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summer 2010

sHawnee People, places and style defined

the season of barbecue Swingin’ Moms to the sound take it to of music the field



A stable operation: Peeper Ranch



This summer our intent is to get out. Get out of the house, take the kids on an adventure, leave your neighborhood, explore the options, try something new. Who knows? You may even end up do-si-doing around a dance floor or sampling delicious local barbecue. That’s right: We covered plenty of ideas to keep summer filled with fun and excitement for Shawnee residents of all ages. First, loosen your belt and prepare your palate for a journey of barbecue. We meet a couple of grill masters this season who not only give us tips, tricks and trades for delicious pulled pork or smoked ribs but provide a taste of the Shawnee Great Grillers event. The event places master grillers against one another in Shawnee Town to see just who has the coveted recipe. As for taste testers, the event is free and open to families. And don’t miss the afternoon concert, sure to be enjoyed by all. For those who delight in a good two-step, consider joining the Swingin’ Singles Square Dance Club. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be single. This group also meets at Shawnee Town on the first, third and fifth Tuesdays of the month. There is one small catch: You have to learn to swing before you can sashay on the floor. In existence for almost 45 years, the club of kind-hearted enthusiasts swears by the benefits of joining friends for a themed dance at least one a month. For the nearly 150 members, it really is hip to be square. When the kids turn a bit stir-crazy and it’s time to get them out of the house, consider the popular KidScape exhibit. Here your little ones are able to experience a lifelike, interactive community. From checking out new styles at the fashion boutique to learning what goes on at City Hall, this destination entertains knowledge-hungry kids. And not far up the road, stop by Wonderscope, the wildly popular children’s museum that promotes learning through play. Our Q&A subject, executive director Lauranne Hess, gives us all the colorful details this season. Inevitably, there comes that point in the summer when mom is ready to kick … something! The Soccer Moms League at All American Indoor Sports is just the cure. These moms, of all soccer skill levels, join each other in a friendly atmosphere to get in shape, enjoy team camaraderie and run off some stress. Shawnee in the summer is a special place with a bounty of offerings. Get the family and get rolling—after all, it’s the time of the season!

Vol. 3 / No. 4

summer 2010

sHawnee People, places and style defined

Publisher/Art Director Darby Oppold Editor Katy Ibsen Copy Editor Susie Fagan Advertising Sales Mary Hay (913) 631-1611 Manager Bert Hull Designer Tamra Rolf Ad Designers Shelly Bryant Tamra Rolf Photographers Tim Andersen Jason Dailey Contributing Writers Kim Antisdel Ryan Brown Carolyn Glade Dvorak Gloria Gale Sally Heller Vince Meserko Kimberly Winter Stern Coordinator Faryle Scott


Subscriptions $22 (tax included) for a one-year subscription to Shawnee Magazine. For subscription information, please contact: Christopher J. Bell 609 New Hampshire St., P.O. Box 888 Lawrence, KS 66044 (800) 578-8748 | Fax (785) 843-1922 Or e-mail comments to


Shawnee Magazine is a publication of Sunflower Publishing, a division of The World Company. find us on facebook



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Departments Contents



shawnee living

A construction hobbyist builds on his dreams and creates a contemporary home for his family



In Every Issue

03 Dear Reader 40 Q&A 46 best bets

Modern dwelling

A potent palette

Boldly creative, one Shawnee artist takes a broad stroke while colorfully designing her home

14 Right on ’cue


Local barbecuers impart their wisdom one rib at a time

shawnee Businesses

Nigro’s Western Store is steeped in history and a modern approach to doing old-fashioned business


Stock and trade

Local profiles 28

Bass-ic instinct

Musician Andy DeWitt has figured out how to survive in the difficult world of professional music

health & fitness

Reach Out and Read builds children’s literacy skills from birth



Growing readers

Mom’s kicking it

Soccer Moms League gets Shawnee matriarchs on the field

For the Family 42


It’s hip to be square

Swingin’ Singles are stealing the floor and the moves in Shawnee BY Kim Antisdel


Equine ambition

Horse enthusiasts can saddle up for a ride on Peeper Ranch’s 600 hilly acres BY Ryan Brown


on the cover


Joe and Lori Meyer savor the season with plenty of smoked barbecue. {Photography by Tim Andersen} 30 19 14 38

A stable operation: Peeper Ranch Swingin’ to the sound of music The season of barbecue Moms take it to the field

Little world, big ideas

KidScape allows children to explore suburbia in pint-size portions

get away 44

Canadian charms

Since enjoying the Olympic spotlight, this gleaming steel-and-glass city sparkles as a gold medal destination

Dr. Philip C. Gaus, DDS

is pleased to announce the opening of his Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery practice in Shawnee. He completed training with the United States Air Force in 1987, earned board certification in 1989 and has practiced in Lawrence and eastern Kansas since 1991. You are invited to stop by the new location for any of your treatment needs including extractions, implants and corrective jaw surgery.

Shawnee Oral Surgery, LC is located near the junction of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Kansas Highway 7. Please schedule your appointment now. We look forward to seeing you!

(913) 948-7766 Philip C. Gaus DDS 6844 Silverheel Street • Shawnee, KS 66226



worden home

story by

Gloria Gale

photography by


Jason Dailey




A construction hobbyist builds on his dreams and creates a contemporary home for his family

Steve Worden will tell you how to build a home. “Buy a fixer-upper and keep your day job,” he quips. For 22 months, this Shawnee resident put his skills to the test while building his own home armed with considerable determination and grit. “Ever since high school, I’ve been interested in modern, midcentury architecture with the dream of building my own home someday,” he says. Anxious to start, he researched the midcentury home he envisioned and read a considerable amount on modern, post-war architecture. In particular, he appreciated the California contemporary homes developed by Joseph Eichler.

The simplistic yet luxurious kitchen in the Worden home features cherry wood cabinets and a waterfall-edged island. Photo by Bob Greenspan



One of Eichler’s admirers was Donald Drummond, a Kansas City builder. “Drummond’s vision, who in my mind was ahead of his time, was building modern residential architecture displaying iconic, open-plan, glass-walled houses that can, surprisingly, be found throughout Kansas City neighborhoods,” he says. Once Steve settled on the type of house to build, his research was about to pay off. Wasting little time, Steve, a project manager for a material procurement company, wife Cathy, a registered nurse, and their 5-year-old son Graham decided it was time to look for property. “We looked in the paper and found a vacant, half-acre lot in Shawnee. Not only was the lot big enough, it was also very affordable, which is one great thing that

remains a plus about Shawnee,” he says. “Oh, and ironically it was less than five minutes from where I grew up.” top left Steve Worden searched for unique details to punctuate the home’s interior, including these pendant light fixtures for the dining room. Photo by Bob Greenspan


above Left Unique artwork such as pieces by Cathy Worden’s uncle, Robert MacDonald Graham Jr. hangs throughout the home. Photo by Bob Greenspan


above right It wasn’t until Steve found

the perfect piece of land in Shawnee that he could proceed with building his dream home.

Making good design happen Steve formulated plans for his modern creation in 2001 when they bought the lot; he was inspired by a house on Kansas City’s Westside designed by local architect Thomas Knittel. “I realized it was exactly the type of home I’d envisioned, so I worked with Knittel to modify the original plans,” Steve says. Joining him on the project would be his brother Chris and master carpenter Nels Dermond; Steve would tap into skills he used while working some construction after high school. Construction began in earnest in 2002 on the 2,100-square-foot home using mostly industrial materials accessible right off the shelf. Once the slab



was poured, Steve hired a mason to construct the concrete block for the 1,110-square-foot first floor. Then they built the equal-size, stud-frame second story with rustic, rough cedar siding. Over the next 22 months, the house progressed utilizing simple, affordable materials Steve bought at eBay, other online sites or Home Depot. Steve even compliments employees with the city of Shawnee for their help concerning the project. “Initially I was going to do a total concrete block house but realized a dark wood-stained second story would blend well with the mature trees in the neighborhood. Hovering 12 feet above the first floor is a southern yellow pine ceiling, warming the space. Sheetrock walls are built out to accent artwork and cherry wood built-ins,” he says. Coupled with waxed concrete floors embedded with radiant heating and white walls punctuated with large windows, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom evolved into a bright, welcoming space. “The concrete floors make it so easy for our son to toddle around in his little car,” says Cathy. Construction was completed in 2004 and they have been there ever since.

Simple but elegant

TOP Keeping with modernist tones, the walls are comprised of only brick, cement and sheetrock. Photo by Steve Worden ABOVE The home’s second floor exterior consists of a rough cedar siding, creating contrast to the concrete blocks.


The overall impression of the Wordens’ home is sleekly contemporary with streamlined, sculptural furnishings. Because they admire Frank Lloyd Wright and Finn Juhl for their stylish use of sturdy, natural materials, the couple kept those modernists in mind when furnishing the home’s interior. The kitchen is a study in the less-is-more approach. All appliances, work surface lighting and accessories are designed to reflect simplicity in a quiet functional manner. Cherry wood cabinets and a precise waterfall-edged island are unadorned, leaving the beauty of the wood to provide a warm, visual counterpoint to the metal appliances. Adjacent to the kitchen, the living and dining rooms are interrupted only by colorful, spare furnishings—a tomato-red Teague couch, tangerine-colored Umbra OH dining room chairs and pendant lighting. “I like the whole house but particularly the kitchen since it opens to the dining and living room. It’s a public space, but I feel like I’m very much part of everything when I’m here,” says Cathy. “We like the gallery effect the white walls provide, and that perhaps is a key to what makes this house work so well. We used materials and artwork sparingly to provide visual impact,” says Steve of paintings by Cathy’s uncle, Robert MacDonald Graham Jr., who studied under Thomas Hart Benton. Upstairs, three bedrooms, including the master suite and Graham’s room, are handsomely adorned with clean, smooth lines. Even the master bathroom reflects the contrast between natural materials with its marble floor and cherry cabinets paired with Machine Age sink, shower and lighting fixtures. The exterior of the home, in part surrounded by a concrete patio, will become the next project as the couple add more landscaping. This will only increase the home’s livability as the family grows. Although building the home was a lot of work, Steve says there were no major hitches. “Right from the start, my heart was in this project,” he says. sm




mansour home

story by

Gloria Gale

photography by


Jason Dailey


A potent palette Boldly creative, one Shawnee artist takes a broad stroke while colorfully designing her home

Joan Mansour loves art and color. “It’s been my calling since fifth grade when my favorite teacher, Gerry Van Meter, coaxed me to try new ideas and pretty much flex my skills as a fledgling artist,” she says. Since then, Mansour hasn’t looked back. Her sharp eye for detail has translated into work as an art teacher, retail art shop owner, interior decorator and, of late, a home-based art instructor. “It’s pretty simple when it comes to art. Once I got my degree from Pittsburg State University, it wasn’t hard to channel my passion for creating into teaching. I like the fact that I’m fostering budding artists,” she says. That exuberance is evident on a grand scale at her home perched on a hill in western Shawnee. “We bought this house 12 years ago from a single man who basically didn’t do much to the interior. The house was outdated and Joan Mansour has an eye for color and detail, and her unique home in Shawnee proves just that.



had colors we didn’t prefer that weren’t my style at all. We loved the location and found the house to be basically a blank canvas,” she says. More than a decade later, Mansour and her husband, Mike, along with children Mitchell, 17, Ramona, 13, and their pets are living comfortably in a three-story house stamped throughout with her creative mark. As her oldest son Ramsey, 23, says, “My mother has an uncanny ability to transform a house into a home. She has inspired me by involving her passion for art into all aspects of our lives.”

Eye candy

top left Mansour enjoys found art,

which she uses to decorate much of her home. This wall sculpture is a prime example of her scavenger touch.


above Left Inspired by a teacher when


she was younger, Mansour has always enjoyed art and colorful surroundings.

above right The basement doubles as a space for art classes.

There’s little time for idle hands in Mansour’s world. “If I see something that has potential as art, particularly if I can repurpose it, that’s my calling,” she says while gazing up at a chandelier hanging in her entryway. “This is a great example. This glass-and-brass light fixture was dated, but I decided to add a bit of glamour, securing wire embellishments to the framework,” she says. “Now it looks like a piece of art.” It’s hard not to be distracted by the distinctive dining room, which steals attention from the entry. “I’m the queen of estate sales, garage sales and flea markets,” says Mansour, happily motioning to a variety of “finds” she uses to dress up the room. A handsome round table anchors the space painted in a lively shade of green apple. “I like mixed media and quirky finds: homemade wreaths, a painted screen I’ve had forever, wire sculpture and floral arrangements,” she says.



Across the entry, the den showcases another gallery of art. Within the room’s mostly neutral furnishings, a triptych of found art-turned-wall sculpture grabs all the attention. “I filled these mixed-media pieces with anything I could find,” she says. “I’m trying to go green more and more. I used to throw everything away, so now I keep things and try to incorporate these found objects into my art.” The novelty continues in the family room where Sally, the family retriever, relaxes in the comfortable space filled with overstuffed furnishings, a double-sided fireplace and a selection of works by Mansour and other artists. “My son Mitchell created an Oriental painting hanging over the door leading to the den. He’s so in tune with my creativity. He notes that someday, when he owns his own home, he’ll pay particular attention to decorating with art,” she says. The kitchen remains a special place for Mansour with its wallpaper featuring pink peonies, a floral favorite for her and her mother. “Since I lost her to cancer 10 years ago, it’s a reminder of her,” Mansour says.

for her students. “Lessons are scheduled after school and on Saturdays for children between 6 and 13 years old. Some have been with me for years,” she says. If the studio is a hive of colorful activity, Mansour’s third floor demonstrates an equally vibrant touch. However, the artistry is strictly her own. “This landing has a lot of wall space, so I decided to fill it up with my work,” she says. Dotting the clay-colored walls are abstract Expressionist paintings in addition to a fanciful metallic mixed-media assemblage that’s among her husband’s favorites. A colorful tour follows, encompassing the avocado green master, guest and children’s bedrooms. Each space is distinctively filled with personality and a trove of handmade treasures created by Mansour.

The Mansours’ home, perched on a hill bursts with color.

Busy hands

This high-energy woman takes her teaching and artistry seriously. In addition to her art, she has a gift basket and decorating business. “I must have a lot of stamina. Often I’ll work 10 hours at a time not realizing so much time has passed.” Even at home, Mansour is creativity in motion, as her husband attests. “It’s very intriguing and interesting to come home and see the change that has been made day to day,” says Mike. “You never know what to expect with the unpredictable decorations. It’s like you live in seven different houses, but it’s all the same house. In a way, it’s kind of clever.” sm

“If I see something that has potential as art, particularly if I can repurpose it, that’s my calling.” – Joan Mansour


Mansour heads downstairs one level to her classroom. “It was too expensive to renovate the basement into a studio, so I simply hung yards of colorful fabric on the walls and decorated with comfortable furnishings,” she says. The expansive space has an area for parents to wait and relax and a separate space devoted to the studio. Mingling with various stilllife displays to juice up creativity are shelves filled with paper, books, found objects, paint and art supplies. Rows of tables march down the center ready




summer of barbecue

story by

Vince Meserko

photography by


Tim Andersen


Right on ’cue Local barbecuers impart their wisdom one rib at a time

One peek into a room in Guy Simpson’s garage confirms he is a champion. As Kansas City’s own “Rib Doctor,” Simpson has acquired enough ribbons, barbecue aprons and trophies to fill nearly an entire room at his Shawnee residence. His love of barbecue started 26 years ago at the Great Lenexa Barbeque Battle, where he entered competition as a novice. “We knew nothing about barbecue. We had a few ideas. We didn’t even know there were nine categories,” Simpson says. Those “few ideas” were pretty good ones, however. Simpson and his team won the amateur category and were surprised to win overall first place in the rib competition in 1984.

Guy Simpson is known as the “Rib Doctor” for his precise technique in smoking barbecue. He even shares his gift by teaching classes out of his home.


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“The first time we ever cooked, we were the state champion rib cookers. It’s been downhill since then,” Simpson says jokingly. “I have a room full of trophies that say I wasn’t bad for a while.”

Grilled to perfection While the 66-year-old is an insurance agent by trade, Simpson’s real passion has always been barbecue, and he is far from secretive about it. For nearly 23 years, he has taught classes from his home and continues to share some of these insights with others. Simpson advises his students to always start with a high-quality piece of meat. Likewise, award-winning Shawnee barbecuer Joe Meyer, 56, recommends shopping at bulk stores for ribs and brisket, and high-end grocers for everything else. They


above Left Eric Ely, Shawnee Great Grillers organizer with the Parks and Recreation Department, enjoys overseeing the friendly competition, but is most comfortable barbecuing in his own backyard.


above right With an artillery of cookers, Joe Meyer means business when it comes to smoking, grilling or cooking unforgettable pork.

also suggest buying meat the day it will be cooked or the night before so it will remain fresh. Simpson points out the cardinal rule that is often broken once grillers have their meat. “You have to skin the ribs. You have to take the membrane off of them. I would suggest slathering them with a mustard and then putting your seasoning on,” he says. Simpson uses his original Rib Doctor Seasoning, which he “mixed like cement” in a kiddie pool when he was developing the special seasoning. It also helps to understand common terminology. Grilling refers to direct cooking over a fire, a technique used for things like hot dogs and hamburgers. Barbecuing refers to the cooking of meat over an indirect heat source. Either way, Meyer recommends keeping water under the meat to create a “steam effect” that slow-cooks the meat. “I think the number one problem people have on the smoking is that they dry the meat out,” Meyer says. In order to avoid this common problem, he suggests spraying meat with water or apple juice as it cooks.



Another common mishap for general grillers occurs before the meat begins cooking. “You have to have patience, because if you start your fire and you use liquid starter on there, that fire has to be ashen white before you can do anything,” Simpson says. Otherwise your meat will have a distinct petrochemical flavor to it. “That’s a good way to waste a $12 steak,” Simpson says. While Simpson’s specialty is ribs, Meyer, who is a tow service manager by day, is known for his pork. He took second place in pork at the American Royal competition in 1995 and received the fourth-place prize at the Las Vegas Tropicana Barbecue competition in 1996. Meyer suggests starting with a pork shoulder or pork butt and cooking it with the bone in, which he says “helps the flavor and actually helps it cook better.” Then rub mustard or brown sugar on it. “If you can move the bone back and forth, that’s the time to take it off, wrap it, let it cool down and then slice it, pull it or shred it,” Meyer says. Finish it with a honey-flavored barbecue sauce and you are set.

Guy Simpson’s Blue Ribbon Ribs

Trim excess fat from ribs and remove membrane from “top” of ribs. Rub seasoning liberally over both sides of ribs and shake off excess. Place ribs in smoker for 6 to 8 hours at 225 degrees.

The Rib Doctor’s Baked Beans

Shawnee’s grillers While Simpson and Meyer have excelled in competition, they both face stiff rivalry each September at the Shawnee Great Grillers event. “A lot of the teams that have been dominant at the Lenexa barbecue are always at the Shawnee barbecue,” Meyer says. “Seems like we get close, but that’s been a tough one for us.” Shawnee Great Grillers organizer Eric Ely works with the Parks and Recreation Department in planning the event each year. Ely, who considers himself a pretty good barbecuer, can’t compete in the competition but says overseeing its development is the next best thing. Ely strives to set the Great Grillers competition apart from others in the area. “A lot of the other barbecue competitions in the area will charge [the visitor] to come in. Ours is free,” says Ely. The event, which usually attracts more than 100 entries, will take place September 25 and 26. The ribbons, accolades and trophies that allure accomplished grillers are rewarding, but for expert barbecuers like Meyer, Simpson and even Ely, the backyard barbecue experience is all about enjoyment. Meyer points to late spring and early fall as peak backyard barbecuing seasons. For those hot days in mid-July, he suggests sticking with hot dogs and hamburgers. “Otherwise you start smoking something, and obviously you drink beer to keep cool. By the time it’s done cooking, you’re drunk,” Meyer jokes. Ely’s backyard barbecue tips are equally humorous: “Make sure they’re hungry, and make sure you get plenty of smoke so it smells good.” For decorated barbecue champ Simpson, the goal of the backyard barbecue experience is quite modest. “When you go and serve people, those are your judges. And if you’re happy with it, then you get the gold star.” sm

“If you can move the bone back and forth, that’s the time to take it off, wrap it, let it cool down and then slice it, pull it or shred it.” – Joe Meyer

1 slab pork ribs K.C. Rib Doctor Seasoning

8 ounces sliced bacon, diced (1 cup) 1 large onion, diced (1 cup) 1 large red bell pepper, diced (8 ounces) 1 large green bell pepper, diced (8 ounces) 1 cup packed dark brown sugar 1 cup tomato-based barbecue sauce (may be hot, sweet or hickory flavored) 1 ⁄3 cup maple-flavored pancake syrup 3 28-ounce cans pork and beans, drained Pulverized burned ends of grilled brisket (optional)

On an indoor stove, fry the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Dice bacon. Add onion and peppers to skillet and cook with diced bacon until vegetables are crisp-tender, about three minutes. Stir in brown sugar, barbecue sauce and syrup and cook for a few minutes. Put the beans in a 12x6x3-inch foil pan. Add bacon mixture and brisket ends; stir to combine.

Marinated Pork Tenders

1 pound pork tenderloin 1 teaspoon brandy 1 small piece of ginger, grated 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 clove garlic, finely minced K.C. Rib Doctor Seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a bowl except seasoning. Allow pork tenderloin to marinate for at least one hour at room temperature. Remove tenderloin, reserving marinade, and coat with seasoning. Barbecue tenderloin slowly over indirect heat, turning frequently and basting with remaining marinade. For medium, remove when pork is 140 degrees; for well done, remove when pork is 170 degrees.

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it’s hip to be

square Swingin’ Singles are stealing the floor and the moves in Shawnee Story by Kim Antisdel photography by tim andersen

Bill Hale and Norma Popp know the routine well as members of Shawnee’s Swingin’ Singles Square Dance Club.

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here is one requirement for the Swingin’ Singles Square Dance Club in Shawnee: Get on the floor. The members of this dynamic group of singles, couples, young and young at heart know that the fastest way to a great time is through a large helping of square dancing— and they’ve been doing it for years. Established in 1966, the Swingin’ Singles Square Dance Club has grown to more than 150 members and is one of the largest square dance groups in the area.


On the first, third and fifth Tuesdays of every month, members gather at the Town Hall in old Shawnee Town with their flowing skirts and square dancing steps.

Kick up your heels Intended to encourage fellowship, friendship and good old-fashioned exercise, the Swingin’ Singles group has grown leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings. Members from all areas of Kansas City and beyond pour into the Town Hall in Old Shawnee Town to participate in colorful themed events like the Hawaiian Dance, Johnny Appleseed Dance or Chiefs Night. Despite what people may think, this isn’t your grandma’s dancing class. The Swingin’ Singles group incorporates modern Western square dancing with music from modern pop to country to Elvis. If it sounds simple, think again. “In order to participate in the dances, you need to take lessons,” Swingin’ Singles President Lois Edmiston says of the one requirement. “Once a year we offer mainstream lessons. They are a minimum of 20 weeks to complete, one night a week, two hours per class, and they teach all the basics you need to know.” Though classes may sound daunting, the members recommend giving it a try. Bill Hale, dance lessons chairman, puts it simply. “If you can walk, you can square dance,” says Hale. “It just takes time and concentration. If you know your right hand from your left, you can do it. Some of our dancers are even in their 80s.” Edmiston continues, “Mainstream lessons are the basics for square dancing. You can go even farther and take plus, advance and challenge lessons. The majority of the members in our club are actually plus dancers.”

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President Lois Edmiston dons a traditional square dancing dress.


Caller Jay Krebs has been with the Swingin’ Singles for 25 years.

Once trained, dancers can participate in events all over the metro area. For the Swingin’ Singles in Shawnee, dances begin at 7 p.m. with 30 minutes of Round Dance. Some individuals may use this time to socialize, fill their dance card with some new faces or grab a snack and drink. “Some people always dance with the same person, and some dance with people they’ve never met,” says Glenda Danner, the group’s corresponding secretary. “If you don’t have a person on your card for one of the tips, you just sit that one out.” When the first square dance, or tip, begins at 7:30, there’s little room for wallflowers. Four couples join together to complete a square, and it’s time to get busy. The anticipation builds, the music starts, and soon boots and clogs are stomping. There are whoops and hollers as some squares struggle to keep up with the calls, while others breeze through like pros. “Sometimes newer dancers will get a bit lost,” says Edmiston. “That’s why it’s important to have experienced dancers in the square to help out.”

Petticoat junction

w w w. sw i n g i n - s i n g l e s .org

An integral part of the Swingin’ Singles is the ever-present fashion. Bright ruffle skirts, clogging shoes and western wear can be seen from wall to wall at each dance. Even if the unique apparel intimidates beginners, it’s bound to grow on them like a tight-fitting petticoat. Danner remembers her early leeriness of the styles. “I had a friend who wanted to learn square dancing, and I said, ‘No way. I do not like the outfits,’” says Danner. “I said to my friend, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ Just then, a younger guy came in and I said, ‘I’m staying.’ After the first dance, I was hooked, and now I have 45 different outfits.” Edmiston admits that if you choose to dress in the traditional square dancing attire, the outfits can be hard to find. But naturally, the Swingin’ Singles have a few solutions. “In our club, square dancing attire is completely optional. If you buy new outfits and petticoats, it can be expensive,” says Edmiston. “We have clothesline sales where everybody brings dresses and petticoats that they no longer wear. You can purchase these items at greatly reduced prices.”

Hearing the call

From left, Becky Howard, Gloria Cain and Lucy James work the check-in table. The club has more than 150 members and is one of the larger square dancing groups in the area.

The popularity of the Shawnee Swingin’ Singles is in part due to the group’s beloved caller, Jay Krebs. He’s called dances for 25 years and is an essential part to the success each of dance. “Jay is so integral in our dances,” says Danner. “He feeds off our energy, so he loves it when we make lots of noise. If he’s having a bad day, we make him feel better, and he does the same for us.” Danner continues, “Our club is very energetic and we keep the energy high, which helps the caller as well as the dancers to have a good time.” Krebs’ voice may be smoother than silk, but his calls come quick and fast, so there isn’t much room for standing around. The pairs of dancers do their best to stay synchronized, which stimulates their minds as well as their attitudes. More than anything, the Swingin’ Singles members want people to know that whether they have two left feet or have been dancing their entire lives, they are welcome in the group. “We’re there to dance, make new friends and have a great time,” Edmiston says. “You’re just there to dance.” sm


businesses nigro’s western store 10509 Shawnee Mission Parkway (913) 631-2226 Monday-Thursday

Stock and


Nigro’s Western Store is steeped in history and a modern approach to doing old-fashioned business

10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday

10 a.m.-6 p.m. saturday

10 a.m.-5 p.m.


story by

Kimberly Winter Stern

photography by

Tim Andersen

In this era of big-box retailers


and a roller-coaster economy, the idea of a family-run operation passed down through generations is refreshing and inspirational. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far in Shawnee to find this kind of success story. The familiar log-cabin style establishment known as Nigro’s Western Store and its


older original counterpart on Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kansas, have continued to independently serve the area since 1956. The larger-than-life horse perched atop Nigro’s Shawnee location is a beloved, unofficial Kansas City landmark emblematic of the larger-than-life personality of the store’s gregarious patriarch, Tony Nigro Sr. Although the original horse has been replaced a couple of

ABOVE LEFT George Nigro shares a picture of his father, Tony Nigro Sr., patriarch of the Nigro Western Stores in Shawnee and Kansas City, Kansas. ABOVE RIGHT Patty Nigro, George’s wife, helps at the Shawnee location. The store is known to carry anything a rancher, farmer or cowgirl may need.

times over the last 37 years—a silent victim of hijinks—a statuesque, noname equine remains to greet commuters zipping along Shawnee Mission Parkway. “The horse gets plenty of attention,” says Tony Nigro Jr., who along with his brother, David, runs the Kansas City store, which has a horse of its own—atop a sign advertising sales. “Every Christmas the horses are dressed in blankets. We even had

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businesses a concerned little girl’s mother call us at the store one year, reminding us the weather was getting cold,” says Tony Jr. The story of that horse and the Stetson-wearing Tony Sr. is legendary. As iconic symbols representing the Midwest’s largest authentic Western wear and tack store, their story is one of hard work, perseverance, salesmanship and unbreakable family ties. The Nigros’ saga begins with the multifaceted Tony Sr., who was born in 1924. Tony Sr., who recently died at age 85, was the third child and only son of Katie and George Nigro. The industrious young man worked in the family’s Nigro’s 3-Way Supermarket stores in Kansas City, Kansas, and on Southwest Boulevard. There he learned the priceless value of a strong work ethic, accountability and the joys and trials of working side by side with family members. Tony Sr. later purchased land at 34th and Merriam Lane, on the corner of what was originally a bustling thoroughfare in the 1940s, prior to the construction of Interstate 35. Schooled in the old-fashioned grocery store business, Tony eventually built a Nigro’s 3-Way Supermarket. He loved to engage customers and was known to occasionally fulfill grocery orders when a list was handed to him. His wife, Lucy, joined Tony in the store, and together they established a motto still relevant in the 21st century incarnation of Nigro’s Western Store: “Big enough to accommodate you, small enough to appreciate you.” In 42 years of running that store, Tony Sr. believed that customer service was paramount. It was his professional calling card, and his children and grandchildren involved in the prolific family business still subscribe to that standard of excellence. Eventually Tony Sr. opened Nigro’s Everything Store behind the grocery store on Merriam Lane. A lover of horses, he stocked equine equipment when he discovered a lack of horse tack at auctions. The merchandise line expanded until Tony opened Nigro’s Western Store and immediately snapped up a loyal clientele. He served the locals, calling customers by name and welcoming ranchers and cattlemen who dropped into Nigro’s once a year when they were in town for a steer or horse show. Run today by a few of Nigro’s sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, Nigro’s Western Store still does business the old-fashioned way—the recipe that Tony Sr. perfected over the decades and entrusted to his family. “I’ve worked in the business since I was 13,” says Tony Jr., 56, who handles the clothing at the Merriam Lane store and is the only Nigro son who doesn’t wear a cowboy hat to work. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had. I watched and learned from Dad.”

Modern West



Up until a few months before his death on March 19, Tony Nigro Sr. could be found at his Nigro’s Western Store on Merriam Lane six days a week in his trademark white felt Stetson, helping customers, fixing a cowboy-sized pasta lunch for employees and friends, and joking with longtime acquaintances who were drawn to the businessman like bees to honey. The modern-day Nigro’s Western Stores in Shawnee and Kansas City cater to the local and Midwest horse communities and shoppers looking for high-quality wares such as cowboy boots, saddles, belts, jeans and contemporary Western wear, jewelry and accessories. Tony Jr. says although his dad wasn’t necessarily fond of computers, he was proud of the fact that Nigro’s merchandise is regularly shipped to customers all over the world via the company’s website, “We mail hats and boots and other items to people in Europe, Afghanistan and Australia,” says Tony Jr.

David and Tony Jr. are at the helm of Nigro’s Western empire in Kansas City, Kansas. David buys horse tack and equipment for the 10,000-square-foot Merriam Lane store and owns it with Tony Jr. David’s wife, Anita, is the highenergy presence, answering phones and greeting customers in the same exuberant manner her father-in-law did for decades. Their son David Jr. is making his way in the family trade. Meanwhile George, brother to David and Tony Jr., owns and operates the 7,000-square-foot Shawnee location with his daughter Katie. It opened in 1973. In addition to the myriad merchandise displayed at both stores, the brothers operate a well-known auction business, which Tony Sr. started 25 years ago. “We don’t charge for our services, and do charity auctions across the Midwest,” says David, noting that the auction team is busy two to three times a week. “We’ve raised nearly $200,000 million for organizations in a quarter century.” The side business is an extension of one of the most important lessons Tony Sr. taught his family: giving back. “My dad worked hard,” says Tony Jr. “He always maintained a spirit of generosity.” Nigro’s is a legendary tale of American enterprise, ingenuity and fortitude. Although Tony Sr. isn’t a daily presence in the business anymore, customers will never be regarded as strangers and “no” is seldom heard—all testaments to the enduring lessons handed down from father to sons. sm

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profiles andy dewitt

story by

Vince Meserko

photography by

Tim Andersen

Bass-ic instinct sHawneemagazine

Musician Andy DeWitt has figured out how to survive in the difficult world of professional music


Right out of high school Andy DeWitt had it figured out. The bassist, singer, producer and engineer had a natural musical ability and an uncommonly persistent dedication to nurturing the talent at every opportunity. A graduate of Shawnee Mission South High School, he spent his summers and weekends as a teenager playing in Kansas City jazz clubs and rubbing elbows with celebrated jazz musicians while studying privately with eminent figures like Eugene Levinson, who currently teaches at Juilliard School. Bassist Andy DeWitt shares his appreciation for jazz and original music at live performances.


profiles By 17, he found himself opening for legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis at the Uptown Theater, a moment he still recalls fondly. “That was really kind of a big deal for us to be 17 years old and doing that. I had a lot to learn still, but at 17 I thought I had it pretty well together then,” says DeWitt, who’s now 50 years old and lives in Shawnee. But as any musician can readily attest, circumstances change, the economy changes, the musical climate changes and artists themselves change. After a few years working jam nights and playing club dates, it was time to “get practical,” DeWitt says. So he landed a job in the Kansas City Philharmonic and later the Omaha Symphony, becoming the principal bass at the age of 21. His career seemed set. “I thought it would be a stable way to make a living being a musician, but it turns out that it was less stable than being a pop and jazz musician,” he says about one of many paradoxes the professional musician encounters. While the symphonic experience gave him an invaluable education and a classical pedigree that influenced his pop music, DeWitt says it was somewhat limiting creatively. As an orchestra bassist, he saw few opportunities to write, record and perform original material. During the ’90s his group the KC Bottoms Band allowed DeWitt room to stretch creatively. The group served as the house band at the Tuba in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. Guitarist Terry Swope, 58, has played on and off with DeWitt for nearly 25 years. “That was a fun little scene. [The Tuba] was a little bitty old bar. We took up almost half of it,” he says. The band filled it with plenty of original material, which DeWitt has continued to pursue since the band quit playing together about 15 years ago. His current jazz-pop solo release Midway was so successful that DeWitt raced back into the studio immediately to record its follow-up Cool-Rays, released June 1. Such career development is a credit to DeWitt’s resiliency, eternal optimism and professional savvy. Being a professional musician for more than 30 years has required him to be comfortable making compromises, a flexibility that he says some artists never are able to make,

and as a result accept all kinds of musical work to make ends meet. “I haven’t always done what I’ve wanted to do musically,” DeWitt admits. He’s played in disco bands and rock cover bands and performed gigs in remote rural areas just to keep going. “Sometimes you’re an artist; sometimes you’re a craftsman. In order to survive, you have to be willing to do both,” DeWitt says. Nevertheless, DeWitt says he’s “more excited than frustrated.” He’s learning how to become better at self-promotion and marketing, skills that he says many musicians “stumble” on. He’s even become a fine producer, engineer and singer, with a voice that recalls Steve Winwood or Phil Collins. “He’s been a real student of learning the craft of singing. I believe what he’s singing. I like the way he projects the feeling through the lyrics,” says Swope. The work ethic hasn’t changed either. He plays as many as four to five times a week and holds down a weekly residency at the 75th Street Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri, where he plays and sings alongside Mark Valentine, Ray DiMarchi and Swope in a group known as The Brew. DeWitt has a solo on almost every song, allowing him the chance to try something new. “I’m listening to him play solos, and a lot of times when he’s playing the solo I’ll go underneath him and sort of do a bass part. We’ll have a role reversal almost,” Swope says. DeWitt’s career seems to have weathered all of the frustrations, paradoxes, missteps and false starts that can do in even the most talented, seasoned musician. He clearly has a knack for reshaping his professional and creative goals to the alwayschanging musical world in which he is a small part. “I love music. I wouldn’t do it differently if I had to go back, and I wouldn’t trade out the experiences I’ve had either,” he says. sm


Hear more at


S to r y b y R ya n B r o w n | P h oto g r a p h y b y J a s o n Da i l e y

Equine ambition Horse enthusiasts can saddle up for a ride o n P e e p e r R a n c h ’ s 600 h i l ly a c r e s

Nestled in the western hills of S h aw n e e i s a m e cc a f o r h o r s e s, h o r s e lo v e r s a n d h o r s e e n t r e p r e n e u r s. H e r e r i d e r s a n d e q u i n e e n t h u s i a s ts w i l l f i n d l i c e n s e d t r a i n e r s, s tat e - o f - t h e - a r t s ta b l e s a n d a f e w u n e x p e c t e d p e r k s a s w e l l. Peeper Ranch, a sprawling 600-acre horse ranch, is the Kansas City region’s largest equestrian facility. Owners Dawn and Brad Fire are quick to note that Peeper Ranch is the result of a lifelong love affair with horses. “I had horses on our family farm growing up in Fort Calhoun [Nebraska], but I hadn’t been around horses in about 15 years,” says Dawn. “Then my husband, Brad, and I were looking for a business we could go into, and we were able to put this together.” They moved to Kansas City from Washington state, and the rest is history. What began as an idea in 1999 has evolved into an all-inclusive equestrian experience, including 50,000 square feet of indoor riding arenas and boarding facilities for horses. Additionally, Peeper Ranch offers a stunning lodgestyle hall, which can be used for wedding receptions, office parties and family gatherings.

“I see parents bringing their kids, and I know they will be a horse lover for life, just like me. Those kids will pass that love onto their own children, and taking care of and loving horses won’t be a job for them—it ’ll be their passion.” – Dawn Fire Brad dreamed big, becoming somewhat responsible for Peeper’s grandeur. “I wanted 24 stalls and one indoor arena,” says Dawn. “When we started building, it snowballed into 72 stalls and two indoor arenas.” Dawn’s motive in creating and running the ranch was to offer a place for horse lovers to gather. “You can see it in people’s faces,” she says. “They’re either a horse lover or they aren’t. There’s no gray area. People can respect and admire horses, or they can fall in love with them. This is a place for people who are in love with horses.” So what’s in a name? “When Dawn’s oldest daughter Jaden was little, she had the biggest blue eyes in the world,” says Teresa Beers, office manager. “So everyone called her ‘Peepers.’ Dawn wanted to incorporate her family into the ranch, and it seemed like a natural fit.”

With an experienced team of trainers and superior facilities, Peeper Ranch attracts plenty of riders.

Peeper Ranch offers riding lessons for those age 5 and up. Dawn knows that acclimating riders to horses is usually the first step in enjoying the experience. According to Dawn, horses have varying personalities, just like humans. Trainers at Peeper Ranch offer vast experiences with horses. Trainers have degrees in the equine industry and one has a degree in business, supplementing his work with horses. Beginner riders start on a horse led by one of Peeper Ranch’s trainers. They advance to a longer lead line, called a lunge line. Once riders show they can exhibit some control over the animal, they learn to

ride alone in one of the arenas. After that, it’s on to riding in a group. “Some people fall in love with riding and want to show on a national level. Other people enjoy riding at the barn or using it as a form of exercise,” says Dawn. “Either way, we can accommodate their wishes.”  Those who take to riding and yearn for more than just casual riding typically begin to enter competitions and exhibitions. Some of Peeper Ranch’s representatives from recent shows were originally beginner riders who evolved. “We can start with beginners, and they can learn everything they need

“People can respect and admire horses, or they can fall in love with them. This is a place for people who are in love with horses.” – Dawn Fire

top Peeper Ranch office manager Teresa Beers and trainer Kristen Tramposh laugh around in the barn featuring 72 stalls for horses. middle Student Jane Blackburn works a horse in one of the two indoor arenas totaling 50,000 square feet of space.

bottom Dawn Fire works with accomplished horses at Peeper Ranch where many shows and competitions are also held.

Peeper Ranch provides a tranquil setting for all kinds of horse riders.

to learn here from beginning lessons to showing on the national level ... and they can learn it all under one roof,” says Dawn. The most rewarding part of owning Peeper Ranch for Dawn is watching a rider blossom. “I can’t count the number of times a shy little girl or boy will come in here, not say a word or want to be noticed, and just fall in love with the horses,” she says. “I wish I could put my finger on it and write a book about what it is about horses and kids, especially little girls. They start to change, and gain confidence and self-esteem. Pretty soon, you don’t recognize the person that came in through the door.”

From her own beginnings as a horse lover, Dawn sees the love of riding and caring for horses being passed down from generation to generation. She’s proud to have fostered this love in one place. “I see parents bringing their kids, and I know they will be a horse lover for life, just like me. Those kids will pass that love onto their own children, and taking care of and loving horses won’t be a job for them—it’ll be their passion,” she says. sm

w w w. p e e p e r r a n c h . c o m

Health &

fitness story by

Carolyn Glade Dvorak

photography by

Jason Dailey



Reach Out and Read builds children’s literacy skills from birth Shawnee pediatrician Annette Grundmeier has a busy schedule. It typically consists of well-child checkups, with the usual measuring and weighing and talking with the parents about general health. Then she adds something more.



Reach Out and Read Kansas City aids 43 sites in the metropolitan area. More than 25,000 children are served each year, and 73 percent of those live in poverty. Shawnee has two clinics using the program: Dr. Annette Grundmeier, 9119 W. 74th St., Suite 210, and Mercy and Truth Medical Mission, 5817 Neiman Road. To donate, contact the book coordinator at or (913) 588-0295. To volunteer in the Shawnee or Kansas City areas, call Reach Out and Read Kansas City at (913) 588-2793. For more information about the program, see

Grundmeier gives each family a brand-new storybook to take home—and she encourages them to begin reading to their child. Grundmeier is one of more than 25,000 medical providers across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands involved in Reach Out and Read (ROR), a medically based early literary nonprofit organization designed to encourage parents to begin reading aloud to their children at an early age. The ROR national program was launched 21 years ago at Boston Medical Center (formerly Boston City Hospital) and developed by early childhood educators and pediatricians. In Kansas City, ROR began as a collaborative effort between the University of Kansas Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital in 1997. Today ROR teaches doctors and nurses how to administer the program at their clinics while also coordinating fundraising for the purchase of new books, program support, recruiting and training volunteers, and book donations. The program is offered to all children age 6 months to 5 years. Grundmeier begins even earlier. As soon as a family comes in with a 2-week-old, she gives them a book. “Some parents say they’ve already started to read to their child. Others are shocked,” she says. Under the ROR program, children receive a new ageappropriate book every time they come in for a well-child exam. The participating pediatrician gives the book to the parents along with tips on reading aloud. Once children reach 5 years of age or kindergarten, they are given a book bag with several books. They no longer receive new books after that, but used books are kept in waiting Annette Grundmeier uses Reach Out and Read in her Shawnee pediatric office. The program helps physicians encourage parents to read with their children.

Grundmeier and Curtis Liljegren read together in her office and pick out a book to take home.

How support stacks up 25–Provides the first board book


for five babies

60–Provides a library of 12 books for


a child from birth to 5 years of age

180–Provides books for a family


with three kids

1,000–Provides books for a clinic


for one year

2,500–Helps start a new site and provide the gift of reading to a new pediatric community $


rooms, such as Grundmeier’s, and children can choose one from there. Older siblings are also encouraged to select one of the used books. ROR operates with funding from foundations, private donations, corporations, book publishers, the federal government and nine states to obtain books and provide training. According to the organization’s website, in 2009 ROR had 4,535 programs in the U.S. and distributed 6 million books to 3.8 million children. Last year Grundmeier’s clinic gave out 1,123 books from the Kansas City chapter of ROR. They are screened at that Kansas City, Kansas, location and distributed to participating offices. Through the ROR program, volunteers can be trained to read to children in the pediatric offices. “[Reading aloud is] an excellent opportunity to interact with children,” Grundmeier says. If children get used to being read to or seeing parents read, she says, they are more likely to continue that habit when they learn to read on their own. Research and educational observations show that being read to not only encourages increased reading but results in better comprehension. “The comfort level at school is better, and children who have been read to at home make an easier transition from home to school,” says Whitney Mason, a first-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary in Shawnee. According to a report published in the July/August 2006 issue of the journal Child Development, English- and Spanish-speaking mothers who read regularly to their children at early ages saw better language comprehension, cognitive scores and more expansive vocabularies at ages 2 and 3 compared with children who received no reading. “I love being able to give them a book,” Grundmeier says. “Many parents come to the next checkup saying they’ve read the book over and over again and want a new book.” However, according to ROR, only 48 percent of U.S. parents read to their young children daily and 35 percent of American children entering kindergarten do not have the skills necessary to learn to read. To combat these statistics, ROR this year hopes to increase awareness of the program and the importance of reading aloud to children, says Matt Ferraguto, director of communications for ROR.

Previous peer-reviewed research from ROR reveals that parents using the program were four times more likely to read to their children. In turn, the children showed gains in language and literacy and scored higher on vocabulary tests and school readiness assessments. “All the teachers love this program. They need children to come to kindergarten with basic school readiness skills,” says Pam Madaus, program director for ROR in Kansas City. Mason begins the school year by reading books aloud that she thinks her students may have heard at home. If they are familiar with some of the words, rhymes or story, she says, it boosts their confidence. A theme at Riverview can act as a theme for reading. “Reading is thinking,” Mason says. “It goes into all other areas of life.” sm


Health &

fitness story by

Sally Heller

photography by

Jason Dailey

Mom’s kicking


Soccer Moms League gets Shawnee matriarchs on the field It’s the love of the game that drives these Shawnee moms.


Lisa Mallow, Brenda Franklin and Vanessa Bross shake off injuries, sweat until their ponytails are drenched and endure the scent of stinky tennis shoes. In their ragged team-colored T-shirts, Lisa, Brenda and Vanessa are soccer moms staying true to their competitive spirit by taking the field. The Soccer Moms League at All American Indoor Sports originated about 12 years ago with four teams. “At the time we felt that we needed to offer a league for players like your typical soccer moms and dads. We wanted to provide a learning environment at a novice level and provide an opportunity for those parents to come learn the game in a comfortable atmosphere with similar players,” says Mike Urban, general manager of All American Indoor Sports. “The league has transformed into much more than we envisioned in those first few years. We now have 24 teams. It has surprised us how the league has expanded and how much fun all the ladies are having,” says Urban. While being a mom is not required, players must be at least 28 years old and be a novice player to participate in the Soccer Moms League. All American Indoor Sports locations in Lenexa and Overland Park feature three other leagues of varying skill levels for women 15 and older. The soccer moms gather every Monday, except Christmas and New Year’s, and sometimes stay until after midnight. With or without any formal training, these moms have picked up a few things over the years.


All American Indoor Sports The Soccer Moms League games are from 5:10 p.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. Mondays. For league start dates and costs, see


Overland Park

8875 Rosehill Road

9063 Bond St.

(913) 888-5425

(913) 888-8702

To sign up, call (913)-888-5425, extension 0. All American accepts individual and full team sign-ups.

Vanessa Bross is one of many moms who have joined the Soccer Moms League through All American Indoor Sports.

below These Shawnee soccer moms–from left, Lisa Mallow, Brenda Franklin and Vanessa Bross– mean business on the field and at home. below right Brenda has found the friendships to be a benefit of playing soccer. bottom Lisa admits she has learned a lot about the game from watching her kids grow up on the field.

Lisa also finds that soccer supplements everything else in a mom’s hectic life. “It works well with a soccer mom’s schedule and lifestyle. It’s convenient, in a safe environment and, unlike outdoor soccer, weather isn’t an issue,” she says. “Best of all, it forces me to take time out of each busy week for myself.” sm


“I’ve learned what I know about soccer from watching my daughter being coached at practice and by watching her games,” says Lisa. Joining teams on account of association is common. Among them, these Shawnee moms have nine children who play or have played soccer at one time or another; they continue to unite during the spring soccer season. “I love the sport,” says Vanessa, whose husband also plays soccer. “We live soccer at my house. It’s on the TV all the time. And I enjoy the friendships and people on the team, as well as the competitiveness and fitness benefits.” Brenda and Lisa agree. “I really enjoy soccer. I like watching my daughter and the Wizards play,” says Lisa. While the reward is unique, some games can get pretty rough, but a few knocks don’t scare these women. “Injuries are part of the sport,” says Vanessa, who readily admits she’s competitive. “I’ve had sprained ankles, broken fingers and various muscle pulls, as well as the normal bumps and bruises.” Aside from enduring a few jabs and jammed fingers, Lisa and Brenda take it a bit easier. “I have found that I can still do a backward shoulder roll. But it didn’t take me long to find out I’m not a teenager anymore,” says Lisa. All three women agree that the main fitness benefit is stress relief—a fast game requiring focus takes their minds off the concerns of the day while they gain aerobic exercise. “It’s a great way to start the week and one step toward a healthy exercise regimen,” says Lisa. “And some games are more challenging than others. I certainly see where our kids get their competitive spirits.” They also enjoy the social aspect that the league uses to motivate the women into playing year after year. “My favorite part of participating in the league, next to playing the game, is the friendships and the love of soccer that we have in common,” says Brenda. “Being a work-at-home-mom, this is a great way for [Brenda] to socialize with other teammates that are close to her age range,” says Victor, Brenda’s husband. “Brenda is learning the game while finding out how hard of a game it really is. And she is able to relate what she has learned to our kids’ soccer games.”


Q& A

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Katy Ibsen. Photograph by Jason Dailey.


It’s a lot of fun. I try to get out there and work with them sometimes and get to do some of the fun stuff.

Lauranne Hess


Executive Director Wonderscope Children’s Museum


Lauranne Hess, is a prime example of an individual who learns, plays and grows. Of course, her career of imagination cultivation might have something to do with it. “We always try to keep playing. We like things fun and fresh,” says Hess. “[We are] very fortunate to have just a real energetic, creative and funny staff that are great to work with. You need a sense of humor in this line of work. We’ve got a dynamite team here in place.” Wonderscope has become a hotbed of creative learning. As Hess explains, “It’s to spark a lifelong love of learning through the power of play. We know that’s how kids learn best, so what we try to do is create places and experiences for them.” From spending time at the museum with her two children— Ashton, 10 and Patrick, 19—to driving the outreach van into Kansas City, Hess is smitten with her colorful career.

Do you think the museum has made a colorful mark on Shawnee? We have an over 20-year history here. Just last year we reached over 72,000 visitors. So we know in those 20 years we’ve reached hundreds of thousands of kids and families, and students from preschools and schools who have come to play and learn. What results are you seeing? We see in all the exhibits, and the outreach, kids that are excited, curious, having a lot of fun. Those kinds of early play experiences are what they’re going to build on … throughout their lives. The other thing we see [is] we’re not just for kids. This is an opportunity for families to come in and play together, and to really just kind of slow down and enjoy each other and meet other families in the community. We always see kids who just don’t want to leave. They really enjoy coming back and coming back for more. What new exhibits are wowing the children these days? Right now we’re working on Farm to Market. We opened up the first phase in March and so far are just getting great feedback on that. Folks will be able to gather eggs in the chicken coop, feed a calf, put on a farm puppet show, throw hay on a conveyer belt, grab vegetables from the garden, use healthy foods in the Farmers Market. We are just so excited about opening that. And we have the old favorites, too. Kids love coming back to all our old favorites. How often do you find yourself immersed in crayons and paintbrushes? When I really get to play is when I go out and work Wonderscope Live. We bring the Wonderscope experience out in the community, and we are at all the largest festivals. We’ll be at Irish Fest, at the Highland Games, of course always at the [Plaza] art fair. … The next place we’ll be in Shawnee will be at Old Shawnee Days. Last year we reached 56,000 kids and adults through outreach with Wonderscope Live.

What’s your favorite memory at Wonderscope? I think, probably, being here with my daughter when she was at a birthday party. She was about 2. I have pictures of her. By that time, she was covered in face paint and climbing all over Small Wonders. Just seeing that sense of excitement and joy and laughter in the photos from that party, you can just tell she is having a ball. I want to bring those experiences to every kid that comes here. Do you ever find your inner child at Wonderscope? I’m very lucky to have a job where I get to see the world through the eyes of young kids every day. I always try to get out and spend a little time on the exhibits after having been immersed in some of the administrative things because it’s such a reminder of why we’re here. … And then just always trying to remember to play every day. sm

Wonderscope Children’s Museum 5700 King St. (913) 268-4176

Serving the Shawnee community for over forty years. Founded in 1964 by, our father, Dr. Gorby R. Martin.

Steven K. Martin, D.D.S. Alan J. Martin, D.D.S. Philip H. Martin, D.D.S. Other dental services include—cosmetic fillings, root canals, extractions, dentures, cleanings, periodontal procedures and implant restorations.

We offer a variety of cosmetic services, including allporcelain crowns and veneers to reshape and restore your smile.

Our diode laser is kind to soft tissue and can greatly reduce pain and healing time.

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We strive for patient comfort and satisfaction to help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.

Located in the heart of downtown Shawnee! (913) 631-4373 | 6130 Nieman Road | Shawnee, Kansas 66203

Shawnee Downtown Business Association

Martin Family Dentistry, P.A.

For the



story by

Kim Antisdel

photography by

Jason Dailey


uring the summer months, it’s easy for kids to get sucked into a black hole of video games, television and boredom. But with KidScape, the Johnson County Museum’s latest free exhibit, children and parents alike can stretch their brains, imaginations and dollars, all without breaking a sweat—or the bank. Distinctively crafted to resemble a suburban streetscape, KidScape gives children ages 3-9 a chance to explore their community on a personal and kid-size level. Visitors can interact and experience six colorful, unique settings in the constructed suburb: a bookstore, hospital, fashion boutique, park, theater and City Hall.

Little world,

big ideas


KidScape allows children to explore suburbia in pint-size portions

When the museum’s exhibit committee first visualized and conceived KidScape, the exhibit was scheduled to run for a year and a half to test the potential success of interactive environments. During the subsequent months following KidScape’s August 2008 premiere, its popularity grew and the museum recognized that something astonishing was happening. “After KidScape came along, we saw a 140 percent increase in attendance at the museum. That’s huge,” says Kathy Daniels, curator of collections for the museum. “Word of mouth from kids and parents really made it more popular than we ever expected.” Mindi Love, museum director, isn’t surprised by the exhibit’s success either. “The exhibit has exceeded all our expectations, so we are hoping to keep it as a long-term exhibit at the museum,” she says. “KidScape, as well as the other interactive areas at the Johnson County Museum, provide an experience for parents or grandparents and kids to have fun interacting together. It’s a great environment for kids to explore community, too.” The miniature suburban streets at KidScape allow visiting children to immediately know this is a place just for them. Each stop along the vibrant street boasts different environments. In addition,


KidScape at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee is the quintessential city escape for kids learning about community.

For the


every room is packed with crafts and activities to further engage children’s minds and creativity. “Younger children like the City Hall, where they can set the town up and play with the trains,” says Love. “Little boys love City Hall; little girls love the hospital, where they can care for the babies. Older kids seem to enjoy the fashion boutique, the theater and the park the best. In the park, there is a putting green the older kids really enjoy and a Wii with the sports package of games to play. Kids of all ages, parents and even grandparents love to compete in a round of bowling, golf or baseball.” But the fun of these environments isn’t solely in the games; visitors will also learn a thing or two. Each environment proudly displays a short biography about a resident of Johnson County who specifically affected it. While young visitors create crafts and role-play, they learn about their community’s history at the same time. Perhaps the greatest part of this distinctive experience is that, unlike other museum exhibits, KidScape isn’t a one-time opportunity. Children and families can come back multiple times, and no two visits are the same. In fact, returning visitors are responsible for much of KidScape’s continued success. “When kids come here for school trips and tours, they just love it,” says Daniels. “They have a great time and then tell their friends about it. They want to come back and see everything again.” In addition to KidScape, the museum holds other adventures, including puppet shows, musical acts and storytellers. “Some of the special events do have a cost, but it’s usually very small,” says Daniels. “All of the information on show times and special events is available on our website.” The Johnson County Museum is filled with other exhibits for older children and adults. Visitors can view the history of Johnson County from 1820 to the present in the Seeking the Good Life exhibit or visit the 1950s All-Electric House that showcases a futuristic look at the use of electric technology of the time. “Seeking the Good Life is an exhibit that is truly intergenerational,” says Daniels. “Everyone  has the opportunity to enjoy and learn from the artifacts from years past, while interactives found within the exhibit help to reinforce the information and concepts for kids in a fun way.” Whichever Johnson County Museum exhibit families choose to visit, there is no doubt that school is out for the summer, but education and fun never are. sm

Johnson County Museum

Current exhibits include KidScape, Seeking the Good Life, 1950s All-Electric House (house tours: $2 adults, $1 for kids under 12) and special events every Wednesday. Summer events will be added to the website as they come up.

6305 Lackman Road (931) 715-2550

middle Various avenues are popular with certain groups. Little girls are known to love the hospital where they can care for the babies. left Carroll Morony, Constance Freeman and Joy Freeman visit the library at KidScape.


top Mindi Love, museum director, attests to the popular exhibit and hopes to have it around for the long-term.



away vancouver

story by

Gloria Gale

Photography courtesy

Tourism Vancouver

After an unseasonably

warm winter,

Vancouver now shines.


Known for its drizzly clime that regularly shrouds the city, Vancouver this year proves to be in full bloom. Routinely voted one of the most livable and exciting destinations by national travel magazines, Vancouver is a proud showcase with more than half a million residents. No wonder it was the scene of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The reason is simple: This gorgeous town is tripping over itself with pride, proper manners and natural beauty. Stacked against other international communities, Vancouver has an advantage. It’s clearly the hostess with the mostess.

More than a stage Relatively young as world-class cities go,




Since enjoying the Olympic spotlight, this gleaming steel-and-glass city sparkles as a gold medal destination Vancouver didn’t become a real start-up until the early 1900s as the population climbed to 100,000. Only then did the city shake off its rag-tag beginnings and emerge with confidence. Unlike its hulking United States neighbor to the south, Vancouver missed the great highwaybuilding boom of the 1950s. As a result, no cobweb of freeways formed in and around the city, and no urban sprawl emerged. Instead a quieter, friendly infrastructure developed.

Thanks to the natural boundaries that cinch in Vancouver from shoreline to snow-capped peaks, the city has grown slowly and organically, mostly due to the influx of immigrants in the l970s. More than one-third of residents are foreign born. Today, the glass-and-steel skyline gives way to streets lined with dense foliage from palms to Edelweiss plants surrounding defined communities that have congealed into tiny eth-


away mountains, only 30 minutes from downtown. It’s no surprise that many residents embrace a vigorous outdoor life.

Expect diversity

nic enclaves of livability. There’s South Granville, genteel and upscale; beachy Kitsilano, filled with the young and beautiful; the regentrified warehouse district of Yaletown; thriving Chinatown and historic Gastown. All blend oldworld traditions with new age vitality, rendering quite the cultural stew. More condos and office buildings reach skyward in Vancouver’s shiny downtown, known as the core, than nearly any other North American city except for New York, prompting Canadian author Douglas Coupland to deem Vancouver the “City of Glass” in his book with the same name. In relief, there’s the ever-present waterfront surrounding the peninsula. The Strait of Georgia envelops this busy and large North American port, servicing not only main shipping lanes throughout the world but thousands of maritime aficionados who savor the sea.

Residents and visitors have come to value a dizzying array of choices with international flair due in part to the city’s immigrant culture. Sample French poutine (fries, cheese curds and gravy), also known as Death on a Plate, or grab a Japadog, a Japanese-style hot dog that gold medal speed skater Shani Davis reportedly loved. Catch sushi that’s readily available even at the gas station, sample some salmon candy or sit down to proper English tea complete with scones and Devonshire cream—this is British Columbia after all. Christopher Marin, concierge at the stylish Sutton Place Hotel in the heart of Vancouver, says, “Whether dining in or out, Vancouver is a mecca for food.” One of his favorites is Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill in Yaletown. Lastly, kick back and stroll. Charmingly polite and easily navigated, Vancouver is made for viewing streetside. The World Council of Cities got it right when ranking Vancouver second in the world for quality of life thanks to its blend of culture, pleasure, business and beauty. Hosting a full roster of attractions both natural and manmade makes this urban utopia a class act that continues to evolve. sm

See and do


The sheer placement of the city, hemmed in on three sides by shimmering water and lush coastal mountains, clearly makes Vancouver an outdoor junkie’s paradise. Considering Vancouver’s natural playground, it’s little wonder why the Olympic committee picked this location for the 2010 Winter Games. In a temperate climate, moistened with nearly 4 feet of rain a year, everything grows like crazy. Such is the case at the 1,000-acre Stanley Park in the city’s core, containing a 150-year-old forest and a world-class aquarium, among other things. From this oasis enthusiasts routinely flock to the beaches or the slopes of Grouse, Seymour and Cypress


June - Sept ’10 June 19

Splash and Play Block Party. The Jim Allen

Aquatic Center and Wonderscope Children’s Museum join for their fourth annual block party. Admission is free and there’s fun for the whole family with music, food, face painting, balloon artists, craft booths, games and more. (913) 287-8888.

June 26

Fourth Annual Garden Party. Young girls and

their dolls can enjoy an afternoon of lemonade and tea cakes plus a garden tour, craft project and hat parade at Shawnee Town. (913) 248-2360. www.

June 26-27

The Great American Family Campout.

We put Shawnee in your hands.

Experienced and novice campers alike can enjoy spending the night under the stars at Shawnee Mission Park. Families will receive passes for Shawnee Mission Park Beach and pedal boat rental as well as tickets to Theatre in the Park’s production of Annie. Proceeds benefit the Johnson County Park and Recreation District’s New Horizon Summer Camp. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. Another family campout will take place July 31-August 1. (913) 236-1250. http://jcprd. com/special_events/ campout.cfm

June 26-July 4

100% local news. shawneedispatch theshawneedispatch

Flags for Freedom.

More than 2,000 flags will be placed at the Merriam Marketplace, Irene B. French Community Center, along Merriam Drive and Johnson Drive at Shawnee Town and Herman Laird Park and along Nieman Road in honor of the patriotic holiday. The event is organized by residents and business owners


with Project Chameleon at West Flanders Park. 7 p.m. (913) 631-5200.

August 16

Summer Sizzler Family Party. Enjoy the last days of summer at the Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center. Win prizes, play games and chow down on grilled goodies. 12:30 p.m. (913) 631-0054.

partnering with the Shawnee Downtown Business Association.

July 9

Summer Concert Series. Bring your lawn

chairs and enjoy Four Fried Chickens and a Coke at Swarner Park. 7 p.m. (913) 631-5200.

August 29

Tour de Shawnee.

The 21st annual Tour de Shawnee offers bicyclists the chance to tour Shawnee. Riders can choose from 12-mile, 27-mile or 47-mile routes. Entry fee is $25. Call the Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department at (913) 631-5200 for a registration packet and more information.

July 11

Shawnee Mission Triathlon. The 26th

annual Shawnee Mission Triathlon offers a long course (0.62-mile swim, 18-mile bike and 4.5-mile run) and a short course (0.31-mile swim, 9-mile bike and 2.4-mile run). Triathlon ends with an awards ceremony and pancake feed. Event is open to everyone 15 and older. (913) 236-1231. http:// events/smp_triathlon. cfm

September 11

Olathe Medical Center Women’s Triathlon.

Open to all women ages 15 and older, participants will swim 500 meters, bike 10.6 miles and run 2.6 miles in Kill Creek Park. 7:30 a.m. (913) 236-1231. events/omc_triathlon. cfm

July 17 (June 19 and August 7) Straw Hat Saturday.

Experience a summer day like they did in the 1920s. Wander the Shawnee Town Museum to see and hear about activities like churning butter, harvesting the vegetable garden and other tasks that kept farm families busy during the summer months. 10 a.m. (913) 248-2360. www. events.html

September 14

July 23

Summer Concert Series. Baliroot

performs at Stump Park with fireworks to end the show. 7 p.m. (913) 631-5200.

Shawnee Town’s Speakers Series. Bill

Worley of Metropolitan Community College will discuss the railroads of Kansas. His free talk is open to the public. 7 p.m., Town Hall at Shawnee Town Museum. (913) 248-2360. www. visit/events.html (Additional speakers include: A Writing Life, Charles Gusewelle, longtime writer for The Kansas City Star, July 13; Music of the Model A Era, Sherry Winkinhofer, KC Model A Club, August 10.)

August 6

Summer Concert Series. The Summer

Concert Series concludes

100% local business information.

All events are subject to change.

E-mail your upcoming events for the calendar to

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Shawnee Magazine Summer 2010