The Fort Scott National Historic Site’s 34th Annual Candlelight Tour event brought more than 650 visitors to the site as tickets for the 26 weekend tours were sold out, even after adding an extra tour.
“Overall, I think it was a good event this year,” park ranger and tour guide Galen Ewing said, saying the nice weather through the weekend helped. “This is the first year in a few years that it sold out.”
With “A New Birth of Freedom” as its theme, the tour included five scenes that might have occurred at the fort in the year 1865, just after the ending of the Civil War. Almost 100 volunteers from the fort, Friends of Fort Scott National Historic Site, Fort Scott High School drama club and Fort Scott Middle School Pride acted out the scenes.
More than 700 candles were lit on the grounds of the site as the scenes were acted out by candlelight in different areas and buildings of the fort.
Scenes included soldiers preparing to go out on patrol, the announcement of President Abraham Lincoln’s death, the downsizing of the hospital, the opening of the Freedmen’s School for former slaves and the auctioning off of the fort buildings.
For the past five years, Ewing said the tours have focused on the Civil War years, leading up to the ending of the war this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the war. Although a theme has not yet been chosen for next year, Ewing said he is looking forward to it as it is the 35th annual event.
Families and organizations from around Fort Scott opened their homes and buildings for members of the community to visit and tour during the 36th Annual Homes for the Holiday Tour Saturday and Sunday, as well as the Moonlight and Mistletoe Tour held Friday evening.
“This took almost a year in coordination,” said Rhonda Dunn, president of the Historic Preservation Association, during the Moonlight and Mistletoe Tour Friday. “And I think it is going absolutely great.”
Participants in the tour included buildings such as the Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church, built in 1872, which allowed visitors to see its collection of artwork and stained glass windows. Bethel Community Church, constructed in 1916, was also open as was the Bourbon County Courthouse, which had new exhibits on display.
Families also gave tours of their homes, such as Arlo and Ernestine Eden, who, with some of their seven children, pointed out its antiques and other items collected or passed down through generations of their family. They also told stories of their farmhouse, such as when a tornado tipped it on its side in 1916 and it had to be put upright once again.
Bob and Denise Duncan also opened their home, located on the second floor of what was previously a commercial building on S. National. A Mad Hatter Tea Part was also held at the location Saturday afternoon, with community members of all ages dressing for the occasion.
A new and possibly one-time addition to the tour this year was the E3 Ranch owned by the LaRoche family, which was the highlight of the Moonlight and Mistletoe Tour Friday evening. Interest in the tour led to the 150 tickets being sold out quickly, with more tickets being added and again sold out.
The Moonlight and Mistletoe Tour first visited the home of Loren and Julie Readinger, Jennifer LaRoche’s parents, which was built by her great-great-grandfather in 1927. The Readingers moved into the home just a year ago after remodeling it.
The tour also visted major league baseball player and Fort Scott native Adam and Jennifer LaRoches’ first home – now a guest house, their E3 Ranch house built in just the past few years and a building housing a basketball court, batting cages and further living quarters where a reception was held Friday evening.
Dunn said she had mentioned to Jennifer, her cousin, during the previous Moonlight and Mistletoe event that the HPA would love to one year have the E3 Ranch on their tour. Initially Jennifer said they would rather wait until they lived in the home full-time, but a month later they said they would host the event this year, with Adam expressing an eagerness to help with the fundraiser.
The E3 Ranch — named after a baseball term designating an error by the first baseman, LaRoche’s position — allowed visitors to see LaRoche’s baseball and hunting trophies on display as well as the living areas of the couple and their two children. A live nativity scene was also on their property, with costumed children accepting requests for Christmas carols.
Participants said they were pleased that the homes on the tours throughout the weekend had a lived-in feel to them, instead of merely being on display.
Friday evening, Dunn and the HPA also presented a check to the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fort Scott to go towards purchasing a new trolley for the city.
During their December meeting held Friday at Papa Don’s, members of the Bourbon County Young Professionals League voted to elect officers and board members for the new year, also discussing what new things they might like to see in 2016.
Bailey Lyons of the Fort Scott Community College was named the new president of the YPL while 2015 president Heather Smith will serve as the treasurer. Chris Petty is the new vice president and Alex Horttor the secretary.
New executive board members include Anna Allen, Jared Leek, Clayton Whitson, Jessica Cook and Melissa Wise. Returning board members are Mark Shead and Jamie Armstrong.
During their final meeting of the year, participants also had a chance to write down what they valued about the YPL as well as something they might like to see changed or added. Smith also shared information about the goals of the YPL.
“The vision of YPL is to be a catalyst for a better community,” Smith said.
Lyons said they follow a quarterly format, with monthly meetings focusing on personal or professional development, a presentation on a business or topic that is relevant to YPL members and the third meeting each quarter focusing on networking.
“We really are trying to make it to where everyone who comes gets something out of it,” Lyons said, adding it is also a way for young professionals to build relationships and realize they are not the only ones in town.
The group also received an update on how the soup line fundraiser held a couple weeks ago on behalf of the Beacon went. The event raised about $3,300.
The meeting also included announcements such as concerning the YPL Christmas social that will be held on December 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Lyons’ home. Guests are encouraged to bring a $10 gift for a gift exchange as well as a snack to share.
The YPL board will hold a strategic planning meeting January 8, from 5 to 8 p.m., others interested in giving their input can also attend.
During the first December Chamber Coffee, hosted by Bartelsmeyer Jewelry on South National, area businesses and organizations announced upcoming December events coming prior to Christmas.
Cindy Bartelsmeyer said in upcoming weeks, they are holding a sale that will allow participants to purchase specific earrings for $5. That money will then be donated straight to the Beacon, Bourbon County’s food closet that provides food, clothing and other items to those in need.
“Shop local and support our local businesses,” encouraged Rita Baker, hostess of the December Chamber Coffees. “Because if we don’t, they won’t be here either.”
Bartelsmeyer said most of their customers are residents of the Bourbon County area such as from Fort Scott, Mound City, Prescott, Uniontown and Pleasanton.
Other upcoming events included:
The Historic Preservation Association’s annual Home for the Holidays Tours will be held this weekend for those with tickets. There will also be an art and bake sale at the Kennedy Gym and a Stocking Stuffer sale at the Fort Scott Middle School.
Tickets are still available for the Fort Scott National Historic Site’s Candlelight Tour Friday and Saturday evening.
The Young Professionals League will host their annual meeting at Papa Don’s Friday at noon, when the 2016 officers will be elected.
My Father’s House is holding a gift drive on behalf of 25 families this Christmas and is looking for businesses, families and other members of the community who would like to participate. They also need volunteers to help with the kettle drive at certain area businesses over the next few weeks.
The Common Ground Coffee Co. will host artists for musical events Friday evenings, Dec. 4 and Dec. 12.
With the progress of the Marmaton Riverfront project, the project committee is now asking for suggestions for naming the roads to the north and south of the river. Suggestions can be sent to P.O. Box 901 or to Marmatonriver@gmail.com.
Next Thursday, the area Kiwanis Club will host a pancake feed event at the Buck Run Community Center.
The LEAD Bourbon County program will start in January, meeting the second Thursday of every month for 10 months. The cost for the entire 10 months including free lunches and a graduation celebration is $300.
Members of the community bundled up and lined Main Street for the annual Christmas Parade through downtown Fort Scott Tuesday evening, ending with the lighting of the mayor’s Christmas tree and an appearance from Santa Claus.
“What a wonderful way to spend the evening with family and friends,” Mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer said.
Local businesses, churches and other organizations participated in the parade, with the theme Old Fashioned Christmas this year. Representatives from Mercy Hospital, the Lowell Milken Center, SEK Financial, Westar Energy, Shepherd Autogroup and area 4-H teams, Cub Scout groups, schools, churches, fire and police departments participated in the parade.
Prizes were awarded to Medicalodges, Mercy Hospital and the Fort Scott Church of the Nazarene for their floats.
The parade ended at Skubitz Plaza where the tree was lit. Children could then have their photo taken with Santa Claus at Papa Don’s.
Fort Scott’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program came one step closer to getting the approval needed for a renewal for five years when the Bourbon County Commission approved the program, joining the Fort Scott City Commission, who approved it at a recent meeting.
Director of Economic Development Heather Smith shared information with the county commissioners Tuesday morning, seeking their signature for the inter-local agreement between the area tax entities, including the county, city of Fort Scott, USD 234 and the Fort Scott Community College. Signatures from the latter two are still needed.
“The goal of this program is to basically encourage rehabilitation and development for residential and commercial properties that may not otherwise occur,” Smith said.
NRP offers incentives to Fort Scott residents who would like to improve the value of their homes, property or commercial buildings without paying the extra taxes. Those involved in the program who increase the value by 15 percent receive a rebate on the extra taxes resulting from the improvements.
Those living along the Wall Street corridor are exempt from that 15 percent requirement and will receive the rebate on any increase in value.
In the first four years of the program, with 2015 data pending, Smith said 15 commercial and 14 residential properties participated, increasing their valuations by a combined $3.6 million, more than a 265 percent return on the money rebated to the participants.
“It’s a good idea for anyone wanting to improve their property,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said of NRP.
Since its beginning, changes have been made to the program, such as giving the county tax assessor control over the procedure instead of the city.
“Last year we made a lot of procedural changes,” Smith said, saying those adjustments made the process more efficient.
Those wanting to participate in 2016 must apply before the end of the year and can then receive rebates for five-year terms for residential areas and 10 years for commercial properties.
In the past eight months, former Fort Scott Community College professor Marcel Normand completed a biography on the life and impact of fellow teacher Lucile James and how she influenced not just the community, but his own family’s lives.
That book, The Lucile James Story: Portrait of a Remarkable Teacher, will be available at the Fort Scott Community College Thursday December 3, for a book signing event.
Normand said he first met James, raised in Pleasanton, when they both started teaching at the Fort Scott High School when he was just 25 years old and she was 52. Their offices were located near each other, they taught on the same floor and they often shared lunch breaks.
“We just kind of hit it off,” Normand said of when they met, saying theater and deciding who would direct the school play that year became the foundation of their friendship that would last for decades.
Normand married his wife in the next year after meeting James, and their families grew close to one another, with the couples often going dancing together over the weekends.
“We had a family friendship,” Normand described the couples’ bond. “It was much more than a school relationship.”
Normand and James would go on to teach at FSCC and, by the early 1970s, Normand said he knew he would write a book about James one day, as he was inspired by her life and teaching method. Normand said she had a flamboyant and fun attitude that seemed to match her red hair, but could also be disciplined and professional in the classroom.
After James’ husband died in 1974, she would spend about every other weekend with Normand’s family, often enough that their three children would begin to consider her a grandmother. Two of those three children would later take English classes from James at FSCC.
In the 1970s, James had heart surgery as a result of heart disease. In 1985, just months after FSCC hosted an appreciation dinner for James, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on her brain, leading to her death later that year.
Normand referred to the book, which took him about 16 months to write, as a 30th anniversary edition as it was printed about 30 years after James’ death. Normand encourages family, friends and students of James to read the book as well as those who have only heard about her.
During a meeting last Tuesday, leaders and volunteers in the Fort Scott Circles program received an update of the program, a report on current and upcoming needs and a check from a local family.
Siblings Robert Irby, Mary Rio and Janette Braun attended the meeting and presented a check of $1,694 to the program from the Dr. Pratt and Pauline Irby Endowment Fund, which they had set up in honor of their parents and use to help local charities they believe their parents would have supported.
Irby said he first heard about the program’s needs when he heard a report on the program during the Gordon Parks Celebration in October. Prior to that time, he said Circles was just a name to him.
“I was most struck when you said there was a need for transportation,” Irby said.
Braun, who is a member of the Circles resource team, said she and her siblings decided that need would be a good cause for the fund, recalling when their own father needed help with transportation when he could no longer drive.
“We understood that need,” Braun said, adding she believes her parents would have also supported that cause. “We’d like for it to be used for emergency transportation funding for Circles leaders.”
Those Circle leaders are members of the community who want to improve their way of life and join the program for training and assistance to help them towards that goal.
The current group has eight Circle leaders who will graduate to the next level of the program on Dec. 16. Beginning in the new year, those participants will each need one or two accountability partners who will provide support for them as they strive to reach their goals.
“It’s about being a friend,” Hedges said of the role of those allies. “There aren’t a lot of rules to it.”
The allies are required to attend monthly meetings but can decide how involved they are between those meetings, whether they want to meet with or call the Circle leaders on a more regular basis.
“We do need more allies,” director Jan Hedges said, saying they have about seven or eight signed up right now but need 16. “That is the greatest need right at this minute.”
For those interested in helping, a training session for allies will be held Dec. 8. They are also looking for members of the community who might have an expertise or knowledge they can share with the Circle leaders, such as concerning budgeting, renting homes or other areas.
Despite differing opinions on the timing and cost of the project, the county commissioners approved of a plan and funding Tuesday afternoon that will continue the painting project of the first floor of the courthouse.
Painting began on the first floor in recent weeks with a $1,500 donation from the Historic Preservation Association and assistance in labor from local inmates. But as work went on, tax assessor and HPA president Rhonda Dunn said they realized some of the more detailed painting near the ceiling would have to be done by a contractor.
The contractor will complete a portion of the work in time for the Homes for the Holidays tour the first weekend of December, which will feature the courthouse, and will then finish the remaining painting after the new year, when he will charge the county $1,810 for the entire task.
Because fewer coats of paint have been needed on the first floor than expected, Dunn said they still have money left over from the HPA which will be used to cover part of the extra cost, with the county paying the difference.
“I think it will look wonderful,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said. “I just think right now’s not a good time to do it.”
Albright said she thought the basic painting could be complete while the trim work, which would have to be done by hand, could be left to a later time when they could more easily commit that funding.
“The history of this courthouse is that we don’t do much upkeep on it,” Dunn said, saying her own office went about 30 years without any new painting or carpeting. “I have a lot of pride in this courthouse, so investments need to be made.”
Once the project is done, GIS/IT director and HPA member Shane Walker said it probably would not have to be done again for at least 25 years.
“It looks nice,” commissioner Harold Coleman said. “And the nicer it looks the better…Why leave it halfway?”
The project also includes a Christmas tree with old photos of the county put up for the holidays and other antique items that will be displayed at the courthouse throughout the year.
Members of the community and area churches gathered Tuesday evening with the Ministerial Alliance for a service of music and testimonies in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
“Thanksgiving is not about stuff,” Life Point Assembly of God pastor Steve Bell said, saying, even without that stuff, there is still much one can find to be thankful for. “It’s about redemption.”
Participants of all ages attended and also performed during the service, which included instrumental and vocal performances. First Baptist Church youth pastor Sam George and Fort Scott city manager David Martin also shared testimonies from their lives and what they are thankful for, including their jobs and families.
“I want to be thankful tonight for what God did in my life,” George said after speaking of a time in his life before he decided to become a pastor.
The event drew a group large enough that more chairs had to be added to have sufficient seating.
“What a blessing it is that we can come together and worship him together,” FBC pastor Marvin George said, saying that is why they gather prior to Thanksgiving.
The Fort Scott Middle School hosted the seventh annual VIP Fall Extravaganza Monday evening, with almost 60 local and out-of-town vendors participating to provide a one-stop shopping experience for those getting a head start on their Christmas shopping.
“It’s our biggest year,” organizer Stephanie George said, saying 10 new vendors joined the event this year. “I think the turnout’s been pretty good.”
George said each of the vendors paid a flat fee for their space in the middle school’s gym or commons area and the money raised could be used for building improvements or supplies for the students.
Some vendors provided food such as barbecue, enchiladas, sugar cookies, pies or other dishes and treats that could be consumed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Others had handmade items that were sewn, crocheted or carved. Businesses including Essential Oils, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Miller Feed and Farm and Scentsy were also on hand as well as other organizations such as Care to Share and Relay for Life.
Some vendors held drawings for donated giveaways. Meals and live music were also part of the event along with childcare provided by the Fort Scott Community College volleyball team.
With a railroad track running through the city, it is hard for residents of Fort Scott to get away from the noise of trains going by, but a process which began years ago has come a step closer to diminishing some of that noise.
More than a year ago, when the Sleep Inn Hotel was in the process of coming to the area, the city told them they would look into working with the Kansas Department of Transportation and the railroad to put in a quiet zone that would prevent trains from blowing their horns within specified areas.
“The quiet zone has always been on the radar for the city,” City Manager Dave Martin said, saying they looked into it even before he took his position with the city.
Since then, the city of Fort Scott has gotten the approval needed for a quiet zone to be put in place where the tracks intersect with Wall Street. With architects and contractors already employed for the task, the project could be done by next summer.
The zone would forbid trains from blowing their horns within a quarter of a mile in either direction of the intersection. Since the area near the Wall Street intersection is also a pick-up and drop-off point for railroad crews, the trains will still have to blow their horns when they start up.
Eventually, the city hopes to have similar zones at 10th and 6th streets, though that could take some time because of other KDOT projects in that area.
The first quiet zone will cost a total of $128,182.40, with the city using the transient guest tax and some other city funds since they had not budgeted for their portion of that expenditure.
The project will include demolishing certain roads near the track, redoing the sidewalks and building a 100-foot concrete median on the east and west side of the tracks. In preparation for that project, some roads have been abandoned with the city commission’s approval at recent meetings while Hill Street was moved over since it was too close to the tracks.
Martin said that construction work should begin by the end of the year and says they do not anticipate ever closing the road completely as work is done.
“I think it will be a good impact for the citizens and the hotels on the north end of town,” Martin said. “It will quiet that area.”
The Olsson Associates have served as the engineers for the city for the project. Marbery Concrete in Fort Scott has been contracted for the project.