First Impressions of Republic County – Cheyenne Erichsen

My name is Cheyenne Erichsen and I am a new employee at JenRus Freelance located in Courtland. Originally from Council Grove, I relocated to the area after graduating from Washburn University in December. Recently at the WeKan! Conference in Salina, I listened to Marci Penner from the Kansas Sampler Foundation speak about amazing places all over the state. She said the Kansas Explorers Club’s mission is to inspire, educate, and encourage the exploration and appreciation of Kansas…and have fun doing it.When exploring they have three important keys that insure success: visiting with the locals, not judging a town, and being curious.

Before moving here I did not have the opportunity to explore what Republic County has to offer. So, recently I decided to take a day, explore each town, and provide my impression through a set of fresh eyes much the way Marci does when traveling the state.

Agenda

Although Agenda is one of those “if you blink you‘ll miss it” towns, I was surprised by what it had to offer. The Cedar Porch and Hope Floats are two very neat places and people will drive hours just to stop there. That alone says a lot for a town of around 70.

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Belleville

With great shops and businesses, Belleville has a lot of great things going and I believe that it has high potential to continue to expand. Many of the businesses are extremely successful and known not just around Republic County, but around the United States. I met some welcoming people while popping in and out of the downtown stores and felt that it was definitely a town I would love to spend more time in. I’m looking forward to checking out the NCK Free Fair and watching a race at the Belleville High Banks.

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Courtland

The main things I have noticed is that Courtland extremely nice, helpful, has caring people, and a very strong sense of hometown pride. I am about positive it is the only place where you can put one’s name in the paper saying they are to work at an event like Courtland Fun Day or Courtland Pancake Feed and people will show up to help with that shift.  This is acceptable in Courtland and completely normal to them. I think that right there shows what I just stated… that hometown pride in Courtland is huge. Business and residents help each other out because they want to see the town succeed like they know it can and will. Courtland is such a warming place to be.

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Cuba

I love Cuba. I had a great lunch at Two Doors Down, did some grocery shopping at Cuba Cash Store, met some great people, oh, also had my very first kolache. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a community quite like Cuba’s. What other town do you know that takes time out of their day to help unload the weekly grocery truck shipment? I mean come on, that is great. The community works hard to keep the grocery store up and running (and the whole town for that matter) and I know they are all doing a great job.

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Munden

On the day that I visited Munden there was not a whole lot going on, unfortunately. I did notice that they had a nice park, a lot of agriculture, and many rock signs in resident’s front yards with last names I could not pronounce even if I wanted to. I did also see that they recently celebrated their 125th year at Munden! I have heard they also have a Czech festival and I am excited to check their new community building when it gets built.

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Narka

As I was standing on the sidewalk in Narka taking pictures, a mom and her three young children smiled and waved at me, as did the other vehicles that drove by.  Okay, so what if it was only two vehicles, it was still nice. They were probably wondering what I was doing in Narka of all places taking pictures and to that I say… the spaceship water tower, of course.

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Republic

Republic was a quiet little town the day I visited. I have heard the talk about Rip City Inn’s hamburger night and am certain that all the locals are correct about how delicious they are. I even checked out the Pawnee Indian Village, which was neat to see that piece of history nestled there.

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Scandia

For little ole Scandia, there sure was a lot going on there. I can already tell that there is community support and some awesome festivities between Scandia River Fest and the Highway 36 Treasure Hunt that take place there. The Lunar Trek Run is one of the neatest things I have heard of and I am eager to get to hopefully participate in it this year.

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All of these towns are unique in their own way, but there are a few things that may help even more people experience tourism opportunities that Republic County has to offer.

Before I set out on my trip, I was doing research online at the office, because as an outsider I don’t know where else to go for tourism information. According to KDOT, on average 5,535 vehicles pass through Republic County daily on Highway 81 and 36 combined. That is a total of 202,210 vehicles a year that travel through Republic County.  If we estimated that 10 percent of our total traffic are non-local tourist’s vehicles that would equal 20,221 tourist vehicles a year or 554 tourist vehicles a day. According to a Google study ‘The 2012 Traveler’ (http://www.google.com/think/research-studies/the-2012-traveler.html);  “83 percent of leisure travelers and 76 percent of business travelers plan online.”  That means out of the estimated 20,221 Republic County tourists per year a staggering 15,165 of those have planned their trips online. Today people are researching travel plans online to find places to eat, nearby attractions, or local events. The more local business and city information available through Google listings, online directories, websites, and Facebook Pages the better chance we have at getting people to stop here.

According to the Belleville Travel Information Center, over 20,000 people sign in to the Belleville TIC each year. That is a unique opportunity where most towns don’t display directly to travelers off a major US highway.  If I didn’t work in Republic County or know people here, I think this would be one of the best places to get tourist information off-line.

Another aspect I believe we should emphasize is signage.  The current signage in the county is really good for schools, museums, and most the town entrances.  Though without asking locals I would have never known about Two Doors Down, Pinky’s, and many of the truly unique retail shops in the county. I realize signage is heavily regulated by the state, but more signs up and down of Highway 36 and 81 informing drivers about those places would help (maybe with a website listed for more information too). Along with signage, I think there should be more brochures at high foot-traffic areas of towns. It would be nice to stop at the gas station and on the counter there be a brochure about the attractions of Republic County. This too will help with drivers passing through and give them a reason to stay and come back to our county.

Republic County truly is a great place and has some of the best stores and restaurants I have been to. I am looking forward to becoming a part of the communities and experience what every town has to offer.