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


Market 2



At 4:00 a.m. the sky is full of stars. I assumed that, of course, but now I know for sure.

A few minutes later, looking at Facebook, I noticed that Casey Woods had posted a photograph from downtown Emporia showing the clock at Bank of America: 3:37 a.m. Casey was at already work, preparing for the Great American Market to which Dave and I were headed on that morning of Sept. 14.

In the dark, we loaded both of our vehicles then drove downtown to set up our booth. From our tent-covered spot in the 400 block of Commercial, Dave sold his photographs of gorgeous Kansas landscapes, hard-working cowboys, wooden barns and luminous clouds.

We also sold my “Flyover People” books, and copies of my brother’s new novel. My bro, Leon Unruh, just released a thriller about a Russian assassin on assignment in Kansas, “Dog of the Afterworld.”

After the previous weekend’s blazing temperatures, 52 degrees at 7:00 on this particular morning was a pleasant change, but I had to return to my car for a sweatshirt. Or two.

Once the sun topped the Lyon County Courthouse, the air warmed a bit. The wind got a little restless though, and occasionally we’d hear a tumble of Tupperware from the booth next door.

I’ve been to most, if not all, of the previous Great American Markets, but this was the first time I’ve set up a booth. Dave and I had a good day visiting with friends and strangers who stopped by, and with the other vendors.

The couple in a neighboring booth came from the Kansas City area, stayed overnight in a motel here, and ate lunch at Amanda’s Bakery. Many vendors spent the night in Emporia, so the Market is a nice financial boost to our community.

Dave and I took turns leaving the booth for a few minutes at a time to get food and to walk up and down the street. I found an eclectic mix of items for sale – frying pans, Scrabble letters loose in a large bowl, a cassette tape of “Liberace – 40th Anniversary Collection,” and . . . alligator heads.

Kettle Corn provided a sweet street-fair fragrance. People stood in line for tacos and buffalo burgers as well as for deep-fried Twinkies.

In the afternoon, I saw Casey Woods walking by. He is the executive director of Emporia Main Street and I caught up with him to ask a few questions about this event.

Casey has been the executive director of Emporia Main Street for five years now, he said. Before that he volunteered for the organization for a decade.

He told me that this year’s Market had 197 vendors, which made it the biggest one yet, both in booth count and in geographic area covered. He was pleased with the turnout of vendors and shoppers.

“This is a gorgeous day,” Casey smiled. “Weather is a bit of luck in any outdoor event.”

“I love the Emporia Main Street events,” he said. “You see everyone, young and old, you see people from here, and people who used to live here that came back. This event has a broad-based attendance.”

“Some people who have been vendors go on to open storefronts,” Casey said, citing Studio 11.  “Whatta Waist started here, then they went to a storefront and became Studio 11, and then they went to a larger storefront,” he said.

“And for some downtown businesses,” Casey said, “it’s their biggest day of the year.”

I’ve lived here for 30-some years now, and recently I’ve heard myself telling others that Emporia is getting better and better, that I can feel a surge of positive activity in town, especially downtown.

As I see it, Casey Woods is one of those folks who have contributed a great deal to those new and improved vibes in Emporia. Heck, just while walking down Commercial Street with Casey, I felt the positive energy coming from him – it came through in his word choice and in his enthusiasm for this town and its residents.

What he works at, he said, is to “invest in people, especially those who are looking to do great things. You find out what those people need and you support them to get the best outcome for them and for the community.”

Supporting others. Working together. It’s working.

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh

Market 1



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