Schools celebrate Halloween with parades and parties

The schools of Fort Scott celebrated Halloween a couple days early with parades or other festivities at their respective schools Thursday before getting Friday off from classes.

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The students of Winfield Scott came to school in costume and participated in a parade around the school grounds Thursday morning, with numerous friends and family members coming to watch despite the cold temperatures. Other schools in the district such as Eugene Ware had parties later in the day.

Halloween festivities continue in Fort Scott on Saturday with different costume contests or trunk or treat events for members of the community.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten sets children on the path to success, one book at a time

Submitted by the Fort Scott Public Library

Local families are invited to join the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at Fort Scott Public Library.

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The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program is a nationwide challenge that encourages parents and caregivers to regularly read aloud to their children. By reading just one book a night, families can reach the 1,000-book goal in three years and provide their children with essential early literacy skills.

Research shows that the most reliable predictor of school success is being read to during early childhood. Reading to children from an early age can help close the vocabulary gap and prepare children to enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. Most importantly, sharing books with children promotes a lifelong love of books and reading.

The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program is available to all families with children between the ages of birth and five years.

This program is free of charge and all program participants receive a completion sticker as well as a free book at each 100-book milestone.

Registration is open. For more information, call the library at (620) 223-2882 or email Valetta Cannon at [email protected].

Find more resources for the program at



Sleep Inn Hotel celebrates one year in Fort Scott

One year and six days after opening their doors in Fort Scott, Sleep Inn hosted the weekly Chamber Coffee and gave an update on their impact on the community.

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“We couldn’t have gotten this done without a whole lot of community support,” general manager Bill Michaud said.

In the first 365 days of being open, Michaud said they rented 10,148 rooms. With an average of almost two people staying in each room, those numbers resulted in about 20,000 people spending at least a night in Fort Scott.

“I think we’ve accomplished what we set out to do,” Michaud said, saying they had wanted to provide a place to stay for visitors as well as find ways to invest in the community.

The hotel has 59 rooms as well as an indoor swimming pool, fitness center and provides a hot breakfast for its guests each morning.

Because of their customer satisfaction ratings, the Fort Scott Sleep Inn is ranked fifth out of all the Sleep Inns in the world, and fourth for the cleanliness of their bathrooms. But Michaud said they hope to continue improving their services to move into the top three, becoming one of the Sleep Inns of the year.

USD 234 business manager Gina Shelton said she hopes they get to hold a similar celebration with the Sleep Inn Hotel 10 years down the road. Other business owners expressed their appreciation to Michaud  for his involvement in the community.

Other announcements included:

  • The Chamber of Commerce’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event will be held at the Memorial Hall Saturday, Nov. 7, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $20 or at the door for $25. At least 10 different vendors will provide food and drinks while items will be auctioned off.
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site is looking for people of the community able to share specific experiences related to the fort when it was an orphanage. Those willing to participate should contact the fort.
  • Fort Scott will be hosting a three-species hunt the Saturday after Thanksgiving for 10 invited hunters. It is the only hunt of its kind in the United States as deer, duck and turkey are in season at the same time. A fundraiser dinner will also be held that weekend to help raise more funding for the city’s trolley.
  • Marc Willson will be holding a workshop at the Empress Event Center Friday, bringing information for business owners such as how to remain relevant as the culture changes as well as art in business.
  • Fort Scott businesses will participate in a Holiday Shopping open house Nov. 12, providing treats as well as holiday wares for sale.
  • The Fort Scott Tigers play a district game Friday night against Paola and also hosts the senior night for athletes and other students. The high school will also host a sendoff for the girls’ cross country team, who qualified for state, Friday at 12:15 p.m.

Discussion on consolidating fire districts continues

A discussion that has continued for some time picked up again in recent weeks as the four Bourbon County fire districts consider the option of consolidating their efforts.

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In the past month, county commissioners have worked with Emergency Manager Will Wallis, county attorney Justin Meeks and others involved in the fire districts to consider the pros and cons of combining the districts to make their responses to emergencies run more smoothly.

While meeting with the county commissioners Tuesday, Wallis said the chiefs of the fire districts met together Monday evening along with Commissioner Lynne Oharah to discuss the consolidation of the districts and to see what their concerns were.

Some questions raised included who would pay the bills if the districts were consolidated and would the districts be able to keep their individual identities.

Wallis and the commissioners said their goal is not to drastically change the way the districts currently run, but to improve aspects such as how they are dispatched to fires around the county and part of the budget process, letting the county do the audit of budgets approved and funded by the townships and fire districts.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel here,” Wallis said.

Dan Banwart, part of the Scott Township and involved in fire districts for more than 40 years, met with the commissioners as well to express his own concerns over the idea of consolidating the districts.

Banwart said he is worried, as a “concerned taxpayer,” that the districts will become too centralized a force instead of individual districts and that money will not be filtered to the districts properly. He also said if they become a county-wide district, they may be considered too large or too financially stable to be awarded grants such as the ones that have helped them in the past.

In the current fire district situation, the commissioners said some of the districts are struggling to get enough volunteers or to even keep their fire trucks fueled because they get so little funding from the county taxes.

District four, for example, or the Redfield district, only received about $8,000 in 2014 from taxes, while district three received more than $228,000. Those same districts are valued at $1.8 million and $27 million, respectively.

But though some of the more populated districts are valued higher than others and receive more tax money because of their population, other districts have to cover more ground because of their size, and struggle to do so.

“My number one concern with the whole situation is safety,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said, saying the change might help by making the dispatchers’ jobs easier and more efficient so volunteer fire departments can respond more quickly to emergencies.

Wallis will continue to discuss the move with other fire chiefs and other members of the community interested in the issue before a decision is made and plans drawn up. Banwart said if the taxes are not raised and they do not risk losing grants, than he believes the change could be positive for the county.

County Commissioners visit new rock quarry

After trying two other locations in a search for rock the county could use for road and other projects, a third attempt resulted in their discovery of a quarry that could last the county for decades.

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“This quarry is a big deal,” county commissioner Lynne Oharah said during their visit to the Thomas Quarry Tuesday morning, calling it the “best rock in the county.”

Located near the southern edge of the county, the location also allows the county to provide gravel and rock to that area more easily.

“The location is perfect for hauling in the south part of the county,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said.

The county blasted the rock two weeks ago and has since been working on crushing it and screening it into separate sizes as it is prepared for use. The quarry is found on about 160 acres of land and some of the rock stretches to about 26 feet deep or more.

Kenneth Keeney, who lives near the quarry, said he knew the rock was there when other companies came in to install lines or towers and found the hard rock. He now looks forward to having that gravel put on some of the roads in that area.

“You can puts some on mine anytime you want,” Keeney said.

Roads and bridges director Jim Harris said they are currently turning out about 215 tons of rock an hour. Next summer he said they plan to blast some more of the rock.

“This quarry should last our county quite a while,” Albright said.

The commissioners also visited the county landfill, where a new transfer station is being installed to replace the current one, which has grown old and rusty.

Fort Scott hosts 12th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration

Members of the community as well as visitors from out of town participated in the Gordon Parks Celebration, Oct. 22-24, hosted by the Gordon Parks Museum and the Fort Scott Community College and providing a variety of events, tours and competitions for participants of all ages.

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Festivities kicked off with a luncheon Wednesday where elementary students read their winning poems of a contest. The Gordon Parks Museum hosted the Chamber of Commerce Chamber Coffee Thursday morning while other panel discussions and presentations were made throughout the weekend.

Fifteen high school and middle school students from local and surrounding communities also read or showed their poems, essays and photo that were chosen as finalists from 82 competitors who competed in the contest, which used photos as inspiration.

Area high school and middle school students also got to display their projects in the form of a documentary and two performances they put together for the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and which gave them the opportunity to compete in a national competition earlier this year.

The Kansas City Lights jazz trio provided an evening of jazz Friday for members of the community as well as members of Gordon Parks’ family who were in town for the celebration.

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Children were again given an opportunity to participate through the ArtCreation Workshop hosted by the museum and art teachers who helped participating children create a piece of art similar to how Gordon Parks did.

The weekend ended Saturday evening with the Celebration Tribute Dinner, when the 2015 Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award was presented to Genevieve Young.

“The event went very well and it was so nice to have so many Parks family members here this year,” museum director Jill Warford said of the weekend’s event.  “Also, the kids’ events were wonderful and show that we have a lot of young talented writers and artists.”

Fort Scott Community College hosts Dan VandeWynkel Alumni Rodeo

Fort Scott Community College alumni and students participated in the annual Dan VandeWynkel Alumni Rodeo Saturday afternoon and evening, with area and returning contestants from out of town and state taking part.

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VandeWynkel, who died in 2006, was himself an alumnus and had been part of the college’s staff for almost 30 years. He was also very involved in the rodeo program, which led to the event being dedicated to him starting in 2005.

This year’s rodeo included events such as bareback and saddle bronco riding, team roping, goat tying, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding. Some of the team events included fathers and sons competing together.

Contestants varied in age, including high school students as well as riders who had been involved in rodeos for several years. Current and past professional rodeo circuit competitors also participated.

A silent and live auction was held, with some rodeo athletes being auctioned off for labor prior to the evening event. Proceeds benefited the rodeo scholarships at FSCC.

Fort Scott Community College crowns royalty, falls late to Independence

Fort Scott Community College hosted its 2015 Homecoming activities Saturday, inviting the community to free tailgating snacks, their football game, coronation, band performance and recognition of the sophomore football players.

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During halftime of the Greyhounds’ game against the Independence Pirates, the college presented the 12 king and queen candidates who were nominated and voted for by their peers and then vetted through an interview process. Candidates represented different areas of the college including athletics such as volleyball, baseball, softball and football as well as theater and cosmetology.

Jamain Lang was named Homecoming King while Julia Stringer was crowned Homecoming Queen. Other king candidates included K.J. Miller, Jacob Biller, Jeremiah Fleming, David Hall and Onyx Yasuhara and queen candidates Payton Coyan, Emily Bowman, Alex Perez, Kourtney Harper and Taylor Schilling.

Sophomore players were recognized prior to the game along with their family or foster families who adopted them during the school year.

But while the FSCC Greyhounds fought hard throughout the Homecoming game, trading touchdowns with the Pirates the entire game, the Hounds fell late when the Pirates scored a touchdown with just seconds remaining in the game, for a final score of 49-42.

While the Hounds had nearly 500 yards in the game, 13 penalties and four fumbles hurt their cause as they fell late. Player Gabe Loyd finished the game with eight tackles however, enough to pass the all-time FSCC tackles record previously held by Lavonte David, currently playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at 218.

Halloween festivities begin a week early

Scores of families participated in Halloween activities over the weekend as Buck Run Community Center, the Chamber of Commerce, city of Fort Scott and area churches hosted festivities.

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Saturday morning activities began with crafts and a pumpkin carving contest at the Buck Run Community Center,  with volunteer students and adults hosting the activities.

From there, children and their families could then be a part of the Halloween Parade through downtown Fort Scott. Face painting, photos from Walgreens and free hot dogs were provided to those who trick-or-treated up and down Main Street, where downtown businesses and others handed out candy.

Area churches also held Trunk or Treat events over the weekend, inviting community families to take part.

Shepherd Team Auto Plaza to sell after 62 years in the family

The business of car sales has impacted the Shepherd family for generations, with current owner David Shepherd’s father, grandfather and great-uncle each being involved in the business.

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But that heritage will change in the upcoming weeks as Shepherd completes the sale of the Shepherd Team Auto Plaza in Fort Scott to the Briggs Auto Group and begins a different stage in his own life.

“I’m looking forward to really being able to move on to the next chapter,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s father bought the Fort Scott Ford dealership in 1952 when there were 13 car dealerships in the community. But that number decreased as the business changed over the years with consolidation and the addition of internet sales.

Shepherd said he first started helping his father’s business as a 10-year-old washing and cleaning the vehicles there.

After going through the Fort Scott education system and attending McPherson College, Shepherd turned down the opportunity to join the Peace Corps as well as an offer from the Ford Motor Company in order to stay closer to home and a woman he met at college, a decision he does not regret now after 43 years of marriage. Shepherd worked at a dealership in McPherson for a year before returning to Fort Scott in 1972, the same year he married his wife.

“My father was very happy when I came back,” Shepherd said of that move, which also allowed him to again work in the family business.

Working as a sales person and then a sales manager, Shepherd continued to learn about the business as he trained to become his father’s successor.

“As time went by I was given more and more responsibility,” Shepherd said, saying he was even given the task of improving the sales of certain areas of the dealership as it continued to expand to include other manufacturers’ vehicles.

Shepherd eventually took over the business from his father, having now run it for about the past 30 years. Shepherd’s father continued to visit the business however until Alzheimer’s prevented those visits.

In 1981 the dealership added Buick, GMC and Pontiac vehicles to those already on sale, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth. In 1988, they added Chrysler and also became one of just two dealerships in the country that year that were asked to add Toyota vehicles to their dealership.

“That was a big year for us,” Shepherd said. “We felt real honored.”

While the dealership continued to expand to include four manufacturers and employ about 50 employees, Shepherd said he never found the one employee that could be his successor. His two sons never showed an interest in the business and Shepherd said he never pressured them to follow his own profession.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a dealer in a small city,” Shepherd said, saying he has had great employees but none that were the perfect fit.

After searching for that right person for the past seven or eight years, Shepherd said a combination of his age, time in the business, no growth in the dealership and tiring of working six days a week for 43 years led him to the decision to sell the company.

After beginning the process before Christmas of last year, Shepherd said he came to an agreement with dealership owner Russell Briggs, who started in auto repair 40 years ago and currently owns nine other dealerships in Kansas. With the months-long process finally reaching an end, the dealership will switch hands within the next two to six weeks.

“He’s a hard worker and has been very successful,” Shepherd said of Briggs, who he said is known for taking good care of his customers and employees and having a high volume of vehicles. “I think that’ll be very good for the people in this area…We’re leaving the store in good hands, I believe.”

Despite selling that dealership, Shepherd said he will continue to own Bourbon County Cars, but looks forward to having more time available to be a part of the community through programs such as Circles and the Fort Scott Area Community Foundation.

“I don’t really think of myself as retiring,” Shepherd said, but doing something different.

Shepherd said the same employees will continue to work at the dealership and it will continue to service vehicles purchased there while it was Shepherd’s.

Since announcing the sale, Shepherd says he has heard from customers and friends who congratulated him but also said they were sorry he was selling.

“We appreciate greatly their support,” Shepherd said of those customers, saying because of them and his employees the dealership lasted 63 years instead of the average 10 years and sold about 100,000 vehicles.

Local Circles program gives update after one year

A year after the process of the Fort Scott Circles program began as a result of the Gordon Parks Celebration  in 2014, those currently involved in that program used that same celebration as a chance to give an update on its impact during a panel discussion Thursday afternoon.

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The program provides resources, assistance and training to those in the community who want to improve their way of life.

Volunteer coordinator Jan Hedges quoted a Kansas State University study released earlier this year that ranked Bourbon County as 104th out of 105 Kansas counties when it comes to the number of children living below the poverty level.

“There are barriers in every community that make it hard to get out of poverty,” Hedges said, mentioning some barriers such as lack of transportation and child care as well as a lack in financial knowledge.

The program starts with a 12-week class that goes through curriculum, training participants in areas such as how to set a budget as well as goals for themselves.

“We talk about what’s your dream in circle,” Hedges said. “You have a dream but there are some things you have to do to get to that dream.”

Diana Endicott, facilitator for that phase one of the program, said their first step is to recruit people to participate and keep them in the program, but added some find that they are not yet willing to make the necessary changes.

“In order to have things come out differently, they’re going to have to make some changes,” Endicott said.

Phase two of the program partners each circle participant, called a circle leader, with two other members of the community, called allies, who will hold the circle leader accountable and meet with them regularly, helping them set and keep goals.

Phase two facilitator David Goodyear said their goal is to help residents go from merely surviving  to thriving.

The first group involved in the program started with five participants and had three of those graduate to the next phase. A second group started with 12 and now has seven on track to graduate in December.

Already, the program leaders said they have seen participants go from homeless to finding housing, had a mother be granted custody of her children once again and another is about to take the GED test.

With the upcoming graduation, the program is looking for allies to get involved as well as participants for the program. Training will be provided to those interested in being an ally on Nov. 11.

They also invite professionals in the community to participate by training circle leaders in areas such as finances, renters’ rights, baking or other areas. The program also accepts monetary donations or other assistance such as in transportation and child care during their weekly meetings on Wednesdays.

“Circles is not a handout program,” Hedges said. “It’s a hand up…It’s a program for people who want to improve their life.”

Gordon Parks Celebration continues with Chamber Coffee

The Gordon Parks Museum used the weekly Chamber Coffee gathering as an opportunity to share information about this weekend’s 12th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration events with local business representatives Thursday morning.

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“I think this is one of Fort Scott’s hidden gems,” USD 234 business manager and Chamber Coffee moderator Gina Shelton said of the museum and the annual celebration.

Museum Executive Director Jill Warford described new exhibits and books the museum has to offer this year, including an exhibit featuring an interactive children’s area as well as one highlighting African American ancestry in Fort Scott.

“It’s about [Parks’] heritage and history,” Warford said of the new exhibit, which portrays segregation in Fort Scott including in schools, parks, pools and churches and also features early African American doctors, businessmen and law enforcement in the community.

Members of the community are invited to see the museum located at Fort Scott Community College during the weekend’s celebration event, which also includes tours of Fort Scott, a jazz concert Friday evening, reading of Parks’ narrative “Back to Fort Scott” and other events throughout the weekend.

Already county elementary students were able to participate in a poetry contest Wednesday evening.

“We have a lot of things going on this weekend,” Warford said, saying it is available to anyone and is a good opportunity for people to meet others in the community they might not meet otherwise.

Other announcements from local businesses and organizations included:

  • The Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event still has spaces open for food vendors who would like to participate. People are also still able to enter their salsa into the salsa contest. Live and silent auctions will also be held during the Nov. 7 event at Memorial Hall. Tickets are available for $20 or $25 at the door.
  • The Beacon organization in Fort Scott will again provide the opportunity for people to “adopt” a low income family from the area, purchasing Christmas gifts for the elementary-aged children. It will be made available the week before Thanksgiving.
  • Fort Scott Community College will be holding their homecoming event Saturday during the halftime of their football game against Independence at Frary Field. A tailgating event will provide free hot dogs and snacks starting at 11 a.m.
  • Members of the Young Professionals League of Bourbon County are encouraged to visit Fort Wise pumpkin patch, located six miles west of Fort Scott on Highway 54, with their families Sunday afternoon, 4-6 p.m.
  • New Wave Broadband will soon begin putting up a new tower near the Fort Scott Lake, which will help them provide better broadband and internet services to residents in that area.
  • The Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Fort Scott Saturday morning beginning at 11 a.m. Other activities such as face-painting and photos at Walgreens will begin at about 10 a.m. while the Buck Run Community Center will hold a pumpkin carving contest earlier that morning.
  • A workshop sponsored by Union State Bank will be held Friday, Oct. 30, at the Empress Event Center, 9-11 a.m., with guest speaker Marc Willson sharing information for businesses concerning areas such as customer service and the use of social media.
  • Fort Scott Family Dental will be offering continuing education classes over the next couple months as well as offer six-month smiles, braces that work more quickly in less severe cases.