Are you a great bender?
What do we call the people of Great Bend? Are they great Bendians? Great Bendites? Great Bendonians? Or maybe Great Bend Greaters?
Most of the inhabitants of the city on the great bend of the Arkansas River experienced these seven rites of passage:
Brit Spaugh Zoo Tour
The Great Bend Zoo features species from around the world and also runs a raptor rehabilitation program. The free installation is open 362 days a year. The newest addition is a winter alligator house, with windows for the public to see both alligators year round.
Explore the Barton County Historical Society
The Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village is located just south of Great Bend on US 281, across the Arkansas River Bridge. The village has several authentically furnished period buildings and collections that tell the story of this region from the Paleo period to the Indian Wars to WWII and beyond.
Enjoying the fine arts at Barton Community College
Barton’s Performing Arts Department invites the community to enjoy their “Fall Arts” concert from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 14 at the Auditorium of Fine Arts. The concert will feature Barton’s music department and the Barton Dance Theater.
The final performances of the latest theatrical production, “Clue, On Stage”, are today at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
On Monday, auditions will take place for the next production, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, presented in collaboration with the Great Bend Community Theater. Auditions take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the auditorium. For more information, contact Miller James at 620-792-9205.
The Shafer Art Gallery is also located in the Fine Arts Building. He is currently presenting “Material Pulses: Seven Viewpoints”, an exhibition focused on the art of quilting. It ends on October 20. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and admission is free.
Listen to a City Band concert in the courthouse square
The Great Bend City Band has offered free summer concerts for years, inviting local musicians to pick up their instruments and join the band. Music and patriotic marches are among their staples, but some programs tend to be devoted to pop tunes, jazz music, and big band standards.
The Clayton L. Moses Memorial Band Shell is over 90 years old. The Thelma Faye Harms stage was added to expand the group’s structure in 2017.
In recent years, with the addition of a statue in honor of Nobel Laureate Jack Kilby, the Courthouse Square has become Jack Kilby Square. It’s also the site of the Thursday night Summer Street Stroll Farmers Market, June Jaunt activities, and the occasional outdoor movie.
Watch a parade on Main Street
The Great Bend Kiwanis Club sponsors the annual Halloween Parade, also known as the Candy Parade, at 11 a.m. on the Saturday before Halloween. Dressing up in Halloween costumes is encouraged as children and families enjoy a ‘walking parade’ through downtown Great Bend. Local businesses will greet attendees with candy in the display cases.
The Central Kansas Toy Run is also coming up, at 3 p.m. on October 16 on Main Street from Brit Spaugh Park. This event is sponsored by The Men MC and attendees donate toys to children in need.
The last parade of the year is the annual Home for the Holidays Parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This illuminated parade and the events that accompany it bring people downtown for shopping, entertainment and spending Santa Claus.
Discover Cheyenne Bottoms / KWEC
Visit the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, which overlooks Cheyenne Bottoms, the largest inland marsh in the United States and a wetland of international significance designated as Ramsar.
KWEC is managed by Fort Hays State University in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism.
Browse cutting-edge exhibits that tell the story of Cheyenne Bottoms, from its ancient geological formation to the management challenges of the future.
Elsewhere in Barton County, interpretive signs greet travelers along the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway, just off K-156 in Cheyenne Bottoms and K-4 east of Hoisington. Booth K-4 signs provide an overview of the funds as well as suggestions for planning a trip along the road.
Main Street Cruise
Older Great Benders remember walking or “hanging out” Main Street as a regular occurrence. It was relaunched in March 2020 as “social distancing” became a common phrase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Classic cars, motorcycles and everything that moves on wheels drove from 24th Street to 10th Street and up to the Great Bend Co-op and back, honking their horns and keeping the lanes full.