Keeping the Windsor dream alive




Four people from southwest Kansas were among 10 people statewide to receive We Kan! awards last month during the Kansas Sampler Festival in Wamego.

Don Harness of Garden City, Jim and Sandi Coast of Cimarron, and Katie Herrick of Johnson City were three of 10 award winners recognized May 3 for their efforts to sustain and preserve rural culture. The awards are given annually by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

According to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the We Kan! Award is presented to individuals or organizations that have made outstanding efforts to help preserve and sustain rural culture in their area.

There is no application process. The Foundation chooses recipients who have a cooperative spirit, show enthusiasm and dedication for their community, and whose efforts have made a real difference in rural Kansas.

"Each of these people has made an impact for the good of rural Kansas. It is our privilege to honor them," Marci Penner, Foundation director, said.

Harness, president of the Finney County Preservation Alliance, was recognized for "Keeping the Windsor Dream Alive." Harness and the Preservation Alliance have been working for many years to preserve the historic Windsor Hotel in downtown Garden City.

"I was very pleased. Kansas Sampler is the consummate promoter of Kansas. They were instrumental in us getting on the nomination list for 8 Wonders of Kansas," Harness said. "It's an honor to receive recognition from them."

Harness said Kansas Sampler is great at helping the Windsor attract interest. In the recent past, the Windsor was a finalist for the organization's 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture designation.

"We were in contention, and we benefited from that. They're a real good promotional tool for anything Kansas," Harness said, noting that WenDee LaPlant, assistant director of the Foundation, lived in Garden City at one point and served on the preservation alliance board.

Harness, who attended this year's festival, said he had a "hint" about the award but didn't know what the extent of it would be. He said the awards were announced at the end of the day and each winner received a plate-sized, ceramic plaque. The plaques are made annually by Steve and Jane Fry of Elk Falls Pottery.

Jim and Sandi Coast were recognized as "Community Difference Makers" by the Foundation. The Coasts sold the Clark Pharmacy in Cimarron in January after 38 years of ownership. They still own three other pharmacies in Dodge City, Cimarron and Minneola.

Sandi Coast said the recognition from Kansas Sampler was "fantastic."

"It was a really nice honor," she said. "Cimarron has been a wonderful community to raise a family and have a small business. We feel like the community has been very supportive, and we've tried to support the community."

Katie Herrick, Stanton County Museum director, was honored for dedication to Stanton County history education.

Herrick, an Oklahoma native who has been museum director for about 23 years, said the award came as a complete surprise.

This year was the first time in many years Herrick couldn't attend the Kansas Sampler festival, so she wasn't in attendance when the awards were announced. She learned she won through congratulatory posts on Facebook.

"I think it's very nice that they are recognizing us," Herrick said. "I was very surprised and pleased. I think they do a very nice job of recognizing the many ways that people participate in sharing what Kansas has to offer, and what our history is."

The museum's programs are tied to Stanton County history mostly, but they also tie things to state history and history in general. Herrick said Oklahoma schools teach a lot of Oklahoma history, so at the museum she tries to augment the history taught in Kansas schools.

"We do programming for all ages, and a lot of children's programs. For instance today we had three separate sets of programs," she said.

History is basically a story, Herrick said, and most people, children and adults alike, enjoy stories.

"We try to bring history down to the local level," she said. "Kids really enjoy learning in a hands-on way. Once a month we're at the assisted living center and do programs for them — sometimes doing the same things we've done for kids."

The Kansas Sampler Festival was designed to bring communities and attractions from all over the state together to make it easy for the public to discover day trip possibilities.

Other 2014 We Kan! winners from around the state included Stacy Barnes, Greensburg; Phyllis Bitner, Arma; Jettie Condray, Minneapolis; Janelle Dockendorf, Abilene; John Howard, Marysville; Paul Kalmann, Scandia; and Susan Wettstein, Garnett.

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