What experiences link a student from Algeria, a retiree from Iceland and family reunion groups from North Dakota, Alabama, Wisconsin and Iowa?
They've all visited the Finney County Historical Museum, one of our community's key attractions. Last year alone, a total of 21,851 people visited our exhibits, and it looks like we'll beat that record in 2013. While summer is our busiest season, the annual average is 60 guests per day, seven days a week.
"We drove down from I-70, and we're glad we did," one visitor wrote in our guest book at the museum. Another simply recorded a frequently-heard, one-word assessment: "Awesome."
Visitors have stopped from every state in the U.S., as well as lots of other countries, ranging from Brazil, Canada, China and Ecuador to France, Guatemala, Russia and South Korea. Kansans from nearly 300 communities have registered in the guest book, not to mention visitors from Holcomb, Garden City and nearby towns.
"Wonderful collection — something for the whole family," wrote a woman from Garden City.
"It's amazing," said a visitor from Sublette. "You actually took the time to make a museum for everyone."
"For me, it is very interesting to see a museum like this in a small town," a visitor from Phoenix, wrote in Spanish. "It is very interesting to see the context of a different culture," her companion said.
Some tourists spend more time in the Spirit of the Plains gallery, viewing prehistoric artifacts, stone tools and Native American pottery. Others focus on "Buffalo Jones - Last of the Plainsmen," "Take Stock in Finney County," the museum's adjacent William Fulton House, "My Place in Time," or a colorful community theater exhibition still on display in our temporary gallery, entitled "A Legacy of Directing."
Children enjoy the Windsor Hotel dress up room and the "Celebrate Kansas" area, where they can recreate the state tree, bird, animal or other icons with Lego blocks.
Additional comments logged recently in the guest book include:
* "Great memories."
* "Finney County has a wonderful museum."
* "I like to learn about Kansas."
* "Exciting exhibits with fun for all ages."
* "It was pretty awesome, dude!"
* "Proud of my hometown."
In addition to viewing the displays and sharing their impressions, quite a few people spend time in the museum store, where they can find unique toys, gifts, books, handcrafts, artwork, T-shirts, jewelry, pottery, Kansas and sunflower paraphernalia, home dÃ©cor items, photographs and a rich selection of other goods linked to history and local culture.
A sampling of new store items includes vases and bowls by local ceramic artist Brian McCallum, hand-stuffed animals by Synthia Preston, and original sketches by Robert Meyer, another local artist. There are even items that coordinate with some of our exhibits, such as straw sombreros, miniature locomotives and original photographs by Shirley Creeden, whose Kansas landscape images are now on view in our Front Door Gallery.
Some of the other recent guest book impressions offer a wealth of perspectives from all over the country, and beyond:
* "Wonderful visiting," Fredericksburg, Va.
* "Love it," Englewood, Colo.
* "Left here in 1966. All new now. Awesome," Lancaster, Calif.
* "Thanks for letting us enjoy for free," Holcomb
* "Awesome," Dodge City
* "It's Cool," Hoxie and Prairie Village
* "Excellent," Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
* "Beautiful," Dalhart, Texas
-- "First free museum I ever went to," Houston, Texas
* "Thanks for preserving the past for future generations," Clarksville, Tenn.
* "Always like the exhibits. Like that they will be more frequent," Garden City
* "Great museum," Copeland
* "Beautiful place," Memphis, Mich.
* "This museum is 'Da Boss'," Garden City
* "Love the historic physical evidence shown here, especially the wagon," Phoenix, Ariz.
* "Very excellent," Brownwood, Texas
* "Nice to see a record of your great past," Los Angeles, Calif.
* "Loved the dresses," Lakin
* "Loved the buffalo hide," Poteau, Okla.
* "Thanks for a great day," Garden City.
If you're interested in having a great day, too, bringing your family or out-of-town guests for a taste of Southwest Kansas, or just stepping back in time a few decades, or maybe a century, you're invited to visit the Finney County Historical Museum at 403 S. Fourth in Finnup Park. We're open with summer hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, and we'll be watching for your guest book comments, too.