Motorcyclists ride in 3rd Annual Wreath Ride

For a third year, bikers from around the area, state and even the nation participated in a ride Saturday that raised funds for wreaths to be placed at the National Cemetery later this year.

Kevin Wagner and a coworker started the wreath ride when they realized not enough finances for the wreaths were being raised from the community. While the first ride had just 13 riders, that number grew to more than 50 the following year and this year again grew to almost 170 riders participating.

“This is way bigger than we thought it would be,” Wagner said. “After our ride last year, we had so much momentum they were talking about it a month later.”

Because of that success, a committee for the ride was formed to plan the event. This year’s ride had participants not just from Kansas, but from Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa and even Florida, with enough riders to form a line about three to four miles long.

Some clubs represented included Legacy Veterans, Itus Virtus and the patriot guard along with other veteran and biker clubs.

The number of partners involved also grew, this year providing breakfast, lunch, patches and other services, with all proceeds going directly to the wreaths.

The route made its way to Mound City and back, covering about 100 miles worth of road in total.

USD 234 holds opening ceremony for renovated Frary Field

USD 234 board members and leadership held a kick-off celebration Friday evening to celebrate the recent completion of the renovated Frary Field, part of the bond package approved in November of 2014.

With the start of the school year and the Fort Scott football teams playing red and white games before their season starts in the next week, the field was finished just in time as members of the community came to the ceremony, where the new artificial turf, lighting, fence and other additions were displayed.

Superintendent Bob Beckham admitted there were different opinions on the bond package and how that funding would be spent, but said they are happy with the results so far.

“Those mixed emotions have been replaced with excitement,” Beckham said as he pointed out the new surface of the field. “Isn’t that beautiful?”

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Board of education president Jordan Witt said it is because of the support of the Fort Scott community that the field improvements were made possible. But while celebrating the football field that evening, Witt said there will be more to come in the years ahead.

“It’s an extremely exciting night,” Witt said. “And I can promise you that this is just the beginning.”

USD 234 senior Garrett Tatro and Trenton Toth, fourth grade, were also able to address those attending the ceremony and expressed their appreciation for the investments made in their schools as well as current and future students.

“It was a vote not just for us but for the future,” Tatro said, saying he is grateful for it on behalf of his younger brother.

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Representatives from partnering businesses involved in the project, including Ed Carlson, senior architect of Hollis + Miller Architects, and Jon Pahl, executive president of Nabholz Construction, also spoke, expressing their pleasure in participating in the work completed.

The ceremony was followed by red and white scrimmage games for the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity football teams as well as demonstrations from the cheer and dance teams.

Renovations to Old Middle School continue

After passing through the hands of different owners over the years, Fort Scott’s old middle school building was purchased by Paul Feeney of Southern California in 2011, with the plan of opening an entertainment center in the almost century-old building.

While that plan started with a five-year completion process in mind, personal issues have delayed that opening of The REAL School of Hard Knocks, possibly by a couple years. But Feeney said Fort Scott residents have no reason to believe the building will again be neglected.

“It’s a huge project,” Feeney said of the idea for the school, which he thought of during a time of “temporary insanity,” according to him.

After years of working in Southern California, Feeney said he wanted to branch out from the normal 9-5 job and instead hold one that he enjoys and benefits society, whether he makes money off it or not.

“It’s not about making money,” Feeney said. “It’s really about giving back to the community.”

Feeney said he first looked at purchasing a school building in other states, but when he heard about the one available in Fort Scott and visited the town, he decided to invest in that city instead.

“I fell in love with the town,” Feeney said of Fort Scott, saying he looks forward to moving away from the congested area he lives in currently, where he is waiting for his house to sell. “One of the things I love about the town is the people.”

Since buying the building, Feeney has traveled between California and Fort Scott to help oversee the renovations with his onsite team whenever he can, living in the upper floor of the middle school building. While the work slowly progresses, Feeney said the city and its leaders have been very supportive of the project.

Though the opening day of the entertainment center may not come until 2018, the centennial year of the building, Feeney said in the meantime they have hosted different concerts and events there such as air-soft gun battles for youth in the area.

Though his plans for the building continue to adjust as he keeps tabs on what is popular among youth, Feeney said the entertainment center will likely provide options such as a trampoline park, laser tag, arcade and possibly go-carts, while they will leave the auditorium as it is for concerts. Individuals could come to play or it could be rented out for larger parties.

“We’ve had a setback, but not a derailment,” Feeney said. “We will catch up. I’m determined.”

Feeney said they continue to hold on to the goal of keeping the history of the building alive and improving its physical appearance while also providing a new means of entertainment for local families.

UMB Bank hosts weekly Chamber Coffee

The Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce and the UMB Bank hosted the weekly Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, inviting business leaders from around the community to interact with each other and give updates on upcoming events.

Cindy Bowman, president of the UMB Bank and employee there for 37 years, introduced employees and leadership of the bank, which is one of 108 branches of its kind now located in eight separate states.

“I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your contributions that you make every day to our community to make it stronger and the great place that it is to live,” Bowman told those in attendance.

The local branch has a combined 112 years of experience in banking, which they use to serve the community of Fort Scott.

“We have a vast variety of products and services,” Bowman said of UMB Bank, but added that is provided by most banks. “What I believe makes us special is our people and our commitment to our customers.”

With a $1 donation toward Dolly the Trolley, representatives from area businesses were able to make announcements which included fundraising opportunities as well as upcoming events:

  • The fall, Townwide Garage Sale has been rescheduled to Sept. 11-12, after several members of the community said they could not participate this weekend.
  • Friday night, the fort will hold an event sharing the story of how the fort became part of the National Park Service. The fort will also have the Symbols of Sacrifice event beginning Sept. 11, displaying flags around the historic site.
  • Frank Halsey gave an update on how the Marmaton Massacre Race went earlier this month, expressing his gratitude to the businesses who sponsored the event.
  • Common Grounds will be hosting a band performance Saturday as well as two authors for book-signings starting, the latter starting at 1 p.m.
  • The 3rd Annual Wreath Ride will start at the Buck Run Community Center Saturday morning to raise funds for wreaths to be placed at the National Cemetery later this year.
  • St. Mary’s Catholic School is currently selling trash bags as a fundraiser
  •  The Taste of Fort Scott: Corks and Forks fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce will be held Nov. 7.
  •  The Carson and Barnes Circus will be returning to the fairgrounds of Fort Scott, Sept. 21.
  • Mercy Hospital is hosting a 12-week program called Circles out of Poverty to educate and give tips against poverty in Fort Scott, after a study ranked Fort Scott at 104 out of 105 areas for children living in poverty.

Rescheduling does not stop Marmaton Massacre Race

After rain and potential flooding postponed the original dates of the second Marmaton Massacre cycling event, organizer Frank Halsey was not sure how many participants would be involved in the race held at the Gunn Park trails.

“We don’t know the impact on the number of people who will show up,” Halsey said before the event, which was rescheduled to Aug. 15-16.

But Halsey said the delay might have been a blessing in disguise as it likely kept the event from becoming too large for them to handle, after a successful first year brought in several new racers and led to their being the location of the Kansas State Mountain Biking Championship.

“For a first year, that was considered pretty good,” Halsey said of the turnout of about 45 cyclists and the selection for the championship location after the 2014 race. “It was a little overwhelming for us, being as young as we are.”

The second year of the event brought in more than 100 racers from around the state and even neighboring states.

“It was great,” Halsey said of the two-day race, calling it a huge success. “I think it was everything I’d hoped for.”

Halsey said many of those cyclists were new to the trails and were surprised by how well-made they were, including stretches of flat ground as well as more challenging, hilly areas.

“They had no idea we had this quality of trails,” Halsey said, saying several cyclists expressed their interest in coming again in the future while others from out of town have already begun coming weekly to ride the trails. “They just didn’t know what to expect.”

While the event did bring in a slight profit, which Halsey said will be used for the trail work and maintenance, Halsey also said he believes the city of Fort Scott benefitted from the event as well as participants stayed in hotels for the weekend and shopped and ate at local venues.

“I know we brought business to Fort Scott,” Halsey said.

Changes from the first race held in 2014 included the addition of a challenging half-mile to the trail, holding the event on both Saturday and Sunday and a children’s race held Saturday. Those activities as well as live music, vendors, bounce houses and an option for camping provided a more festival atmosphere, Halsey said.

Halsey said the event could not have happened without the team of volunteers and sponsors who participated, and already they are beginning to look at planning a third race for the summer of 2016.

Prior to 2010, the bike trails did not even exist. But Halsey, who had been interested in cycling for some time since a knee injury kept him from jogging, began to look into creating the trails at Gunn Park in 2009, finally receiving permission from the city to do so the following year.

“It’s a labor of love, so to speak,” Halsey said of the slow process.

With one to 10 volunteers helping at a time, working mostly in the winter when there is the least amount of brush to clear, the trails have slowly expanded over the past five years into a seven-mile course, with space for about a mile further before there is no more available ground for the trail.

“It’s my new hobby,” Halsey said of the trails, which he first started working on by himself with a rake and a machete. “It’s become a much bigger project than I anticipated.”

Fort Scott welcomes Verizon store with ribbon-cutting

The new Russell Cellular Verizon retailer in Fort Scott celebrated its recent opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning in the presence of city and local business leaders.

Russell Cellular began providing services out of Battlefield, Mo., 22 years ago, but has since grown to have stores in 23 states and is now the sixth largest of its kind in the United States, according to district manager Eddie Hash.

“We try to provide any type of service you need,” Hash said, whether that is in sales or phone repairs.

While they are bringing a new business to residents of Fort Scott, Hash said their goal is to also get involved in the community through events such as their No Text and Drive campaign, which will include events at the store and possibly the high school, and their current drive to raise money for Dolly the Trolley.

Currently, the local trolley is parked in front of the Verizon store off Highway 69. Customers that make a donation toward the trolley this week will be able to win varying levels of prizes such as water bottles or phone accessories.

The Verizon store brings with it two employees, though Hash said they hope to grow the store and add more employees.

April Courtney, who grew up in Moran and has grandparents living in Fort Scott, said it is nice to be back in the area, where she had always hoped to live. Brian Tavernaro lives near Pittsburg with his wife and three young children and said he enjoys the atmosphere of Fort Scott.

“We’re really looking forward to being part of the community,” Tavernaro said of the new business and its employees.

USD 234 construction continues as first day of school approaches

With the approval of the $40.8 million school bond package in November of 2014 and the beginning of summer break, construction equipment has been a common sight around Fort Scott High School.

“It’s messy,” superintendent Bob Beckham said Monday. “But it’s exciting and it’ll all be worth it in the end.”

With school starting for USD 234 on Thursday and with the first scrimmage football game to be held Friday night, some of that mess will disappear as projects around the stadium wrap up in the next few days.

This week, workers will finish installing the artificial turf at the football stadium, sewing on lettering, lines, numbers and a large Tiger paw to be displayed on the center of the field. The field’s new lighting, fence and jumping pit will also be on display in time for a ceremony to be held Friday before the start of the red and white game.

The three-story, junior college wing has also been demolished and is ready for work to begin for the new science lab and administrative offices to be constructed there.

Other work scheduled to begin is the new gymnasium as well as high-wind shelters to be established in each of the schools in the months ahead, whether in the schools’ cafeterias or other buildings.

Workers lay artificial turf at the high school football stadium in preparation for the new season.
Workers lay artificial turf at the high school football stadium in preparation for the new season.
The demolition of the junior college wing at the Fort Scott High School prepares the way for further construction.
The demolition of the junior college wing at the Fort Scott High School prepares the way for further construction.