The Sunflower State will celebrate its 161st birthday on Saturday. Kansans will reflect on all the good times they’ve experienced in the state since it was officially admitted to the union on Jan. 29, 1861.
What makes the state so great? Here are a few things to know about Kansas Day, courtesy of Lois Herr with the Kansas Historical Society, so you can go all out.
WHAT IS KANSAS DAY?
As mentioned before, it’s the day that celebrates Kansas becoming an official state. It was first celebrated by kids in Paola public schools. The Kansas Historical Society’s website tells the story of how an afternoon in school was blocked off for kids to learn about Kansas and its many features.
Now, it’s a day of honor for Kansas residents, no matter where they reside. There’s even a group in California that celebrates the day. Be sure to wish your fellow Kansan a Happy Kansas Day.
WHICH SYMBOLS SCREAM ‘KANSAS’
Like all states, Kansas has symbols that it honors and that set it apart from the rest of the country. Here are just a few of them.
The state flag was introduced in 1927. The fight for the iconic blue field with the state seal in the center goes back to 1915 when then-Governor Arthur Capper wrote to other states asking about their flag process. The state’s motto “Ad astra per aspera” (to the stars through difficulties) is famously included at the top of the seal.
The western meadowlark is the state bird and has been since 1937. The Kansas Audubon Society held a statewide election involving school children and the small bird with bright yellow features won with nearly 125,000 votes.
Soil is a big deal in Kansas, so much so that it has an official state soil called harney slit loam. It was adopted as the state’s soil in 1990, as nearly four million acres in 26 west-central Kansas counties contain the soil.
“Home on the Range” is a classic and it also serves as Kansas’ official state song. You’ll always be at home where the buffalo roam when you play this on the big day.
WHERE SHOULD YOU GO TO EMBRACE YOUR INNER KANSAN?
Eisenhower Presidental Library - You can find the library dedicated to former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene. It’s connected to his museum, his childhood home and is packed with artifacts, books and more.
The childhood home is closed due to COVID-19 precautions, but the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. You have to purchase tickets online and you can do so here.
Kansas Museum of History - There’s no better place to learn about the state’s history than to visit an award-winning museum dedicated to it. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for people ages 2-17.
Wizard of Oz Museum - located in Wamego, the museum has the original books and memorabilia from the classic movie.
It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $9 for people ages 13 up and $7 for children ages 12 and under.
Wichita is the largest city in the state, although it’s not the capital. It’s known as the “Air Capital of the World,” as it holds several aerospace companies and the Kansas Aviation Museum.
BRUSH UP ON YOUR KANSAS HISTORY FOR THE BIG DAY
May 30, 1854 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act was made official, which is when Kansas became a territory. It set the stage for Kansas becoming a state.
April 14, 1935 - The Dust Bowl, which was a massive front that darkened the entire Midwest in clouds of dust on Black Sunday. It hurt farmers and forced them to change their farming practices.
May 17, 1954 - Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in Topeka. The United States Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision that determined separate, but equal was inherently unequal.
WHAT FAMOUS PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY CELEBRATING KANSAS DAY?
Paul Rudd grew up in Lenexa, and Eric Stonestreet graduated from Kansas State University. Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, is from Atchison, and Maurice Greene, who held the Olympic world record in the 100-meter dash from 1999 to 2002, is from Kansas City, Kansas and attended the University of Kansas.
Kevin Costner’s Oscar winning epic “Dances With Wolves,” was filmed in the state, as was cult sci-fi/comedy “Mars Attacks,” filmed by Tim Burton.