Bill Kurtis on a mission in SE Kansas

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

You know him for his work on the A&E Cable Network, but away from the television set, Bill Kurtis finds his peace in Southeastern Kansas. And he's convinced the rest of the country will follow suit.

News on Six anchor Scott Thompson spent the day with Bill Kurtis last April, when he showed me around Sedan, Kansas, the little Chautauqua County town he is transforming into a destination. Restored buildings and new shops in town. And what he hopes will be an executive conference center on his Red Buffalo Ranch.

He’s trying to turn around the fortunes of an oft-forgotten part of Kansas. But his vision doesn't stop at the borders of the Sunflower State. "We're trying to create the destination and it's going to include Tulsa and Branson and the four-corners as the spot to come when you think of prairies." He brought his message of economic revival to a sell-out gathering of Tulsa's Knife and Fork Club this week. "Quite simply, it's that Oklahoma and Kansas are poised on the brink of becoming major tourist destinations. We have the territory that looks like Africa, that has a history that's better than any other, I mean the history of America, and the values are here."

And after September 11th, Kurtis told the crowd; he is more convinced than ever before, more people will be on the road, looking for genuine, reassuring, slices of America. And they'll find what they're looking for in the small towns of Kansas and Oklahoma. "We must work together, and it's not only a rivalry between Oklahoma and Kansas, it's between cities, towns of a thousand people, it starts in high school football and 'I just hate those guys, we want to beat 'em so badly'. We have to stop thinking like that, work together, find out what you have to offer, join with me because one town is not going to attract. They're not gonna come from New York to see Sedan, Kansas, but they will if we put everything that we have together.”

So far, Bill's responsible for 11 buildings being restored in Sedan, and 8 new businesses. And he says to be watching for a living history component at the Little House on The Prairie site he owns in Montgomery County, Kansas.