My Favorite Things

07 puttingLinda Burton posting from Topeka, Kansas – “I played golf.” That was Ryan’s answer to my question “What did you do today?” It was 5 PM and he was just getting the restaurant open; the hotel’s complimentary hot wings were bubbling over the sterno flame; the afternoon crowd was drifting in and conversations were beginning to take shape. I asked about the golf courses in the area and he ticked them off on his fingers, Cypress Ridge, Lake Shawnee, Forbes, the private courses too. “Golf is still my favorite thing,” he said. “and I started playing when I was seven. This is a great place for golfing.” Favorite things. A list was 07 cedar propertycoming together in my mind; Lee and James had told me their favorite thing in Topeka was drag racing; two young men, both named John, said theirs was hiking. John and John and dog Aztec were standing at the back of my car in the parking lot at Cedar Crest the day I toured the Governor’s Mansion; they’d just finished their hike on the property’s trail. We swapped stories; they wanted to hear about the Journey; I wanted to hear about Topeka. One John had moved from Michigan; the dog-owning John was born here; both enthusiastically endorsed life in Topeka, telling me the names of their favorite trails and their favorite fishing spots. Lee 07 lee and jamesand James had spotted my car in a parking lot too; they were working at Old Prairie Town the day I visited there. They happily posed for pictures as I answered their questions about the Journey and they answered mine about Topeka; James told me the Heartland Race Track had the fastest drag strip in the world. “It’s what Topeka is known for,” he said. “I’ll be there Saturday night,” Lee added. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”

Back in my room I picked up the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Summer Schedule 07 tulipsthat Madge gave me the day I visited the General Store in Old Prairie Town. “You just missed Tulip Time,” she’d said, pointing to a picture of masses of bright yellow tulips in bloom. “And you’re too early for Cabin Meals,” going on to explain about the hearth-cooked meals that were served at fire-side tables in the 1854-style cabin during winter months; the meals are cooked by costumed volunteers who also dish out a little history with the meal. “Since they cook over an open fire, it’s too hot to do it in the summertime. But my favorite thing at Old Prairie Town is the Apple Festival in October,” Madge continued. “There is apple cider, and music all day long, and it’s the perfect time to be out of doors.”

Favorite things. The Recreation Schedule is packed with things to do in Shawnee County, from Aquatics to the Zoo. The “World’s Largest Swimming Lesson” is happening at aquatic facilities around the world on June 18 this year; swim lessons conducted simultaneously in an 07 dog day outattempt to break the Guinness World Record on teaching water safety. It’s scheduled in Topeka at the Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center. The Lake Shawnee Swim Beach is not only a great place for people, with events like Sand Castle Saturdays (prizes for the best creation); it welcomes doggies too. Canine Capers Day, Dog’s Day Out, and even the Doggie Olympics on August 25, when competition includes fastest dog, longest jump, and cutest doggie trick.

What is higher on the cuteness factor than preschoolers at summer camp? At the Shawnee North Community Center on Iron Chef Day they learn how to create their own favorite foods (and then get to eat them); on Camping Coolness Day they set up their own tent and sing their favorite camp songs while picnicking in the woods (“Down on the banks of the Hanky Panky, where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky…”). A special event for preschoolers at Gage Park is “Touch-A-Truck” day, when little ones are allowed to climb on, play in, and honk the horn of various vehicles. Older kids have special event days too; like the Dick and Dotty Kids Fishing Derby for 14 and under at Lake Shawnee Junior Pond. Old Prairie Town has Kids Stampede Day for 10 and under; sing and dance and play all day. All ages are invited to the Summer Jam at Auburn Ball Fields – a city-wide garage sale and book sale, bounce houses for kids, live music on center stage, and food of course. The Topeka Fishing Rodeo is for people with disabilities; it’s held at Westlake Pond in Gage Park and lunch and all equipment are provided, volunteers make sure everyone has fun.

Here are a few more Special Event Days upcoming:

  • June 15. The 33rd Annual Topeka Tinman Triathlon at Lake Shawnee AND Wheatstock IX at Old Prairie Town
  • July 4. The Spirit of Kansas 2013; Craft/Blues Festival all day at Lake Shawnee; a Golf Tournament and Water Ski Show; fireworks at 10 PM
  • July 27. A family-friendly Summer Sunset Concert at Old Prairie Town
  • August 3. The Big Shunga 8K Run and 5K Walk on the Shunga Trail into Big Shunga Park
  • August 10. Big Screen Under the Stars for the whole family at Bettis Family Sports Complex, 9-11 PM
  • August 24. Family Night at Dancing Star Ranch –horseshoes, a cookout, a hayride, breathtaking views of the Kansas prairie
  • October 11. Smoke on the Water BBQ Competition at Lake Shawnee, a KCBS Sanctioned event

Gage Park Amphitheater hosts free family-friendly concerts by big bands and blues bands on Sunday and Wednesday evenings from May through August. Senior Adults have shuffleboard, line dancing, and bocce ball too, with the 30th Annual Kansas Senior Olympics coming up in September and October. The Special Services Leisure Center in Gage Park provides people with differing abilities quality recreation programs with events like I Can Bike for ages 8 and up; Brunch Lunch and Pins & Pizza for ages 12 and up; and Dancehouse for ages 16 and up.

07 gatorEvents are everywhere from A to Z and the Zoo; Alligator Frenzy, a bayou adventure; juvenile American Alligators, Blossom the Awesome Opossum, Lily the turkey vulture, and Pat the red-tailed boa constrictor. They offer Twilight Tours, Zoo Snooze Overnights, and in October, Boo At The Zoo. Camp Out With Dad on June 15.

As to the fishing and hiking John and John mentioned to me; public fishing is available at Central Park Pond, Clarion Woods Park, Freedom Valley Pond, Horseshoe Bend Pond, War-Martin Creek, and Westlake; all stocked regularly by the Kansas Department of Wildlife. The Kansas River boat ramp provides access to the river and there is a weir near NW 14th and Warren for fishing. Hike and enjoy nature at Brookfield Park, Deer Creek, Dornwood Nature Trail, Freedom Valley, Lake Shawnee, Landon Trail, Orville Rice Nature Trail, Shunga Trail, and the Warren Nature Area. There are Woodland Wildflower Walks along Shunga Creek; the Grant-Bradbury Prairie Walk through 80 acres of tallgrass prairie (with over 300 plant species) is 07 heartlandscheduled for June 20 at 6:30; a wildflower expert will lead the tour.

As to Heartland Park that Lee and James mentioned, it is a multi-purpose motorsports facility offering a road race course, a clay oval off-road course, and a quarter-mile drag strip. It is used by local clubs and the National Hot Rod Association; this coming Saturday there will be Driver Meet & Greet as they enter the track and fans get to sit in a hot rod. I’m betting Lee will be there, enjoying his favorite thing.

About Heartland Park with the latest news on Topeka racing .

About Gage Park where you’ll find AnimalLand, Bark Park, Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center, Carousel, Center for the Performing Arts, Children’s Discovery Center, Mini-Train & Depot, Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Topeka Zoo, Victorian Gardens, and Westlake

About Lake Shawnee where you’ll find the Arboretum, Baseball Complex, Boat & Ski Club, Boat Ramps, Campground, Disc Golf, Ensley Gardens, Golf Course, Marina, Reynolds Lodge, Softball Complex, Swimming Beach, Tennis Courts, Volleyball Courts, and Windsurf Beach

About Old Prairie Town where you’ll find a recreated 1850’s village with many events going on