LaRoche Baseball Complex to host Independence Day activities

Ever since its opening in 2015, the LaRoche Baseball Complex has been used by the city of Fort Scott and USD 234 to bring visitors to town as well as host local events for the community’s benefit.

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The complex will continue with that goal by hosting the second annual Wounded Warrior Classic Sunday Funday event July 3, starting at 6 p.m. at the Dave Regan Stadium.

“This is a very special place,” Coach Josh Regan said of the facilities during the weekly Chamber Coffee hosted at the complex Thursday. “It’s not lost on us, the opportunity we’ve been given.”

Regan said their goal is to take advantage of that opportunity by being a blessing to the community with events such as the upcoming one recognizing veterans and military members for their sacrifices and heroism, hopefully inspiring the young people present for the baseball games and other activities.

“We want to make it really family-friendly,” Regan said of the Independence Day event. “I think it’s just going to be awesome. We want there to be something for everybody.”

Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, festivities will kick off with baseball games between 12 local and out-of-town high school teams, with some traveling in from out of state. Games will continue on Sunday and Monday starting at the same time, with games being played at the Dave Regan Stadium and Lyons Field at Fort Scott Community College. This year those teams will consist of athletes 18 and under, as opposed to 16 and under as it was the previous year.

Other activities will include a fireworks display after dark sponsored by Briggs Auto Group and other local businesses, a bounce house and inflatable obstacle course for children, an E3 Meat hamburger stand, other concession stands, t-shirts for sale, a beer garden provided by Bourbon County Shriners and a country music concert performed by Luke Axtell and Friends. The event is expected to be done prior to midnight with alcohol sales ceasing before then.

Combat veteran Brian Keaton will also be on hand to speak at about 8 p.m. Sunday, after the final baseball game, on behalf of military men and women and the Wounded Warrior Project, which Adam LaRoche has held a strong connection with over the years.

“He’s got an amazing story,” Regan said of the speaker.

Already, tickets are on sale for $5 at the Chamber of Commerce, Bids & Dibs and Country Cupboard. Admission can also be paid for at the gate. Children under five years of age and veterans and active military members can attend for free. Proceeds will be donated to the Lone Survivor Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project.

Regan said he hopes the event will continue on in years to come and only increase in size and its impact.

In their most recent meeting, the Fort Scott City Commission gave permission for alcoholic beverages to be sold on the city facility’s property as well as fireworks to be set off for the event, expressing their support for the cause.

Regan also mentioned that each weekend this summer, a tournament will be hosted at the complex and they are looking into holding some there in the fall as well so it does not go unused. During those months, as many as hundreds of visitors will come to Fort Scott, fulfilling the complex’s goal, as Regan referred to it, of being a fountain in the community and not a drain.

City Manager Dave Martin also gave an update on the project to begin construction on a second entrance from Highway 69 both to the complex and the industrial park. Work on the $1 million Kansas Department of Transportation and Fort Scott project is underway.

FSFD to celebrate 125th anniversary Saturday

For 125 years, the Fort Scott Fire Department has served the city in emergency situations, and this Saturday will celebrate those years by inviting the community to an event at the fire station from noon to 3 p.m.

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“Everybody’s pretty excited about it,” Fire Chief Paul Ballou said of the event and the anniversary it is recognizing, pointing out that it was the firefighters who planned the event after bringing the anniversary to his attention earlier this year. “I think it’s going to be good. I think people will be really excited to probably see the old stuff, to see where we started in that day.”

The event will give visitors an opportunity to commemorate the anniversary and view old equipment used by the fire department over the last 125 years, including old fire engines and other equipment used and worn by the firefighters. Old ledgers will also be on hand to provide detailed information on the department stretching back to the 1800s, though maybe not the very beginning.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long,” Ballou said, saying he has been a part of the department for the past 26 years, serving as chief since November of 2008, after a friend got him interested in becoming a firefighter.

In his time with the department, Ballou said he has witnessed several changes come to the department, such as moving out of the downtown station and into their current location in 1993, adding fire station two in 2009, as well as a variety of improvements and changes made to the technology and equipment they use, such as thermal imaging cameras and better breathing apparatus.

Another change in the 1990s included the types of calls the department responds to. Ballou said initially a fire department’s primary job was to control fires. But in the last few decades, they began responding to vehicle accidents and rescue calls with local Emergency Medical Service teams as well, increasing their call volumes.

Currently, the department averages about 100 calls a month, responding to almost 1,400 in 2015, which was a busy year. Ballou said their record came during a major storm when they answered about 100 tones in just one day.

Ballou said higher numbers of calls can bring mixed feelings for the firefighters, who joined the department in order to have that opportunity to help the community and appreciate having their long shifts kept busy by calls. But at the same time, Ballou said they recognize that when they have a busy day, others are having a bad day.

Despite the changes he himself has witnessed, Ballou said he cannot imagine other changes that occurred over the past 125 years for the Fort Scott Fire Department, which started off using a horse-drawn apparatus before transitioning to gas engines. Old ledgers even show when the department realized feeding and keeping the horses annually was more expensive than running the newer engines.

The department also transitioned from using just two shifts of firefighters to the current three, 24-hour shifts, giving the staff more time off and flexibility with sick days, training and holidays. A six-person reserve program also now provides extra manpower as well as a deputy chief position which was added just in the past couple years.

“It’s changed a lot,” Ballou said of the department.

But despite those changes, Ballou says some of the traditions remain the same, such as the firefighters’ eagerness to serve their community in times of emergency and the nature of the firefighter community that supports each other’s families while their loved ones are serving in sometimes dangerous situations.

A tradition the department has held to for possibly as long as 75 years includes honoring past firefighters who have died by placing grave markers and firefighters’ flags at their gravestones each Memorial Day. Ballou said in the history of the department, they believe they have three confirmed, line-of-duty deaths, including one firefighter who was killed on his very first shift as a firefighter while others died later of smoke inhalation.

“We lose them close to home sometimes,” Ballou said, mentioning other firefighters who died more recently in neighboring cities and departments, while more than 30 have already died in the line of duty in the nation this year.

Mutual aid plays a key role for the majority of fire departments, including Fort Scott, as they respond to some calls in the county while those rural departments or other city departments help Fort Scott in larger emergencies. Ballou said their department relies on those departments just as they depend on Fort Scott, recalling emergencies such as the downtown fire in 2005 that took more than 30 hours, about 25 different departments and 100 firefighters just to get it under control.

Ballou said the city itself has also been very supportive of the local fire department and its staff over the years.

“I think it says something for the city and the community to have that particular time in history come up,” Ballou said of the department’s longevity and upcoming anniversary. “We hope we’ve done the city proud over the years.”

Later this month, Ballou said they hope to hold a second event that may be just for current and past firefighters, some Ballou said served as firefighters for years and even decades.

First Baptist Church to Celebrate 150th Anniversary

Submitted by Shirley Palmer, June 19

Excitement is in the air in Fort Scott, Kan., as the First Baptist Church, 123 Scott, Fort Scott, Kan., will soon be celebrating their 150th anniversary.

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On Saturday evening, July 2, beginning at 6 p.m. in Fellowship Hall, will be an “Evening of Elegance Gala – Down Memory Lane” banquet complete with professional dinner music and program to follow. Many special memories will be shared. The banquet is free as it is being provided by anonymous members of the church. Reservations may be made by calling the church office, 620-223- 3080 by June 27th.

Sunday morning, July 3, beginning at 10:30 a.m. will be a special celebration worship service. Dr. John S. Williams, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of the Central Region, will bring the morning message. Following the worship service the time capsule will be opened and an old-fashioned carry-in (pot luck) lunch will be served in Fellowship Hall.

Beginning at 5 p.m. July 3, at Shelter House Number 6, Gunn Park, a special evening church service will be held in memory of one of our former early pastors, Pastor Elihu Gunn. (Gunn Park was named after this special preacher.) An old-fashioned, home-made ice cream and watermelon social will be enjoyed, with special testimonies and the singing together of many “old time” hymns.

The Church history goes back to an earlier date of 1862. It was not officially organized until 1866, when a group of people met with a membership of 52 people starting the church.

Following the Civil War, times were difficult. Previous settlers in Fort Scott had endured much hardship. People came from all directions to Fort Scott. They came by covered wagons, horseback, trains and some even came on foot.

Israel Harris was called on February 18, 1866, to be the first pastor. Meetings were held in the upper story of the Bourbon County Courthouse at the corner of 2nd and National, which is the present site of the public library. On October 10, 1866, lots were conveyed to the Church as a building site.

In 1876, Elihu Gunn was called as an early pastor of the church. Pastor Gunn played a significant part in the history of not only the church, but the community of Fort Scott as well as the state of Kansas.

Through the past 150 years, the church has welcomed 39 different pastors. Currently, the church is in search of a new pastor and has an interim pastor, Rev. Dr. Howard Cassidy-Moffatt, from Topeka, Kan.

A lot has changed over the years. During the struggles, hardships, financial weakness and problems, the central theme of the church – evangelism – runs like a bright golden thread—never broken, never dimmed. From the past to the present, the church has always supported missions and has been a nice place where people worship God.

The 150th celebration committee includes Shirley Palmer, chairperson; Edith Peterson, Connie Conroy, Elsie Fly and Rhonda Allen.

Fort Scott continues to swim to victory in SEK League

With just a few weeks of the season behind them, the Fort Scott Hurricanes have already found success in the Southeast Kansas Swim League, winning their first three swim meets of the year so far.

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Photo Credit: Mark Shead

“I think things are going pretty well,” first-year head coach David Sachau said, adding the league provides a great opportunity for students to exercise and rise early during the summer. “The kids seem to be improving and having fun.”

Wednesday, June 22, Fort Scott hosted the weekly meet for the league, which includes eight teams including those from Iola, Chanute, Coffeyville, Independence and others. The most recent meet ended with Fort Scott being awarded the victory over the Independence swimmers, who were only able to bring about 12 of their normal 70 swimmers.

The Hurricanes have about 80 swimmers this year, ranging from five to 18 years old. The season runs from June through the fourth weekend in July.

Sachau said Fort Scott will host four of the regular season swim meets this year, as well as the league meet held the weekend of July 22 and 23. Hosting that event only comes about once every five years for each city, Sachau said, and it will likely bring about 300 people to the city of Fort Scott.

As the local team, Fort Scott will provide programs to hand out to visitors during that league swim meet, and Sachau said local businesses and organizations are encouraged to purchase advertising to be included in those programs.

Tonight, the Fort Scott team will compete once more, this time in a swim meet against the Humboldt team.

FSCC to Host Second Annual Black & White Gala

Submitted June 27

Fort Scott Community College Endowment Association will host the second annual Black & White Gala on Saturday, August 13. The gala will take place at the Liberty Theatre, located at 113 South Main in Fort Scott, Kan.

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“We are thrilled to be hosting the gala again this year,” said Bailey Lyons, FSCC Director of Development & Alumni Relations. “Last year was a great success, and we hope the community can join us again for a fun and entertaining evening.”

The event will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. and delicious, heavy hors d’oeuvres at 7:00 p.m. The cocktail hour will be followed by an evening of dancing and live musical entertainment with dueling pianos. There will also be a photo booth available for attendees.

Proceeds from the gala will benefit FSCC students through merit- and need-based scholarships. “The money raised by this event helps ensure future Greyhounds have the resources necessary to fund their education and reach their goals,” said Lyons.

Tickets are selling quickly for this popular event. Prices are $50 for one person, $190 for a table of four, and $375 for a table of eight. A cash bar will also be available. To reserve seats or for questions about sponsorship opportunities, please call Bailey Lyons at 620.223.2700, ext. 5830.


Briggs Auto Group welcomed to Fort Scott with ribbon-cutting event

Although already present in the community for a few months, the new Briggs Auto Group was officially welcomed to the area by Fort Scott residents and the area Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting event during the Thursday morning Chamber Coffee.

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In March, what had previously been Shepherds Auto Plaza for many decades became Briggs Auto Group with the sale of the family business to Russell Briggs, who has been in the business for more than 30 years and had about nine dealerships in Kansas at the time of the sale.

“We’ve really enjoyed being in Fort Scott so far,” general manager Mike Terry said, saying they appreciate the welcoming and friendly reception from the community.

With the change of ownership, the employee staff has approximately doubled, with most of the Shepherds employees remaining at the dealership.

“They do an amazing job,” Terry said of the staff, including the office staff as well as the salesman and other leadership in place.

A larger inventory of vehicles has also been made available, making the local dealership one of the fastest growing in the area for certain manufacturers like Chevy and Ford. Other improvements such as computer upgrades have also been made at the dealership.

Those considering purchasing a vehicle or in need of repairs are encouraged to visit the new Briggs Auto Group located on Highway 69 in Fort Scott.


County holds groundbreaking for Law Enforcement Center

A project whose planning stages began years ago came a step closer to having visible results with a groundbreaking ceremony held Thursday morning for the new Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center.

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On April 7, 2015, the public’s vote gave the county approval to move forward with their plan to construct a new building to serve as the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office as well as the county’s detention center.

“It’s a special day for the county,” commission chair Barbara Albright said, saying the new center will provide more space as well as a safer environment and improved conditions for the inmates and the staff.

With work beginning soon on clearing and beginning construction on the property located just east of the Briggs Auto Group off Highway 69, the commissioners stated they hope it will be complete in about a year.

“It’s been a long journey,” commissioner Lynne Oharah said. “It’s going to be a good project for the community and I’m excited to see the ground start moving and the land get cleared.”

Commissioner Harold Coleman admitted it was a long and often difficult process to get to this point—facing hurdles such as getting the project approved by the county citizens, finding suitable property and deciding on the building design—but that work was well worth it as they begin to see work being done on the new law enforcement center.

Sheriff Bill Martin expressed his appreciation to the county and city officials as well as the citizens for making the new center a reality. Martin pointed out that a lot of the hard work was completed by his own staff and leadership.

Lindsay Madison, executive director of the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce, said during the ceremony that there are numerous projects going on around the city of Fort Scott, and that the new center is another key project that will build up the infrastructure of the county for years and generations to come.

“We are leaving a footprint on our history,” Madison said of those projects, including the new law enforcement center.

County, city and sheriff’s office leaders participated in the groundbreaking ceremony as did representatives from the architecture and engineering firms that took part in the planning and design process of the center.