Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Now this is the weather we’ve been waiting for…and it looks like it’s here for an extended stay. I’m not saying we won’t have a last burst of winter but this early warm up is very enjoyable!! So nice not to have to put on a coat when running errands and dashing about. Don’t forget about daylight saving this weekend…”spring” forward 1 hour. This event always changes the dynamic of schedules and activities when we gain an hour of daylight at the end of the day…especially right now with such nice weather! This early spring will make the last little flurry of cold weather hard to take…still I am loving the spring tide this year. 
 
Bike Across Kansas:
 
Speaking of warm weather and being outside, Bike Across Kansas (BAK) is coming to Ottawa on June 12 this year…Stefanie Weaver from BAK was in Ottawa meeting with Ottawa officials this week to begin planning for the annual trek from Colorado to Missouri (pictures here). The route is different each year and has not been through Ottawa since 1999. We are anxious to welcome the return of BAK which has been continuous each summer since 1975. Every year 800 riders mount up and journey the 400 some miles across our state…additionally some riders travel with their support team in tow. Quite easily we should have over 1,000 guests in Ottawa the evening of June 12. The Ottawa High School is opening their doors for sleeping in the gym and using showers.  Plans are underway to stage music and festive activities in Legacy Square. Ottawa has the honor of being the host city on the last night of the “Discover Kansas” ride…typically this evening is more of a party atmosphere than an evening in the middle of the ride. If you would like to join the ride it begins in Syracuse, Kansas on June 6…you can register here. They already have riders from 31 different states signed to participate this year…what a great opportunity to showcase our community!!
 
Two More Legacy Square Events:
 
As we get closer to full-time spring and warm weather it is time to begin thinking about great evening and outdoor events. I have a couple to put on your calendar:
 
  • Rhythm and Ride will hold their first annual ride the weekend of April 25 and 26. Being organized by one of Ottawa’s newest citizens and entrepreneur, Jeff Carroll, owner of Ottawa Bike and Trail, the Saturday ride will be from Ottawa to Osawatomie…there will be festivities in Osawatomie during the day and then in the evening we will host bands in Legacy Square. On Sunday riders will trek from Ottawa to Garnett. This is not a race…it is a friendly and family ride to get out and see the trails and enjoy some great music. You can register for R&R here
  • Travis Marvin is returning to Ottawa for a concert on May 8 in Legacy Square.  Many remember the great evening we had last September when Travis was the first headliner for the Grand Opening of Legacy Square. We are in the process of getting food trucks arranged and all the early preparations. Here’s hoping for a great spring evening in downtown Ottawa.
  • Annual Flea, Junk & Trunk will be May 16…always fun to shop downtown when we have 70-80 new vendors with “indescribable treasures” for sale…mark your calendar. If you have something you sell or market you can find a registration form here…just get it turned into the Chamber by May 8. Otherwise plan on browsing in the downtown on this Saturday to see what you didn’t know you can’t live without!!
 
Maple Leaf Trail:
 
Congratulation to our neighbor to the north…Baldwin City. A group of community leaders in Baldwin striving to develop the Maple Leaf Trail…a new trail to run congruent to the Midland Railroad. This week it was announced the city received a $1.012 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pump their efforts. When complete, the trail will connect our 2 communities…this is a great bit of economic development news. The entire project is a huge undertaking and they have a lot of community volunteers providing sweat equity in developing this bicycle and pedestrian pathway. This will be a great connection between Ottawa and Baldwin City…good job Baldwin!!  
 
Franklin County Jail:
 
Lt. Kiel Lasswell, Franklin County Jailer spoke to Ottawa Rotarians this week about our local jail and the life therein…something which doesn’t come front of mind usually – but aren’t we glad someone is doing the job. Kiel certainly isn’t new to Fr. Co….he has been with the sheriff’s department for a number of years. But he just started as jailer last October. He stressed to Rotarians it is not the jailer’s job to punish the incarcerated inmates but to make their lives as livable as possible during their confined punishment. If you have ever toured the jail “comfortable” is far from a word I would use to describe life inside. Small cells with multiple jail mates and a large dayroom…some prisoners with even more confinement depending on their crime or attitude/performance once inside. Kiel has many interesting stories about keeping order and maintaining discipline in the jail. Currently there are 70 imprisoned inmates with some local ne’er-do-wells actually farmed out to other communities…we all laughed that the community still refers to the building as the “new jail” – the facility is actually getting fairly antiquated. Many, many thanks to him and his staff for the work they do and the part they play in keeping our community safer!    
 
First Friday Forum:
 
Our monthly forum was all about the 2020 census which will begin in less than a month…April 1 is census day. Wendi Stark, the Census Outreach Manager for the League of Kansas Municipalities, was in Ottawa this morning speaking to FFF (pictures here). All are required to be counted…it is in our U.S. Constitution. What’s more is the importance of the count to our local community. Our population of Ottawa and Franklin County will be a determining factor of the amount of state and federal funds we receive for the next 10-years. Social programs, transportation grants and projects, education dollars, agriculture programs and much, much more will all be based on our decennial count…not to mention the size and shape of our congressional and state senate and representative districts (even locally our county commission districts). Here is another fact sheet for those who want more information. This will be the first time an electronic count (instead of paper) will take place. You should receive a postcard this month telling you how to go online and complete your responsibility of being counted…at some point there will be census takers going to all addresses which don’t self-respond to the online census. Best thing…just do it on April 1 so you don’t forget…then your responsibility is complete!
 
Birthdays and Babysitting:
 
We had a couple of grandkid birthdays this week. Cousins Max turned 5 and Lucy turned 3…both on March 3. Max had a robot piñata and a robot cake…Lucy is more into yellow rubber duckys.
 
Also last weekend Cherry and I traveled to Shawnee to watch the Brown girls Saturday evening (pictures here)…we had just purchased the new Frozen II which turned out to be very popular. They were mesmerized by the new show. If you’ve ever seen the first Frozen you know how those songs get stuck in your head…I’m here to tell you the 2nd one is just the same. But…the kids loved it and that’s what we were going for.
 
Have a great weekend…the weather will be beautiful!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000