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A Visit to KTWU

June 23rd, 2009 at 11:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:



No, Dave Kendall doesn’t always wear the hat.

And as we stepped into his basement office, he smiled and said, “People think that I’m out traveling Kansas all the time, but I’m usually in here – without a window.”

So there ya go, that dispels two myths about Kendall.

Dave Kendall is the host and executive producer of “Sunflower Journeys,” a weekly series on KTWU, public television, which broadcasts from the Washburn campus in Topeka.

Yes, you know who I’m talking about – the bearded guy with the vest and felt hat. And he’s just as friendly in person as he seems on TV.


Kendall was raised on a Morris County farm and attended Herington High. He has a bachelor’s in cultural geography from K-State, and a master’s from the University of Kansas in media anthropology.

He’s been with KTWU since September, 1987, when he was hired to put together a brand new series called “Sunflower Journeys.” Twenty-two years later, the program is still going strong.

“Sunflower Journeys,” takes us on weekly field trips around the state. The show has covered topics such as the Stafford County Flour Mills, river basins, a cattle drive, native stone and native plants, and waterfowl at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In each “Plains People” segment, a person who is living a story tells it – in his or her own words. The story of Elvera Voth won a regional Emmy Award several years ago.

Kendall and the other producers at KTWU seem to have a divining rod-ability to find stories that many of us would not necessarily encounter on the surface of Kansas.

And they often slip into a story using a side door, a fresh angle. I’d be willing to bet that in 2011, during the state’s sesquicentennial, they’ll cover that topic from a variety of unexpected perspectives.

Producers plan the 13 shows of “Sunflower Journeys” a year in advance.

“We have 39 gaps to fill when we lay out a season,” Kendall said. “There are some blanks and we ask, ‘What goes with that? Is there a theme here?’”

And now, KTWU plans to enhance its local TV line-up, adding a community affairs program called “I’ve Got Issues.”

Eugene Williams, KTWU general manager, and Val VanDerSluis, program director, are hosting the new show. Topics will come from the station’s viewing area, roughly the eastern quarter of the state.

As we speak, they are developing the show’s pilot which will then be “shopped around” to prospective underwriters. (P.S. If you or your business or foundation have an interest in supporting this new show, I’m sure Dave Kendall would be happy to visit with you.)

Now the only reason I even know about this new program is because Kendall invited me to the KTWU studio to record a one-minute piece about small towns for the pilot. (And let me just say that their new high-definition cameras are great – unless you’re standing in front of one.)


Me, in the monitor below the camera/teleprompter.

The pilot includes a segment with Marci Penner and WenDee LaPlant, of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, discussing challenges that face rural communities. There will be a story about a sprucing-up project at the Whiting Café. Also on tap: a segment on healthy eating, a financial planner offers suggestions on how to retire in a bad economy, and they’ll have a conversation with Sen. Pat Roberts.

“I’ve Got Issues” will reach out from the studio using computer applications such as Skype, so some segments may originate from a subject’s home or office. The station will encourage viewers to interact by phone, mail, e-mail, and even YouTube.

KTWU plans to launch the series in the summer of 2010.

However, the pilot for “I’ve Got Issues” will air next month – Thursday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 11.

Meanwhile, as always, you can catch “Sunflower Journeys” at 7 p.m. on Thursdays – because each and every week fascinating Kansas stories are brought to you by the letters K, T, W and U.

Copyright 2009 ~ Cheryl Unruh


columns, Kansans, on TV

  1. heineken160
    June 23rd, 2009 at 11:45 | #1

    I’m glad you you are part of the pilot program, Cheryl. It may lead to more gigs on air. You are a great commentator on all things Kansas. It was good to profile Dave and SJ.

  2. June 23rd, 2009 at 11:49 | #2

    Thanks, Rog. I’m sure not a natural TV star, but …they were kind to me anyway. 🙂 It was a fun thing to do and they’re great people up there.

  3. elebrown
    June 23rd, 2009 at 15:03 | #3

    I didn’t know that he was from Herington–well, Morris County, but graduated from H.H.S.!

  4. June 23rd, 2009 at 15:05 | #4

    I’m so glad you showed a picture of him at the bottom wearing the hat and vest. You said “felt hat”, and my mind couldn’t grab the right picture. I just knew it wasn’t the little red elf hat I was imagining. I did a little V-8 slap when I saw it. Doh! I don’t know what is wrong with my brain sometimes.

  5. elebrown
    June 23rd, 2009 at 23:20 | #5

    that’s funny, Jenni! I love it!

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