TOPEKA — Surrender, Dorothy! Your state turns 150 this week but hasn't the money to roll out a celebration.
It's crunch time at the Kansas Museum of History. As a staff reduced by budget cuts hurried to set up an 11-month exhibit, "150 Things I Love About Kansas," Rebecca Martin stepped around a shop vacuum near the planned Oz section to point out the only finished display — souvenirs from the 1961 Kansas centennial.
Commemorative plates and pennants, belt buckles and big ashtrays. A special-edition Colt revolver. Centennial salt and pepper shakers in the shape of wheat shocks.
"This is a fraction of what you could've bought in 1961," said Martin, the museum's assistant director.
Many Kansans recall their fathers growing beards that year to mark the occasion.
Expect the 2011 sesquicentennial — for those who even notice — to be as spare and sporadic as the times we're in. Bereft of public funds, the yearlong observance will rely on free social media to spread the word and, planners hope, a little enthusiasm.
"It's a hard word to say, 'sesquicentennial.' But we're going to make the most of it," Martin vowed.
Saturday will be Kansas Day, the anniversary of statehood. Other states have shown, with mixed success, how to stretch out these parties for months. Kansas aims to try, but with a legislative allotment of zero.
To quote the legendary editor William Allen White, a Kansan: "When anything is going to happen in this country, it happens first in Kansas." Welcome, then, to the first statewide birthday bash beset by the Great Recession.
It comes about four years after Oklahoma plowed $20 million in public monies into its centennial, and two years after Oregon's sesquicentennial — which spanned eight months, spawned new parks and cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands just to pay the people who planned it all.
For "Kansas 150," think catch as catch can.
Read more of this story at KansasCity.com