Kansas turns 161 with nature center celebrating Kansas Day

Saturday is Kansas Day. The state is celebrating its 161st anniversary when Kansas became the 34th state in the union on Jan. 29, 1861. Statehood came six years after Johnson County was among the first 33 counties created on Aug. 25 by the Legislative Act of 1855 in the then Territory of Kansas.

In celebration of Kansas Day, Ernie Miller Nature Center, 909 North Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe, is presenting a Kansas Symbols program at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, featuring some of the natural symbols live and in person, including live animals. 
The presentation begins at 2 p.m. and lasts approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Cost is $4 per person. Ages 2 and under are free. Advanced registration is required. For more information or to register, visit JCPRD.com/register and enter activity number 15792 or call 913-826-2800.

A historical note: the first-ever celebration of Kansas Day occurred in 1877 and was organized with schoolchildren in Paola. 
By the way, did you know:

  • The first wheat crop in Kansas was grown at the Shawnee Methodist Mission in Fairway in 1839, instilling the nickname of the Wheat State after statehood was granted in 1861.
  • The Kansas motto of “ad astra per aspera” (to the stars through difficulties) was adopted as part of the state’s Great Seal on May 25, 1861, almost four months after statehood.
  • Kansas is also known as the Sunflower State. The native wild sunflower was named the official state flower in 1903.
  • Kansas chose the Western Meadowlark as the state bird and cottonwood as the state tree, both in 1937.
  • “Home on the Range” did not become the official state song until 1947. President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed it to be his favorite song. The song has been used in countless movies in shows, being sung by everyone from Willie Nelson to Porky Pig.
  • The American Bison was named the official state animal of Kansas in 1955.
  • In 1976, the European honeybee became the state insect.
  • And, most recently: In 2018, Kansas adopted a state rock - limestone, a state mineral - galena, and a state gemstone - jelinite, a form of amber due in part to the work of Casey Friend, then a fourth-grade student at Trailwood Elementary School in Overland Park.

Happy birthday, Kansas! 

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