This is a season in which history surrounds us.

Our nation has just marked the fateful day 18 years ago when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon and were thwarted by heroic passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 over Pennsylvania.

This weekend, many people locally are observing the 93rd Community Mexican Fiesta, Garden City’s longest-continuously running annual celebration, with a theme that translates literally as “Embracing Culture.”

Each of these milestones, and many others, touch lives of yesterday and today across Finney County and Southwest Kansas.


Free fall programs

While some may vary in significance, we’re also making additional moments in history at the Finney County Museum. Our Brown Bag Lunch and Evening at the Museum programs resumed for fall a few days ago with a presentation that told the 97-year story of Garden City’s municipal swimming facility, once known as the World’s Largest Free, Concrete Municipal Swimming Pool.

The Brown Bag series offers sessions at noon on the second Wednesday of September through November and January through April. The parallel Evening at the Museum programs provide presentations at 7 p.m. each third Tuesday of the same months. Admission is free, with access through the museum’s north entrance. Those who attend may bring their own lunch or dinner, if they wish, and we provide dessert and beverages. The evening programs are sponsored by the Southern Council of the AT&T Pioneers.

Other upcoming noon segments are scheduled Oct. 9, with a presentation about Coca-Cola souvenirs and paraphernalia, offered by Linda Miller, an avid collector; and a session Nov. 13 entitled “The Secret Life of Bees” by Garden City resident Amy Whitham, whose special interest includes ties to early-day bee keeping and honey production in Finney County.

The first autumn evening presentation, Sept. 17, will feature the recent documentary, “Strangers in Town,” produced by Lawrence film-maker Steve Lerner and partners about Finney County’s history of absorbing immigrants. The 33-minute production debuted statewide last fall and has since been viewed online by more than 13,000 people, as well as by live audiences in Hays, Kansas City, Manhattan and Overland Park. It has also been screened at film festivals in Las Cruces, NM and Tacoma, WA.

Additional 7 p.m. programs include the story of Garden City’s historic Warren Hotel, an early 1930s landmark, to be given Oct. 15 by Museum Education Coordinator Johnetta Hebrlee; and an update Nov. 19 of recent archeological discoveries in Southwest Kansas by Chad Myers, an accomplished young archeology consultant from Kalvesta.


Picnic and tours in October

We’ll be announcing the schedule of evening and noon programs for January through April in December, but there are further opportunities sooner.

The Finney County Historical Society’s annual fall picnic is scheduled at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 in the grandstand meeting room at the Finney County Fairgrounds, with a focus on World War II aviation, as well as the 50th anniversary Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon.

Picnic admission is free but reservations are necessary by Oct. 2. The number to call is 620-272-3664 and you can also make reservations in person at the museum, where exhibit hours are 1-5 p.m. seven days weekly. Everyone attending is asked to bring a side dish, salad or dessert to share. Fried chicken, beverages and table service will be provided.

Liberal, like Garden City, served as a U.S. Army Air Corps training base during the 1940s, and our guest speaker will discuss that as well.

The picnic will conclude with a donation drawing, offering cash and merchandise prizes from a number of businesses, individuals, families and organizations. Tickets for the prize drawing will be available at the event. Proceed will be used to support museum exhibits and programs.

You may also want to mark your calendar for Oct. 10, 11 and 12. Those are the dates for the Sixth Annual Historic Walking Tours of Valley View Cemetery. We’re not taking reservations or selling the $15 tickets yet, but we will make them available toward the end of September.

Scheduled at 6 and 8 p.m. each of the three evenings, the tours will again offer a trove of historical information, as well as the chance to meet a few figures from the community’s 140-year past. We conduct the walks in cooperation with the cemetery, which is operated by the City of Garden City, and with the sponsorship of Price and Sons Funeral Home.

We hope you’ll join us for some or all of these events and activities. You can read about the past in a book. You can watch representations online or on TV. Or, you can come and participate personally at the Finney County Museum, where history surrounds us.


Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. Email him at