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8 Wonders of Kansas

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Rex's Commentary

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.

By Rex Buchanan:
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.

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