courtroom on the top floor where you’ll find the original judge’s bench still in use today. Downstairs in the basement, the now retired jail still sports the unique flat bars and specially designed lock that were installed at the time of construction.

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The courthouse went through a transformation in 1951 and 1952, when it was decided the roof should be removed after having suffered irreparable damage and, at the same time, an update to the look of the exterior could be achieved, turning it into a mid-century style building with a profile of straight lines and ninety-degree angles. The prominent window spositioned over the entryways were also bricked over with a large stone mural of an eagle in flight surrounded by the words “Trego County Courthouse” above and below.

In 1974, our beautiful courthouse became the setting of a Hollywood movie, when Peter Bogdanovich, Ryan O’Neil and Tatum O’Neil filmed Paper Moon in several rooms of the courthouse. Some say those scenes didn’t make the final cut, but look closely at the point in which the father/daughter bunko team escapes the jail and you might see them fall down what appears to be a very familiar staircase.

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The current look of the Trego County Courthouse came to be in 2012 when a new roof was added. It was decided to pay homage to Ropes’s Victorian design and bring back a version of the original peaked roof. Inside the building, the Courthouse’s layout has remained the unchanged since its construction, which makes it one of the oldest buildings still in operation in Kansas today.

Today, the courthouse continues to be the center of civic activity in Trego County. Next time you’re in WaKeeney explore the beautiful craftsmanship of prairie architecture at the Trego County Courthouse!

The Lead Up to Championship Games at TCHS

Trego - Class ReunionsThe 2016-2017 winter sports season is coming to a head, with only a few games and tournaments left before the championship games begin. This year is the 50th anniversary of Trego Community High School Wrestling and we’re happy to be able to celebrate generations of competition when we host the Regional championship tournament on Friday, February 17th and Saturday, February 18th at the Trego Community High School.

WaKeeney will welcome twenty-five wrestling teams from Northwest Kansas schools at Regionals, with two great days of exciting competition. Top wrestlers from Class 3-2-1A will take to the mats to secure their spot at the sub-state tournament at the end of the month.

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TCHS Wrestling

Purple and gold will flood our halls during the tournament and we expect to see a lot of familiar faces in the stands because this year the 2016-2017 team will be honoring all the wrestlers who have come before them with a special shout out to past team members that are in attendance. So, join us to see your favorite wrestlers!

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TCHS Girls Basketball

The TCHS Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball teams are also gearing up for their season’s championship games. There are only three games left before the Sub-State tournament, with Quinter stepping onto our court on Tuesday, February 21st for the final regular season game.

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TCHS Boys Basketball

Get your purple and gold on and come out to celebrate the athletes, past and present, of Trego Community High School! And while you’re in town, explore the many great restaurants and shopping you’ll find in Downtown WaKeeney.

 

The Trego County Historical Society Museum Is Ready For Kansas Day (January 29)

This Sunday, Kansas Day, is the 156th anniversary of our beautiful state, making it a great day to visit the  Trego County Historical Museum, where new collections, guest speakers and the recently completed annex have given our historians more opportunities than ever to tell the stories of our county.

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More Exhibits

At a museum, more floor space means more room to explore interesting collections. At the Trego County museum visitors will find 20th-century artifacts from local people, as well as prehistoric era fossils from a time when a great inland sea trapped some of the earliest sea creatures in limestone at the bottom of the great inland sea that once covered the High Plains.

Of particular interest are the early agricultural tools and machinery and the collection of memorabilia from the Trego County schools. Soon they’ll be adding to that display with photos from the Collyer school.

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A recent installation in the museum is the ornate 1920s façade that once graced the front of the WaKeeney State Bank. Its 145 stones were a donation from local collectors Max and Irene Dirks and local volunteers contributed many hours to preparing them for installation.

Coming soon is a group of prehistoric and ancient fossils that were found on the farm of Leonard and Irene Purinton. Most of the items from either Trego or Gove County and the collection includes a mammoth femur and a squid fossil, sharks teeth, arrowheads, and many other unique items.

Look for the announcement of a special exhibit in April when the museum commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War I. They’ve recently uncovered several vintage propaganda posters deep in their archives and they will take center stage during the exhibition.

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More Events

Last weekend Jim Gray, executive director of the National Drovers Hall of Fame, shared his knowledge of cowboy life during his talk, “Head ‘em Up and Move ‘em Out.” It was a great success, with over 95 people in attendance coming from as far away as Oklahoma.

Several other presenters have enlightened us with stories of other heroic pioneers, such as executive director of the Nicodemus Historical Society Angela Bates who spoke about the history of Nicodemus, the first all-black settlement founded on the Great Plains.

The museum is committed to hosting speakers who can provide a glimpse into the past through storytelling, research and their enthusiasm for the subject.

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More Room

The recent addition of a 120 x 60 square foot building has doubled the museum’s display area, allowing easy access to twice as many displays with artifacts that had spent years in storage due to lack of space. Sections are dedicated to history dating back to prehistoric eras, the ancient past, early pioneer days, and all the way to our modern times, with ample room for guests to explore and a beautiful mural covering one wall.

In addition to the public space, an additional storage space is currently in the works to provide safe and secure storage for artifacts not on display. With this additional space the historians will be able to more efficiently organize and catalogue the museum’s entire collection.

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Next time you’re in WaKeeney stop by the museum to explore all the great stories brought to life by the historians and volunteers of the Trego Historical Society Museum. Check their website for more information about their hours and directions to the museum.  (TregoHistorical.org, 128 N. 13th St, WaKeeney, KS, 785.743.2964)

The Art of Prairie Life at the Western Kansas Saloon

The Western Kansas Saloon & Grill in Downtown WaKeeney is well known for its great food and friendly service, but did you know it’s also home to six beautiful paintings depicting pioneer life on our beautiful unsettled prairie?

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Six oversized scenes, painted by local artist Madeline Musick and commissioned by the WaKeeney Art Council, bring to life the many facets of life in a wild land, when there were more buffalo than people and cowboys roamed as free as the four winds. The paintings are unnamed, but I’ve come to know them as—

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The Buffalo Herd

The iconic animal of the prairie and our famous Kansas sunset are the subject of this painting. A family of buffalo and the large expanse of deep blue sky and sunlit clouds convey the coolness of dawn on the prairie. You can almost hear the meadowlarks singing.

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Indian Village

In this painting dark colors against a white background and the sparseness of vegetation found in the landscape suggest the harshness of native life lived outside. Native Americans were a common sight when the first settlers staked their claims in Trego County.

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Windmill at Sunrise

Our big beautiful sky is famous around the world for it’s beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and Musick’s third painting captures this majestic sight as a backdrop to a windmill that’s been cast into the shadows in this painting.

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Cattle Drive

The hard work of a cowboy and the vastness of the prairie is illustrated in the Cattle Drive. Days spent outside on the hot and dusty prairie moving the wealth of the land towards the railroads was an important part of economic growth in the early days of settlement in Northwest Kansas.

20170113_111845 Pioneer Woman at Her Cabin

The image of a pioneer woman and her child in search of a wild bouquet to decorate her simple home is my favorite of the six canvases. Holding onto her scissors, a tool that was surely quite precious to her, she faces the wind to make her family’s cabin more beautiful.

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Cowboys Sharing a Drink at the Saloon

There’s something pretty familiar about those men at the bar in the final painting. Could it be the elaborate facial hair, or maybe the long gray ponytail? More likely it’s the comradery of the group enjoying a beer together. Whatever you attribute it to, the easygoing nature of these four ombres is what I see in this painting.

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Next time you’re in WaKeeney stop in at the Western Kansas Saloon & Grill to enjoy the art of Madeline Musick. The Saloon has a place at the bar ready for you and your friends to enjoy an ice-cold beer and a tasty plate of great food, too!

 

Special Memories Made Under the Lights of the Christmas City of the High Plains

It’s inevitable that over time, treasured traditions become the beautiful memories we cherish forever. In Trego County our most special Christmas remembrances begin at the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Downtown WaKeeney.

Downtown Christmas Tree & Decorations

Our citizens look forward all year to the moment when we gather together at the base of our 35-foot tree to herald in the Christmas Season. This year’s celebration was made even more special when we were joined by two descendants of Art Keraus, one of the originators of our famous holiday decorations.

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A Special Guest


During a trip to Denver in the 1940s, my father saw a similar, smaller tree

and modeled this one after it.” 

-Margaret Magill


Margaret Magill, now 89, and her nephew Doug Wiedeman traveled from her home in Denver to WaKeeney to Fulfill her long-held wish of turning on the 6,800 red, yellow, blue, green and purple lights that illuminate our street throughout the holiday season.

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Magill has spent many Christmases in WaKeeney over the decades, but had never attended the lighting ceremony until this year. While she was here she shared stories with us of the many conversations she’d had with her father about the construction of the tree and it’s 3-miles of electrical cords and 1100-yards of fresh greenery, giving us yet another perspective into the story of our Western Kansas town.

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A New Generation of Memories


“It’s nice to feel a part of the legacy that my grandfather left with this town,

that is still here today,” Wiedeman said. “And (the town) has expanded on it.”

-Doug Wiedeman


For over six decades, community volunteers have come together to conduct repairs and repaint the many elements that make up our display, and they’ve taken the initiative to add onto what Art and its other creator, Jake Heckman, built so long ago.

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This year, their attention turned to repainting the mural at Main Street’s North Pole Park. Originally painted in 1999 by Laurie Albin, it had begun to succumb to the elements, but after a combined effort between volunteers and Albin it is better and brighter than ever. More upgrades were made to Santa’s little house inside the park—new paint, carpet and curtains, a faux fireplace and a new Christmas tree. And, now it is ready for Ol’St. Nick and the many children who come to visit him, both naughty and nice.

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Make WaKeeney and its beautiful Christmas tree part of your family’s holiday tradition and you’ll begin collecting our own treasured memories of the Christmas City of the High Plains!

Wreaths Across America Honors Our Brave at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery

Honoring the veterans interred at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney has become a proud tradition for our city during the holiday season, and this year we are proud to once again take part in the annual Wreaths Across America’s worldwide event to honor those who’ve sacrificed so much.

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Throughout the ten years since the cemetery has participated in Wreaths Across America it’s been a moving experience for all who’ve attended or been involved in the event It’s provided us a moment of reflection on the great achievements of our servicemen and women, as well as the tremendous sacrifices they, and their families make in order for us to have an all-volunteer army fighting for our freedom.

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We are honored again this holiday season to be able to recognize members of all five branches of the service—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard—as well as the Merchant Marines, and those POW/MIA status. Wreaths made especially for this event were purchased through local donations collected by the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney and the WaKeeney VFW from the same supplier to Arlington National Cemetery, the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine. They began the tradition in 1992 and continue to head up the project year after year.

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A short service will also be held during the ceremony, with Errol Wuertz of the Civil Air Corp. and Rev. Stanton presiding, followed by a 21-gun salute performed by the Hays VFW Honor Guard as attendees lay wreaths at the gravesite. For those families unable to attend the event, the American Legion Riders and Knights of Columbus will fill in, so no veteran goes unrecognized.

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Please join us at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney at 11am on Saturday, December 17th for the 11th Annual Wreaths Across America ceremony, to “Remember, Honor, Teach” the value of freedom to our young.

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