Column published in Smith County Pioneer 6-18-15

HOME ON THE RANGE – Michael Martin Murphey Concert
By El Dean Holthus

The Michael Martin Murphey Home on the Range concert June 14, 2015 in Smith Center, KS is in the history books. The Donor Advisory Board of The Peoples Heartland Foundation express our sincere thanks to all who supported this very successful effort to benefit the continued publicity telling of the growth and development at the Home on the Range Site.

The theme for the afternoon was to honor the flag of the greatest Nation in the world and to pay tribute to those brave men and women who fought and continue to fight to keep the United States of America free. The atmosphere for the day was set by The American Legion Riders of Post 166, Kensington, KS who lined the street in front of the school with their motorcycles and mounted flags. All who entered the auditorium passed this avenue of multiple Old Glories waving proudly in the gentle June breeze.

At 2:15 pm the audience rose to their feet as the Smith Center Veterans of Foreign Wars, in an impressive ceremony, posted the Colors and the audience proudly saluted our Flag with The Pledge of Allegiance in unison. After the Color Guard departed veterans were recognized as their branch was called. Also everyone over 80 years of age was recognized as those whom Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation”. Special recognition was given to Willie Johnson of McPherson who served in the Coast Guard, not many from land locked Kansas had that opportunity. Willie is the father of Tami (Johnson) Holthus who is the wife of Mitch Holthus.

Manda Wanner, Smith Center, officially opened the concert with a magnificent and inspiring singing of our National Anthem. She is an outstanding talent and along with her sister Merry VanderGiesen are long time supporters of our active duty troops and their families. Home on the Range is proud to recognize them also as friends and supporters of our HOR on site activities.

Our star, Michael Martin Murphey then opened his concert. He is an outstanding talent, a real cowboy, who loves the country and privately owned historical sites such as the HOR Site. His music, interspersed with stories, is down home. He also paid tribute to the military veterans with the story of his uncle who served in WWII and to traditional marriages that last for many years. His next to last song was “Wildfire” his trademark. He then closed by singing “Home on the Range” with the audience joining in for the chorus. If this rendition is good enough, being recorded by Orin and Jesse Friesen, Benton, KS, it will be included in the sound track of the Home on the Range documentary currently being written by and to be produced by Ken Spurgeon of Lone Chimney Films, Wichita. Sharon Black, Smith Center is collaborating with Spurgeon in the writing of the script.

On Sunday morning, prior to the concert, Murphey, his Friend Frank Goodrich, Council Grove, KS and Karl Sieb, Lubbock, TX visited the HOR Site especially to see the restored Cabin. Murphey and Goodrich had visited in April of 2011 at which time Murphey said, “This Cabin Needs to be saved”. He was featured in the first fund raiser in May 2011 at the Prairie Rose Ranch Benton, KS, and continues his support to this day with this closing remark, as he loaded to return to Colorado, “I am not finished with helping to improve this HOR Site”, implying he will have other concerts for its benefit.

The process of installing and dedicating the signs now begins. As soon as the Kansas Department of Transportation receives a check from the Foundation to cover the cost of the signs, a design will be submitted to us for approval. After approval they will be manufactured, location approved and installed by KDOT. They will be covered until we have an official dedication in which we hope to have Governor Brownback participate. Sen. Elaine Bowers, Concordia, author of SB-43 is assisting in the coordination of the process. K-8, by passage of SB-43, is THE HOME ON THE RANGE HIGHWAY and will soon be so identified.

It is impossible to thank everyone who helped make this concert a success with out missing someone, so to all of you THANK YOU. A small foundation does not have risk capital to underwrite the concert costs of an artist of the magnitude of Michael Martin Murphey so it is necessary to locate sponsors who will fund the underwriting of such an endeavor. 45 sponsors and 11 identified donors provided sufficient funds to insure that every ticket purchased went toward the benefit. The amount exceeding concert and signage costs will be credited to the Documentary account. Thank you to everyone who believes in and supports the work being done at the HOR Site.