Independence, Kansas, One of America’s Great Small Towns

Welcome back. This week my travels have been mostly local including a quick drive to Ponca City which is home to several really good museums. During a trip to Tulsa I also had the opportunity to visit Vera, a small community along the way with one of the best cafes around for breakfast and lunch. The café doubles as the town grocery store and it is an interesting place that is well worth a stop.

On this trip I also stopped at the Mid-America Feed Store in Talala, OK which is much more than a feed store and is a great place to shop for the cowboy or cowgirl in your life.

Next my travels took me to Independence, KS. Saturday was a big day in this town of 9,500 starting in the morning at the Ralph Mitchell Zoo which was opening for the summer season. This city owned zoo has always amazed me and it is a regular stop whenever I am in the area. Located in Riverside Park where there is also a big waterpark, it’s a drive through place that takes you past tree shaded picnic tables, statues and fountains.

The zoo was founded in 1925 and today it is home to all types of animals, from monkeys to bison. New this year are three Siberian bears which are a larger species of brown bear. These bears are sisters and they come from a zoo in South Carolina. In addition to a tour of the zoo, a visit to this 100+ acre park also offers miniature golf, a kiddie park and lots of good food close by. I’d say it just about has everything for a great daytrip.

Well you’d think after the big opening at the Zoo on Saturday what else could this little community offer but friends that night at Memorial Hall Roy Clark, Jana Jae, Jim Halsey and many other big names in music were in town for the annual induction ceremony of the National Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame. It was close to a sellout crowd when Roy Clark sang “Yesterday When I was Young” and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Jim Halsey. Jim Hall Blair sang “Okie from Muskogee” in memory of Merle Haggard and from The Voice TV show, Alaska and Madi sang “Walking after Midnight.” Throw in an award for Clarence “Gate Mouth” Brown and I’d say even old Harry Sinclair, who made his fortune here back in the early 1900s, would be quite amazed by this small Kansas town he once called home.

From one enjoyable weekend it’s on to another coming up in Oklahoma City where it’s time for the Western Heritage Awards on April 15th and 16th. I understand it’s not too late to get tickets to hang out with this year’s stars. Friday night starts things off with a meet and greet in the hallways of the museum which are lined with food and drink. This is the best night to visit with the celebrities and get your picture taken with them. Then on Saturday morning there will a question and answer period with all the film and movie people. Saturday night is the black tie dinner and awards show which is usually sold out. This year Tommie Lee Jones is one of the honorees and Wynona Judd is a presenter so I expect the place will be packed. Check out the website for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for all the scoop.

Thanks for reading and till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………