Gail Lee Martin used to gallivant about the Kansas countryside with her daughters. She’d taught them in childhood about the delights of setting off on an exploratory road trip. Once they were grown, there were still new places to see and new adventures to try.
Here’s Gail’s description of such a day’s outing in May 2002. The event is called the Kansas Sampler Festival and it provides a showcase for performers, sights, foods, and anything Kansas related. Next week, May 6 and 7th, 2017 is the last time for this festival. This one is in Winfield.
“Well, I had hoped Cindy would tell her side of the weekend and maybe I wouldn’t have so much to talk about. But here goes, my great inspiring weekend. Cindy and I left El Dorado around 1:00 pm on Friday, May 3rd. We went to Independence by way of that new Highway 400, south of El Dorado.
We arrived and got checked in at the Lamplighter Motel (the cheap one), then we hunted up the Riverside Zoo and Park, where we found the festival tents all set up in a great, big oval. We were in #8 and were able to set up at the very front on the left side of the entrance. We unloaded and set up Cindy’s booth titled “Meet, Gene Stratton-Porter.” We should have pictures coming when Cindy gets caught up.
The group of Historic Performers in our tent included a complete covered wagon campout; a mountain man’s home, he is also a wagon scout, a fur trapper, and his wife is a schoolteacher who travels by wagon train; Amelia Earhart; Calamity Jane; Nolan Sump as a German-American farmer, and a group representing The Santa Fe Trail Experience. Talk about being in good company, these people are such fun.
After everyone was set up we adjourned to a Mexican food place and continued to share experiences while chowing down on good food. The next morning we were ready to greet the visiting public by 10:00, all 5,100 of them on Saturday and many more than that on Sunday. Kansas was very well represented from every part of the state. If you didn’t learn about it at the festival if probably isn’t worth seeing.
Both days the ones in our tent gave 15-minute performances off and on. Cindy performed 9 different times. Surprisingly, we saw people we knew. Robert and Vickie Griffith from Madison; Teresa Bachman and the Henns from El Dorado; Barbara Booth, a Kansas Authors Club friend from Clay Center; Mary Asher from the Fort Scott’s farmers market. I talked to everyone else as if I knew them and after visiting with them awhile I felt like I did know them.
I was honored by one of the golf cart volunteers with a ride to the food vendors area for lunch on Saturday. There were 250 volunteers of all ages that pitched in wherever you needed them. They unloaded and loaded our vehicles, hunted up electrical cords, brought us drinks or ice cream and just made the whole thing run like clockwork.
Each tent had a tent boss and ours was a friend of the group called the ‘cowgirl’, but she is from Oklahoma so couldn’t have a booth. And yes, I’m ready to go again next year. I think Cindy probably will get lots of program offers. You all should have been with us! Gail”
As you can see from her description, Gail loved exploring and trying out new experiences.
Gail’s daughter, Cynthia Ross, also wrote about the festival.
“I made it through the weekend, meeting a lot of fans of Gene Stratton-Porter, plus two people that think they are related to her–which is very possible since she was the youngest of 12. Two gentlemen visited my booth after they’d seen one of my performances then made a point to hear it a second time. Many tell me they have all her books—which at one point I thought I did as well, then I found out she wrote more than just her novels.
My feet and knees hurt from wearing those old, lace-up boots for two days. One neat thing that happened, the birdman was there on the festival grounds with his display and he allowed me to hold one of the owls to get my picture taken in costume.
One lady said she wanted me to have her whole collection of Gene’s books, some signed by the author. I told her to let me know a price, although I’ll have to travel some distance to pick them up, but well worth it, that’s if she remembers to call me.
Something very special and meaningful happened before my 1st performance on Saturday—I’d gone into the tent to watch another from our group do her performance to start off the whole weekend, I sat down on one of the hay bales, then noticed a butterfly above me. That small butterfly landed on my shoulder, then flittered right across my nose. Gene loved butterflies and moths about as much as she did the birds and I take that as another sign that she is aware and approves of what I’m doing in her memory!”