Help Bart and Rorie Discover the Best of Small Town America

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Bart Russell was called the “voice of small town America” by none other than Ronald Reagan. So, why does he need your help?

After retiring last year from a career in small town advocacy, Russell is taking his passion for small towns in a new direction – quite possibly, in your direction.

As leader of the municipal advocacy group Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), Russell served for 18 years bringing small town issues to prominence. During that time, he also served as CEO of the National Association of Towns and president of its National Center for Small Communities.

Now, Russell is taking politics out of the equation and promising to shine a light on the 144 million small town residents in America and what they have to offer as part of a venture he calls “Everything Small Town.”

The mission: Everything Small Town™ shines a global spotlight on promising projects and programs designed to make America’s 30,000, plus smaller communities better places in which to live, work and do business.

Now, Everything Small Town™ is hitting the road for its inaugural “Discover Small Town America” tour this June. They’ll be heading to the west coast taking Route 40 to SoCal for 4th of July weekend and returning via Route 70 to the east coast in late July.

In between, they’ll be soaking up as much of small town America as they can.

Says Russell, “We’ve received invitations from wonderful people to check out wonderful towns, like Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, NM, Greenville and Dresden OH, Ligonier, IN, Grainfield and other [KS] towns. Some of you have said you’ll get back with your recommendations for experiencing the best of small town America on byways close to I-40 and I-70 in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio. WE CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR FROM YOU…”

We here at Love Small Town America would love to show them what OUR great small towns have to offer. Have an idea on where Bart and Rorie Russell should stop on their Everything Small Town journey? Let them know, via their Facebook page.

“We’re really looking forward to meeting some new friends, visiting their hometowns and shining the spotlight on some amazing people and places. Thanks for all the offers of hospitality you’ve extended!” says Russell.

“We would love to have your thoughts, recommendations and your “likes” at Everything Small Town™.”

Let’s show Everything Small Town some “LOVE”…Small Town America, that is!

www.BartonRussell.com
www.facebook.com/EverythingSmallTown

Cruise, Shoes & Barbecues – A Small Town Celebration Worth Remembering

Classic cars are the "Cruise" part of the Cruise, Shoes & BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS. The car show draws participants from all around.

This post is brought to you by Nicole Godek, CEO and Founder of Love Small Town America. 

My husband has a very creative mind. The ideas he comes up with typically don’t pan out, but it’s always entertaining to hear what he’s thinking. On occasion, one of his ideas works really well, however. Cruise, Shoes & BBQs is one of them.

Living in Grainfield, we often hear people say, “Remember Ag Days? They were so fun!” Fair-style rides. Parades and marching bands. Vendors in the park. Tons of people coming from all over. The image of Ag Days is still fresh in my mind. As I shared memories of that event with Dan, the wheels started turning on how to bring people to Grainfield again. Dan’s passion for BBQ seemed like an easy start. Then we added the rhyming words “Cruise” and “Shoes”. And Cruise, Shoes & BBQs was born.

Some of the volunteers behind the Cruise, Shoes and BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS.

The first year Grainfield’s Harvest Market hosted the event with help from family and friends. The response was amazing! But we needed more hands to grow it. So, the Grainfield Community Development Committee took over and Cruise, Shoes & BBQs will celebrate 5 years next Memorial Day weekend!

This year marked Cruise, Shoes & BBQs’ 4th anniversary. The fundraiser is always hosted over Memorial Day weekend and this year, the two days were packed with entertainment. Friday evening featured a social in the park, vending from the BBQ teams, and a live performance at the historic Opera House (hosted by the Lions Club & Opera House Committee).

Saturday started with cars, motorcycles and a boat cruising in for the namesake Car Show. The barbecue competition is a big part of the weekend, and the aroma of BBQ in the air easily draws in a crowd! Horseshoes began around 10 A.M. on Saturday as did the kids’ activities.

Smoke pours out of the competitors' area where teams craft their best barbecue entries to be judged at the annual BBQ competition.

After a full day of fun, the barbecue competition awards presentation began at 3 P.M. with the buffet at 4:30 P.M. The buffet draws a big crowd since everyone wants to sample the BBQ teams’ pork and brisket. Then we rounded out the day with a dance. This year we offered a live performance from Uncle Turtle and the Live Action (a Gove County favorite) and it was a big hit.

A clown was on hand as part of the kids' activities at the annual Memorial Day weekend fundraiser. The clown was such a hit, he has already been booked for next year's event!

If we could have picked the worst day out of the year for weather, I think we did. There are only so many things you can plan ahead for and weather is not one of them. But despite the 50mph gusts and 100 degree temperature, everyone had a positive attitude. We are grateful that Marvin Beougher let us move the live music and dance into the American Legion. That saved us…and the many people that stuck around after the buffet.

Festivities carried on long into the night after the BBQ competition with a dance. The Grainfield American Legion generously allowed the event to move inside due to high winds. What a wonderful show of community support and fellowship!

My favorite part of the event is probably seeing so many people in Grainfield having a great time. We’re starting to make a name for ourselves and see people return year after year. It reminds me of “Cheers” when everyone yelled “Norm!” It’s those personal relationships that mean the most.

This year we added a clown and the kids loved him! He was amazing and his wife painted some incredible face art. (We’ve already booked them for next year!) We’re making improvements for next year, hoping to make it a Saturday/Sunday event instead of Friday/Saturday. We lose a lot of people to the high school state track meet (helpers and attendees) so we’re hoping to gain them back. Plus, by moving the event to Saturday/Sunday, BBQ teams and volunteers won’t have to take off work Friday.

An authentic native American tipi was on display during this year's 4th annual Cruise, Shoes & BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS, withstanding high temperatures and even higher wind gusts.

I think people should come out to our event because you never know what you’re going to see in our small town. Last year we had a pig dancing on the dance floor. This year we had an authentic Tipi in the park (that withstood the wind!). Who knows what you’ll see next year. But guaranteed you’ll have a great time. And 40 years from now, hopefully we’ll hear people say, “Remember Cruise, Shoes & BBQs? That was so fun!”

-Nicole

 

We are always growing our network of small towns, organizations, and businesses. If you’re interested in joining Love Small Town America and getting an affordable home on our small town network, e-mail us to get started or learn more here

Featured Business: Harvest Market

Owner Dan Godek knows the community of Gove County comes together at Harvest Market.

Love Small Town America is the online home for some of small town America’s best businesses. We’re giving them a chance to share with the world just what makes them so special. Please welcome our very first featured business to the Love Small Town America blog: Harvest Market

Where can you find delicious BBQ meats, household essentials, and a dead rat all in one, convenient location? Residents of Grainfield, Kansas know that Harvest Market is the place to find all of these things – and more!

At Harvest Market, household essentials line the shelves alongside quirky surprises.

Grocery stores are often the heart of small towns, where citizens gather to share the latest news and pick up a loaf of bread. Grainfield finds this in Harvest Market – and a little extra.

Harvest Market has been in operation in Grainfield in some form or another since the late 1920s. Current owners Dan and Nicole Godek have updated the market with energy-efficient equipment and expanded product lines, keeping Harvest Market a viable part of the small town economy while respecting its historic tradition of serving the people of Gove County, KS.

The family-owned store has imbued Harvest Market with a lively spirit that draws in customers from all over the area. Slogans like, “Eggs, Tomatoes, Toilet Paper… Everything You Need to Decorate Your Favorite Neighbor’s House,” and “We Get Up in Your Grill,” are proof that grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a chore.

Shopping trips become lively excursions at Harvest Market with a little help from the local "wildlife".

Although Harvest Market does have eggs, tomatoes, and toilet paper (and produce, dairy, party trays, beauty products, beer, tobacco, and more), it’s their mouthwatering array of Harvest Market Brand BBQ meats that promises to make summertime special in Kansas. The sight of pulled pork, beef brisket, and BBQ beef fresh from the heartland have wrecked more than one carefully planned dinner menu, but we have a feeling no one is complaining.

Harvest Market brand BBQ draws customers from all around.

Owner Dan Godek draws inspiration from his own children (or maybe from his childlike zest for life!) and makes a shopping excursion to Harvest Market fun for all ages. A big gnome, little gnome, dead hand, and toy rat wander mysteriously about the store every day just waiting to be found. If searching for a toy rat doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, a carnival mirror is an oracle of truth that could provide the answer to whether you should place that candy bar or that bunch of bananas in your shopping cart.

Looking for a great deal?

Coupons rotate frequently at Harvest Market, so check back soon.

Harvest Market rotates coupons on their Love Small Town America site, so check back regularly for updated promotions. Through May 31, 2012, they are offering a bargain on sunflower seeds – perfect for enjoying outside as the weather warms up.

BIGS Sunflower Seeds are on special at Harvest Market this May.

What Does Harvest Market Love About Small Towns?

They’re quiet, peaceful, affordable, friendly, safe, vibrant, caring, and conservative.

What Does Harvest Market Like Best About Love Small Town America?

Harvest Market calls Love Small Town America their home on the web. But it’s more than just good business sense – it’s about good.

“The fact that Love Small Town America is doing good. It’s helping small towns. It’s helping small town businesses. It’s going to give back to its communities through scholarship and grant programs.”

Harvest Market will be giving back to the community themselves, as a sponsor of the 4th annual Cruise, Shoes, and BBQs fundraiser this Memorial Weekend. With food, beer, and fun, it’s a natural fit for Harvest Market.

Harvest Market's friendly grocery aisle gnome.

Do you shop at Harvest Market? Have you ever found the toy rat or tried Harvest Market BBQ? Let us know in the comments!