Column published in Smith County Pioneer – April 16, 2015

KS Governor Signs Bill to Name “Home on the Range Highway”
By El Dean Holthus

In a separate article you will read of the signing of Senate Bill 43 naming 16 miles of K-8 as THE HOME ON THE RANGE HIGHWAY; in writing that article I was reminded of the fine relationship Home on the Range has had with the Kansas Legislature and the office of Governor.

In 1947 under the leadership of Dr. I.E. Nickell that session passed legislation making the song Home on the Range the official State Song of Kansas. Governor Ed Arn, in 1954, dedicated the Cabin renovated under the leadership of the Smith Center Rotary Club. The 2012 session of the Legislature passed a measure in recognition of the Cabin’s 140th anniversary encouraging school children across Kansas to financially support its restoration. In 2014 Governor Brownback signed a declaration of dedication to those in the past who saved the Cabin, those currently who had assisted in its restoration and to everyone for the education and enjoyment of generations to come. Lieutenant Jeff Colyer was on Site in October to present the Governor’s declaration. This 2015 session of the Legislature passed and the Governor signed the highway naming bill. Plans are for the Governor to visit the HOR Site sometime this summer.

It is important for Home on the Range and other rural interests to maintain personal contact with our legislators; they are bombarded by form letters and emails and truly enjoy talking to someone who is passionate enough about a cause to talk to them personally. In the case of Home on the Range and the highway naming I had the opportunity to tell our story, of HOR and North Central Kansas, to urban members of the legislature who knew little or nothing about our area. I believe it was important because when legislation comes up concerning North Central Kansas and Smith County in particular they can place a face and location during their discussions.

Current activities on site are primarily the picking up of fallen tree branches; this is the bad news of desiring to leave the fallen and dead trees to maintain the rough atmosphere, in other words we do not want it to look like a park.

We are looking forward to hosting the family of Betty Sears who, on Saturday (18th), weather permitting, will visit the Cabin, tour the Site and eat a picnic lunch. There is a contingency plan in the case of unfavorable weather.

The next step in the highway naming process is to fund two signs along K-8, one north of the K-8/US-36 junction and one south of the Nebraska/Kansas state line. These signs are not funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation which will require payment being made by the Peoples Heartland Foundation to KDOT before they are even manufactured. The design of the signs, the material used, location and installation must all be approved by KDOT; the cost of the signs will be $4500 which includes a 50% over run to cover future maintenance.

The Foundation and the Home on the Range Advisory Board are seeking your help in raising these funds. It is our hope you are proud of having supported Home on the Range in the past and feel a sense of ownership in the Site so we are asking again that you will find it within yourselves to help place signs on the highway leading to “YOUR” Cabin. Your gifts would be deductible.

We will soon have new style brochures being printed by Graphics Central, Smith Center, which are funded by a grant from the Smith County Convention and Visitors Board.

Why is tourist promotion important? The Smith Center Chamber of Commerce and Smith County CVB recently sponsored a chicken festival in Smith Center; was it important to the economy? I have a relative that works in a fast food establishment along highway US-36, he shared that on the day of the event they sold 60 sandwiches in one hour; think of the sales of other business in town. You and I want to have the convenience of food and other services, but because of demographics we need to have the help of visitors to our communities.

This is what Home on the Range is about, by promoting our Site and by having many visitors we are encouraging people to stay and spend some time in the area. Thank you for your support.