As US36 Treasure Hunt gains in popularity, promoters look for even more ways to entice travelers
By Deb Hadachek the Belleville Telescope editor
Journey through the guestbook on the US36 Highway Association website, and you start to get the idea that finding a bargain or a one-of-a-kind collector’s item isn’t the only reason people return to the US36 Treasure Hunt every year. This year’s edition kicks off this Friday, September 19:
“It’s the most fun I have all year.”
“We found treasures, we made new friends, and had a lot of laughter.”
“New scenery and new, neat towns. Highway 36 was beautiful and I loved how clean the towns and roadways were.”
“People are extraordinarily friendly and hospitable.”
“It’s neat to be on the smaller highways and see the real America. We met some of the nicest, friendliest people around.”
“The people of Kansas are truly the most friendly and delightful people on earth.”
And that was the point when the Treasure Hunt was conceived in Scandia nine years ago, says Criquet Cole, Phillipsburg, secretary and director of marketing for the US36 Highway Association. This year 30 cities from Wathena to St. Francis will participate in the Treasure Hunt, as well a cities a few miles off the US36 corridor.
“It was to create a reason for people to drive US36,” Cole says. Two of the founders, Paul Kallman and Jim Erickson, are US36 association board members. The third, Jane Ann Carlgren, owns shops in Scandia and promotes Republic County tourism.
“Treasure Hunt travelers impact motels, restaurants, fuel stops and antique shops,” she says. “That’s the most direct impact.
“But if you read the comments on the guestbook on our website, you see where people are coming from and the reason why people travel US36. It gives us a chance to welcome people here who would have never visited otherwise.”
As the association gears for the 10th anniversary of the Treasure Hunt in 2015, Cole said a series of meetings will be held across the state, hosted by president Lee “Doc” Franklin of Jennings.
“We want to have town hall meetings to advocate that communities plan some related event Friday or Saturday night–a barbecue cook-off, a pie contest–whatever will hold a certain percentage of people in your communities overnight. We have some very engaged, forward-thinking board members, and we are blessed with strong advocates in every community along the route for what impacts everybody.”
A special feature of this year’s event in Republic County is a display of US36 memorabilia at the Scandia Museum that marks the 101-year history of the route. This weekend is the last chance to see the display in Republic County before it moves to Smith County.