My favorite holiday

My primary education taught me that Kansas Day was as real a holiday as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

The KU Marching Band, back in the day. Photo credit: Lary Hill

The big blow-out celebration was in second grade, when we shook baby food jars full of cream until our arms tired, attempting to churn the cream into butter. We then spread the soft, white “butter” on top of warm bread and and discussed how LUCKY we were to live in the nation’s breadbasket.

Each year we sang “Sunflower” as loud as we could in music class.

In fourth grade, we competed in an unusually tough trivia challenge, matching each of the names of the counties with an obscure reference — everything from “Which county shares a name with a chicken?” (Wyandotte) to “Which county is the only county in the state named for a woman?” (Barton.)

Imagine my shock when I went off to college and learned that a) maybe it’s NOT a real holiday, and b) other states don’t really celebrate in the same way.

I watched some of my coworkers roll their eyes each year when the publisher at the newspaper played the KU Men’s Glee Club singing “Home on the Range” over the intercom. I was secretly thrilled.

Years ago, Chris and I started making a point of having a special Kansas Day meal to mark the day. Appropriate enough, given the state’s ties to agriculture. Two years ago, on the state’s sesquicentennial, we had the good fortune to prepare an amazing meal for about 20 excited Kansans in the historic home in Lawrence where beat poet William S. Burroughs lived. It, too, was a fitting tribute: conversations ranged from food to art to the general state of the state.

I like to think of this as me hugging the entire state at once.

I’ve been conducting a completely unscientific study of social and traditional media during the last four or five years. I’ve concluded that more Kansans — who aren’t in grade school — are recognizing Kansas Day in a positive way. I like that.

I’ve decided that each year I’ll treat the day like my own version Thanksgiving, and pause to reflect on what the state means to me. This year, I intend to spend some time thinking about my upcoming adventure as I move to Wichita. South-central Kansas is somehow very different than Northeast Kansas, in terms of food, culture and geography. It’s not all foreign, but represents an opportunity to get out and explore just the same.

I will also think about what I can do to make Kansas a better place. Could it be through being a better neighbor, friend, community member? Through cooking, or writing? It’s all food for thought.

I challenge you to do the same.

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