Star Wars fans enjoy opening premier at Fort Cinema

With the new, Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie premiering in theaters across the nation Thursday evening, local fans got in on the excitement as well by dressing up for an event at Fort Cinema prior to the first showing at 7 p.m.

Star Wars Premier
Photo Credit: Amanda Hale

Fans of all ages came to the movie theater in Star Wars costumes, ranging from Jedi to Princess Leia and even Queen Amidala. Others came in Star Wars t-shirts or carrying lightsabers.

A local radio station reported directly from the theater during the event, involving participants in on-air Star Wars trivia games and competitions on who could impersonate Chewbacca, Yoda or even R2-D2 the best. Awards were given to winners as well as costume contest participants.

Theater owner Amanda Hale said she grew up watching the original Star Wars movies in theaters with her father, and is glad that the tradition can continue for families now as the series continues.

“There’s a lot of Star Wars fans out there,” Hale said, saying they were happy to provide the event and showing that included all three screens, with two showing it in 3-D. “It’s really awesome that we get to do this at our theater.”

Hale was able to watch the movie before its release and admitted she got emotional when the opening story information began to scroll upward as it had in previous films. Admitting she herself is a “nerd” when it comes to Star Wars, Hale said she enjoyed getting to celebrate the movie release with other fans Friday night.

“It was fun,” Hale said. “We enjoyed it.”

Over the next four weeks, Hale said the Star Wars movie will be showing on at least one of the theater’s three screens, while the first week or two it will be showing on two screens. Unfortunately, she said rumors have led people to believe that tickets are unavailable, when in fact some showings on Friday did not have any sales.

“There are rumors going around that we’re completely sold out for the next two weeks,” Hale said, admitting that is frustrating for her and emphasizing it is completely untrue.

Tickets remain available for the remainder of the opening weekend, which has the potential to break box office records nation-wide. Times for weekend showings are available at Fort Cinema’s website and Facebook page.


City Commission receives reports, approves budget changes

During their final meeting of 2015, the Fort Scott City Commission received reports from different organizations supported by the city as well as approved different budget changes and improvements to be made in different areas of the city.

12-17 City Commission 3

  • Jan Hedges, the volunteer coordinator of the Fort Scott Circles program, now into its second year of existence in the area, gave an update on the program whose license fees are paid by the city of Fort Scott. Hedges said the goal of the program is to help those in the community in poverty or who would like to improve their way of living. Divided into two phases, a second group of participants graduated from the first phase Wednesday evening and will begin the second, 18-month phase in January. For that phase, Hedges said they are looking for volunteers from the community who would partner with members of the program, attending monthly meetings with them and providing extra support.
  • Historic Preservation Association chairman Rhonda Dunn also gave an update on recent events, after accepting a one-time gift of $5,000 from the city. During the Moonlight and Mistletoe tour of the LaRoche property the first weekend of December, the HPA raised about $9,000 from the more than 180 participants. The entire weekend Holiday Homes tour had about 300 participate in touring the five buildings. The HPA also donated $1,000 to the city during the event to go towards purchasing a new trolley. Dunn also gave an update on the changes made to the county courthouse, which now includes different historical artifacts donated to be put on display.
  • The city decided to turn the maintenance of a road to Peerless Products, Inc., located next to the road that is just paved property by the end of it. The company, which in recent months became the top employer in Fort Scott, is planning to expand their business with a new building. With the property running just a few feet from the road, and wanting to make improvements to the roadway and its drainage, Peerless agreed to take care of the costs associated with it as the city agreed to transfer that responsibility to them.
  • Work will continue on the golf course clubhouse after the city agreed to accept a bid from a construction company that will complete the job by March 1 for a total of about $53,000. That amount will be funded by the remaining $23,000 received because of previous hail damage as well as another $30,000 from the golf course endowment fund, made up of donations from the community. City Manager Dave Martin emphasized that none of it will come from taxpayers’ dollars.
  • Other year-end business included amending the budget to allow the city to spend excess revenue from 2015 as well as adding a three percent increase in water and other utility rates such as sewer and storm water rates. They will also begin looking at options to trade in the Waste Water Treatment Plant’s tractor for a newer one and accept bids in order to replace the city’s oldest sewer lift station.

City reviews 2015 successes, looks ahead to 2016

During the final Chamber Coffee of 2015 Thursday morning, members of the community were introduced to city employees and leaders as well as given a report on the accomplishments of the city in 2015.

12-17 Chamber Coffee 2

City Manager Dave Martin listed a number of additions and improvements to Fort Scott in 2015, including the completion of the Lowell Milken Center building, the LaRoche Baseball Complex, the Marmaton Riverfront trails, the National Historic Site’s new exhibit, the expansion of a number of businesses as well as the opening of different venues for community events.

Other changes include the addition of the new Fort Scott Community College president and the approval of the school and jail bonds. It was also determined that Mercy Hospital would remain in Fort Scott while the demolition of the Western Insurance building will likely be complete by the end of the year.

Martin expressed gratitude to the Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Preservation Association for their work with the city to continue to improve the community.

In 2016, Martin said residents can look forward to the completion of the National Avenue project and possibly the quiet zone where the railroad tracks intersect with Wall Street. Work will also begin on widening Highway 69 for a turning lane, improving Maple Road, constructing the Western building apartments and creating a new entrance for the Industrial Park.

Kansas Fiber will also arrive in Fort Scott as well as the new assisted living facilities being built on Horton. Grants will be used such as the safe routes to school grant and another grant that will permit the city to put sidewalks in place on Wall Street.

“We just really appreciate our jobs,” Martin said on behalf of the city. “We appreciate serving in the community. And when I say that, we couldn’t do that without everyone in this room—the hospital, the college, the school district, the county and everybody working together. We have to work together to move forward.”

Other announcements concerning upcoming events included:

  • The Fort Scott Community College will host a Red Cross Blood Drive Thursday 1-7 p.m., and Friday until noon.
  • The Young Professionals League of Bourbon County will hold a Christmas social Friday evening at 6:30. Further details can be found on their Facebook page.
  • The Fort Scott Public Library will hold a Christmas party for children Saturday at 11 a.m., with activities and snacks provided. They are also looking for volunteers who might help with the event.
  • The Common Ground Coffee Co. will host a Christmas concert by Nine Mile March Saturday evening at 7 p.m., using the event as a fundraiser for a barista who will leave for Uganda in January.
  • The Salvation Army Kettle Drive is still looking for volunteers to help with the drive through December 24. The money raised will remain in Bourbon County to be used to assist those in need.
  • The Leadership, Exploration and Development program beginning in 2016 continues to look for participants for the 10-month program, which will meet the second Thursday of each month. Deb Needleman and Robert Uhler will facilitate the sessions which will include curriculum from the Kansas Leadership Center.

USD 234 board approves bids for bond project packages

During their last meeting of the year Tuesday evening, the USD 234 school board received a report on the bids received for the bond project  and approved the bids selected, allowing them to take a step closer to construction.

12-16 School Board

In recent weeks, working in conjunction with Nabholz Construction and Hollis and Miller, the school district accepted more than 300 bids from more than 100 entities, some local businesses and others from out of town and state. Since accepting them, Superintendent Bob Beckham said they carefully scrutinized each bid, looking for the best options.

“We were very pleased with the outpouring of bids,” Steve Bennett of Nabholtz said, saying it was likely the most they had received for a specific project. “There’s been a lot of dialogue behind the scenes to bring you the best package.”

Bennett said they needed approval from the board so they could begin discussing contracts with the bidders selected so they can then move forward with construction, first at the high school and Winfield Scott and then moving on to other areas.

Packages bid on in the overall project included building and pre-cast concrete, carpentry, steel metal panels, door frames and hardware, glass and glazing, framing and drywall, utilities, paving and other areas.

The initial bids for the projects added up to more than $24.7 million. Bennett said bids were about five percent above budget but they have negotiated that down to about one or two percent over, and he believes they could get that even lower until they are within budget parameters.

“I know you all are anxious and we’re anxious to get started,” Bennett said, adding that finalizing the contracts will take a couple weeks, but some drawings and planning can be done simultaneously.

With contracts completed, Bennett said they could begin moving dirt in the next two weeks, preparing for laying concrete.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some dirt move,” school board member Janette Braun said, while other members said they look forward to physical evidence that work is being done after receiving numerous questions from members of the community wanting to know why work is not being done.

While a couple months behind their initial, conservative timeline, Bennett said work will begin soon and, though the schedule will be tight, there is still a possibility they will complete work on time.

“Let’s build,” Beckham closed the discussion with as the present board members approved the bids.

Fort Scott National Cemetery joins in Wreaths Across America

For an eighth year, Fort Scott National Cemetery participated in a nation-wide effort to place wreaths at the gravestones in each of the national cemeteries in the United States through the Wreaths Across America effort.

12-15 Wreath event 6

“This means a lot to me that you came out to support this mission,” said Kevin Wagner, who helped organize the event Saturday and fundraisers throughout the year.

The motto and goal of the program is to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” Keynote speaker Brett Houk, a retired major and part of the United States Air Force reserves, said it is important to pass that tradition on to the next generation.

“The importance of days like this cannot be overemphasized,” Houk said. “If we don’t remember, honor and teach, we’re destined to make the same mistakes that other countries have made throughout history.”

Houk reminded his audience that the freedoms enjoyed in the United States came at a very high price, paid by soldiers and fellow Americans over the years, and it is up to Americans today to continue to defend those rights.

A large number of Fort Scott residents as well as visitors from out of town and state came to place wreaths on about half the gravestones located at the cemetery after the ceremony, with some taking time to read the names of those buried there.

“This is so much larger than last year,” said Dav Mohler, who gave the invocation and benediction during the ceremony.

In 2014, about 800 wreaths were placed at the cemetery. But this year, after success in fundraising such as through the Wreath Ride in August, 2,581 wreaths were purchased through individual and corporate donations.

Those wreaths were escorted to Fort Scott National Cemetery by about 50 motorcyclists who rode with the semi-truck from Missouri. The ceremony also included the pledge of allegiance led by Cub Scout Pack 95 of Anderson, Mo., a rifle volley from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1165, TAPS played by Steve Harry and the recognition of two gold star families.

Gunn Park hosts first annual Frozen Run

With temperatures well above the freezing mark and with the rain holding off, Fort Scott’s first Frozen Five and Dime Run at Gunn Park drew about 70 runners from the community as well as out of town and state Saturday morning.

12-14 Frozen Run 3

Tom Gorman, a trail runner himself for some time, organized the event that he says he and other organizers hope will become an annual event, though he said he prefers the colder temperatures they had prepared for instead of the warmer and slightly damp weather they had Saturday.

“It should be a perfect day for running,” Gorman addressed the runners of all ages prior to the run, which included five-kilometer, five-mile and 10-mile routes.

Most of the runners, some coming from Kansas City, Lawrence, Overland Park and even Springfield, admitted they had never used the Gunn Park trails. Gorman said drawing such people for the event had been a goal of theirs.

“A lot of people who have never seen our trails who will want to come back,” Gorman described the group of participants. “And that’s what we want.”

Runners who spent the night at a local hotel were given free entry for the run, while all participants received $15 in chamber bucks to go with the $25 entry fee.

Gorman said the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Fort Scott were great supporters for the event, as well as other organizations such as Hartman Spine and Joint and Mercy Hospital. Volunteers also participated from local church youth groups and other high school students.

Those with the best times were given prizes after the run. Smores and hot chocolate as well as colder drinks were also provided to the runners after they completed the trails.

New fort exhibit open for visitors

After holding a soft opening in early November, the Fort Scott National Historic Site officially opened a new Civil War exhibit for the community to visit during the weekly Chamber Coffee hosted at the fort Thursday morning.

12-11 Exhibit 7

“Finally, after a lengthy time, we were able to get these exhibits installed,” fort superintendent Betty Boyko said of the project, which took years of waiting for funding and then planning before it was finally completed in recent months.

Both Boyko and former fort employee Kelley Collins, who was recognized for the time she spent working on the exhibits before leaving the fort in January of this year, said their goal was to update the previous exhibit to be more appealing to a younger generation that is interested in more interaction.

The exhibit follows numerous characters, including a slaveholder, abolitionist, slave, Native American and others throughout the years leading up to the Civil War and throughout the war itself. Videos of these characters’ different perspectives run throughout the exhibit, with some of the characters played by Fort Scott residents.

“There’s enough in the exhibit that every time you come back you’ll find something new,” Collins said.

Bill Fischer was also recognized for his key role in the exhibit, which he said included much planning, hiring different contractors for their construction and for the video and audio, as well as editing of all the information to make sure it was accurate and politically correct.

The exhibit was completed in time for the beginning of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary to be celebrated throughout 2016. Some of Fort Scott’s events to coincide with the anniversary include a vintage baseball game, Native Neighbors in October, Picnic in the Park in August and other events throughout the year with the fort as the theme, such as part of the Good Ol’ Days.

Fort Scott’s Weekend Events

During the weekly Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, business and city leaders from the community announced a variety of different events happening over the weekend and into the next week, encouraging members of the community to participate in the events to show support for varying aspects of the city.

12-10 Events

  • Friday evening at 7 p.m., the Fort Scott High School Thespian Troupe will provide an evening of Improv Comedy at the Common Ground Coffee Co., improvising based on suggestions from their audience. The event will serve as a fundraiser for the troupe for an upcoming competition, asking visitors to make a donation of $5. The Common Ground will also host a trio at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Gunn Park will host the first Frozen Five and Dime Run Saturday morning at 9 a.m., with participating runners choosing between five-kilometer, five-mile and 10-mile trails through the park. The $25 entry comes with $15 in Chamber Bucks that can be used at about 40 stores and restaurants in Fort Scott. Similar “Frozen” events may be held in future years, though the weather may not be as warm as this weekend, which has a forecast of warm temperatures.
  • The Fort Scott National Cemetery will again host the Wreaths Across America event Saturday morning, as part of a nation-wide effort to place wreaths at each of the headstones in national cemeteries around the United States. While about 800 wreaths were placed at the cemetery in Fort Scott last year, this year’s fundraisers and donations have allowed the purchase of 2,581 wreaths, to be placed around the cemetery Saturday at 11 a.m.
  • The USD 234 junior varsity basketball teams will participate in a tournament this weekend, including games on Saturday. Games will also be played at home next Friday, Dec. 18, against Chanute, the final games before Christmas break.

More information on upcoming events, such as other fundraisers and events can be found at the Chamber of Commerce website,, or by visiting local businesses or city of Fort Scott offices.

Debate Coach gives update on USD 234 debate teams

Submitted by: Amber Toth

We had a great weekend. We went two different directions this weekend. Our younger debaters went to Chanute and everyone brought home wins.

Our more experienced teams went to Lawrence this weekend. We brought home the 3rd place trophy out of 33 schools. In the varsity division, Seth Cross and Zach Humble lost in the semifinals to bring home 3rd. In the open division, Joe Adams and Isabella Province took 3rd after losing in the semifinal round. Jake Province and Suzi Owen took 3rd in the junior varsity division after losing in the semifinals.

Once again, Tiger debate has made a name for itself against the largest programs in the state. This was our last regular season tournament. Regionals is in two weeks. We hope to bring home a regional championship qualifying a four-speaker team to state. Joe Adams/Isabella Provence and Seth Cross/Zach Humble will be our four-man team. Hunter Parker and Breana Mooney will be the alternates.

We have also qualified our maximum number of two speaker teams. Our goal is to have 14 qualified for state in the next two weeks.

I’m so proud of how hard these kids have worked and how much they have grown. It’s a pleasure to coach kids who work hard and are coachable. A great weekend for Tiger Debate.

Lowell Milken Center building complete, prepares for grand opening

Submitted by: Dani Gardullo, 223-9991,

2015 Lowell Milken Center Expansion

12-9 LMC

FORT SCOTT, KS – December 7, 2015- The Lowell Milken Center’s expansion has neared conclusion as the building located at 1 South Main Street has been fully constructed.  This new exhibition hall will provide 6,000 square feet of exciting exhibits. The Grand Opening is in May, although the building may be toured now. The new Hall of Heroes will be located at the site of the major fire in Fort Scott in 2005. The new exhibits will feature the great stories of the past museum, such as Irena Sendler, and also new enhanced exhibits. The Center expects tourism to double over the next few years.

We offer a special VIP media tour of the building, just contact us at your convenience.  You will be invited to the grand opening, but now is your opportunity to get an advance look at the outstanding museum.

Since its establishment in 2007, LMC has reached over 1,150,000 students and 9,000 schools in all 50 states, with increasing global reach. In addition, LMC’s Fort Scott headquarters have hosted visitors from every state and 78 countries, demonstrating the worldwide application of its mission.

About the Lowell Milken Center:

The Lowell Milken Center (LMC) discovers, develops and communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. Through project-based learning, people throughout America and the world learn that each of us has the responsibility and the power to take actions that “repair the world.”  Visit to learn more.

Downtown businesses to stay open late Thursday for shoppers

Several businesses of downtown Fort Scott, plus a couple others not located downtown, will participate in the Mistletoe on Main Street event happening Thursday evening, giving the community an opportunity to complete their Christmas shopping locally.

12-8 Downtown shopping

“The reason we do it is just to promote shopping downtown,” said Jessica Cook, marketing, relations and events coordinator with the Chamber of Commerce, adding they hold similar events throughout the year to support local businesses and provide the community with a chance to shop after getting off work.

This event, occurring 5-8 p.m., includes a slight change this time as 10 of the participating businesses will have mistletoe with a coupon attached placed somewhere in their stores. Whoever finds the mistletoe is asked to take it to the Chamber of Commerce, where they will be given $10 in Chamber bucks, which can be used at any chamber business.

Participating stores include Bids & Dibs, Books and Grannies, Country Cupboard, Iron Star Antiques, Bartelsmeyer Jewelry, Papa Don’s and Miller’s Feed & Farm among others. The Lowell Milken Center will also take part in the event through their gift-wrapping fundraiser.

“While you’re shopping you can get your gifts wrapped,” Cook said, saying the LMC asks for a donation of $2 to $4 for each gift they wrap.

Sell-out crowds participate in fort’s candlelight tours

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.

12-8 Candlelight Tour 4

“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.