Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Historic Site, a Museum, and a Fair

Most of what we did today we completely made up along the way and it all turned out roses. After waking up in Lawrence, Kansas we did some strolling along a street with lots of very college town shops.

We both agreed that the neighborhood reminded us of the Loop in St. Louis only much less scary. I even got to do some profitable book shopping. Hurray!

We then hit the road and headed towards our only actually planned destination: Wamego, KS.

We weren't driving long before we hit our first detour: a sign for the Brown v. Board of Education
National Historic Site in Topeka. It sounded cool plus Lydia is a teacher so I figured she'd be even more interested.

This creepy black baby-doll had was accompanied by a sign that read:

This doll is one of four that Kenneth and Mamie Clark used to conduct their study on the damage done to black children by branding them with the inferior status implied by segregation. Starting in 1939, the Clarks used these dolls to test some 200 children, including 16 black children aged 6 to 9 in rural Clarendon County, South Carolina, the week before the Briggs case was argued.
 "The conclusion I was forced to reach was that the children in Clarendon County, like other human beings who are subjected to an obviously inferior status in the society in which they live, have been definitely harmed in the development of their personalities." Dr. Kenneth Clark testimony, Briggs v. Elliot, 1951.

When we finally made it to Wamego we popped in to the OZ Museum. The Wizard of Oz is credited as the only time the state of Kansas has ever been or will ever be mentioned in a movie ever. Ever.

From the outside, I was a bit iffy on whether the OZ Museum was going to be worth the $8 admission, but it ended up being pretty darn cool.

They had lots of neat memorabilia from the books as well as the movie.

I liked Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum's life story because he was really hustling. He seemed to be doing lots of random odd jobs until he found something completely awesome to make his career. At one point he was a traveling axle grease salesman. It doesn't get much worse than that.

There was a little sign in the museum that explained that the Emerald City in the books was likely inspired by the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, often referred to as the "White City". Baum traveled to Chicago to see the fair. An additional fun fact was that in Baum's first book the city wasn't green, but anyone who entered was forced to wear green tinted glasses which created the illusion that the city was emerald. That sneaky wizard!

Even the museum's closed sign was fun!

Across the street there was a nice little yellow brick road leading to a park.

Well we only had a couple of things planned to do in Omaha and we still had an extra day to burn, so we decided to tour a bit of Nebraska's hinterland. In particular the Sandhills sounded like they might be worth a look. Why not? Well as we drove I passed a billboard for the Nebraska State Fair on the highway. I noticed that it was in progress, but didn't think much of it. A little while later we stopped at a Walmart for some snacks or something, and just for giggles I checked where the fair was going to be held. It was taking place in Grand Island, Nebraska. The city we had just stopped in. We both laughed when we saw the sign in the Walmart parking lot that read: "State Fair Shuttle". Let's go!

We arrived pretty late in the day due to the total lack of planning that had taken place, so we only had an hour before all of the exhibitions closed. We booked it.

This was a combine simulator which may win for dullest video game ever.

Clown garbage can. Who's laughing now?

Lydia wanted to walk around and look at this building full of quilts. I was glad she suggested it too because there were lots of patterns and fabrics and each color had a really significant zzzzzzzz.........

I had to admit that this Lego Star Wars quilt was pretty killer.

Sky ride!

There was a building full of pigs and cows about to or recently having given birth. There was a crowd gathered around one mother pig that looked like she was about ready to start launching little walking ham sandwiches at any moment. I can't say I've ever actually witnessed any sort of birth take place and I didn't want to ruin my winning streak today. I enjoyed watching these little guys battle for milk though.

There were some recent chick escapees present as well.

Why not?

This sheep needed some supervision. Not my souvenir cup!

How would you like to be a corn judge?

Once we were satisfied with seeing every last display we could relax and stuff our faces with fair food.

I read about the stuffed cucumbers while still on the shuttle bus and was happy to find them. There were a couple choices... chicken salad and a something else... but I chose seafood salad. It was really delicious and unusual, and its healthiness was completely out of fair-food character. The guy pumped it full of filling with like a food-grade caulk gun. Appetizing.

We had a beef sundae, which was beef, mashed potatoes, cheese, and a cherry tomato with some toast on the side. People used to call me "beef sundae" in college.

What a day!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Omaha Via Long John Silver's

We briefly considered spending the three-day Labor Day weekend at home taking it easy, but then we were like "Nah, let's go someplace awesome." Our plan was to check out Omaha, Nebraska but so many quests, voyages, and adventures presented themselves along the way that we only spent one night there.

On the way out of town I took Lydia to Long John Silver's. The poor girl had never been there before! What's the statute of limitations on child abuse?! My mom took me to this deliciously unhealthy eatery quite often and it's surely part of why I'm such a great success today. The magic is pretty simple. Take an animal that used to live in the water and then make it crunchy. Also chicken. Boom.

Also the hats.

We drove by the most glitzy glamorous rural Missouri movie theater that ever was dreamt: the Century 6 in Nevada, Missouri.

We made it to Lawrence, Kansas before stopping for the night.

Will our fearless adventurers make it to Omaha? Will they survive their encounter with a 75 year old creepy black baby-doll? Will they see a camel? Will Lydia eat a cucumber shoved full of crab meat? Find out next time on John Milito's Amazing Adventures!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Spring Summer Social on the Square

The Chamber of Commerce organized another exciting event that took place right outside our door on the square. I was so kind as to volunteer, which involved directing traffic and helping people find where they should set up their booth. There were lots of different organizations and businesses with tables all sorts of different stuff to tout.

The highlight of the event was most definitely the bathtub races. Each bathtub had a team pushing a bathtub full of water with a team member sitting inside. And they raced. Explanation complete.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Springfield Cardinals

The day after we saw the Missouri State Fair, we headed over to Columbia, Missouri in order to help Zoe move into her dorm room. We then sped south to see the Springfield Cardinals play at Hammons Field.

Of course I had to go check Wikipedia for the team's history. I have an illness. Anyway, Stan "The Man" Musial played for Springfield in 1941.

We both joined the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce as a way to meet people and get involved with events around town. We went to the game as part of the "Neosho Community Night with the Springfield Cardinals". I was especially excited about the Neosho t-shirt everyone received.

The whole experience brought me back to my little kid days going to the Springfield, Illinois Cardinals games. It looks like that team moved away in 1993, making me no older than 9 when they last played. Time flies. Also Springfield, IL had an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (à la A League of Their Own) called the Springfield Sallies for one year in 1948. Curse Wikipedia and its endless fun facts!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Wonders of the Missouri State Fair

The Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri was a pretty big deal for me. As anyone versed in John Milito trivia can tell you, my hometown is Springfield, Illinois, home of the Illinois State Fair. I have been about 30 times and am pretty emotionally invested, so I had a lot riding on this experience. Illinois GDP is about 3 times that of Missouri so it really shouldn't be much of a contest, but still.

Admission was $8, but there was free parking on the grounds. That's a huge step up from Illinois. In Springfield parking space is so valuable that every front yard within blocks of the fairgrounds turns into a temporary 10-dollar-a-spot parking lot.

We walked into a building with stadium seating just to see if anything was happening inside. Boy was it. We had stumbled onto a very strange event. I'm going to call it the Pony Pull but I have no idea. A team of two miniature horses are led around in front of a pallet stacked full of cement blocks. The horses are hooked to the blocks and then unleashed. They both spring forward and pull the bricks while their handler yells hilarious "giddyup" type encouragement words to them. After three tries they are scored and then the tractor pulls the pile of bricks back into place for the next horse. It was so simple but so strange that we sat and watched for several rounds.

In a beer tent two little girls with cat face-paint sang an awesome rendition of Blake Shelton's "Boys 'Round Here". They were so short that they were actually standing on one of the speakers.

Pigs racing for an Oreo.

They had tiger stripe ice cream in honor of Mizzou's silly mascot. Go Illini.

One of the terrible-for-you food highlights that I had read about before we arrived was the red velvet funnel cake. I don't seem to have any pictures of it, likely because I was busy stuffing it in my face and there was powdered sugar everywhere.

They had a butter cow that was pretty cool, but I'm going to have to say not as awesome as the one in Illinois. Well, it was a buttery American Gothic which I appreciated even more since we went to Grant Wood's house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Zoe was tired from all of the excitement and decided to take a little rest.

We entered an exhibition building that was probably called "The Weird Stuff People Make 
When They Have Way Too Much Time On Their Hands Pavilion".

Got things laying around? Got glue? Then you've got crafts, my friend.

A map of Missouri made out of shotgun shells. I wonder if this is topographical too... that would be pretty rad.

Shotgun shell Christmas lights.