Folks seems like every spring, every little town starts to wonder who might visit, and help the local economy. Some of them work hard to create a gimmick to promote itself, to make it stick in the memory of passersby, to bring it honor or distinction.
Garden City is Cutting Horse Capital, among other things. Oakley the Fossil Capital, and Kingman the Plow Capital. It's boosterism, pure and simple.
Here, Kansas, had a dose of boosterism when Hattie and Tommy Burns of the Here College of Beauty and Fiberglass Maintenance took a trip to see Kansas. They came back steamed up.
"Everywhere you go," said Hattie, "people are proud of where they live." She brought out a sheet of paper and adjusted her bifocals. "Fortunately, we took notes. First, we have our `World' category: Topeka has the `World Famous Zoo.' Greensburg the `World's Largest Hand-dug Well.' Cawker City the `World's Largest Ball of Twine,' or second largest, but even the controversy is good for them. Both Burlington and Chetopa claim to be the `Catfish Capital of the World.' And Dodge City, the `Cowboy Capital of the World.' And here's a town that kept trying until they got it right: Garden City, home of the `World's Largest Free Municipal Concrete Swimming Pool.'"
"Now I found some `State's largest,'" said Tommy. "Everest is `Home of the Largest Red Cedar Tree in the State,' and Pretty Prairie is `Home of the State's Largest Night Rodeo.'"
"Then there's your honorary capitals," said Hattie. "`Pheasant Capital of Kansas' is Norton. `Czech Capital of Kansas' is Wilson. `Pinto Bean Capital of Kansas' is Leoti."
Tommy interrupted. "I found the `Halfways': Luray is `Halfway Between Paradise and the Garden of Eden.' Kinsley is `Halfway and a Place to Stay,' being exactly between New York City and San Francisco."
"And the `Firsts,'" Hattie shouted. "`First Cattle Town in Kansas,' Baxter Springs. `First Free Public Library in the State,' Peabody."
"And the outlaw towns," Tommy interrupted her again. "Meade and Coffeyville practically live off the Dalton Gang Hideout and the Bank where they got shot. Cherryvale has the Bloody Benders. And Lawrence has Quantrill."
Hattie pushed herself forward. "And Mission and Baldwin City and Council Grove and Pawnee Rock and Larned all have the Santa Fe Trail."
Well, folks, I wasn't sure the two of them would ever run out of steam, and I could see where they were headed. "So what's Here, Kansas, got?" I asked. "What do you want us to put up a sign for and call ourselves and boost our fine community."
"We don't know," said Hattie. "There's got to be something. We want a committee."
And you know, that committee was good for us. We researched the town, we learned our history, we learned Kansas. We contacted the State Historical Society, the Kansas Chamber, we had all the old folks talking. And after it was all over, we boosted ourselves as well as we could.
Now in weathered paint, just outside of Here, if you squint you'll see a little sign that reads: "Visit the World's First, Smallest, Brick, South-facing, Abandoned Carnegie Library, from which the Dalton Gang checked out a Street Map of Coffeyville, Kansas." I'm not sure it's increased our tourist traffic, but it sure has given us a little more civic pride.