By JAMES BELL
As the Ellis County Historical Society continues to reinvigorate facilities and programming, the organization is expected to host a 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, with pageants, presentations and more.
âWe have (a lot) planned out there at the historical society,â said curator Adam Conkey. “We are opening our stone church. We are going to open all of our outbuildings.”
But more than just an opportunity to explore the buildings on the company’s grounds, he said attendees would also experience the history firsthand with shootout reenactments and historical presentations.
âWe will have shootings every two hours, 10 am, noon, two hours and four hours to wrap up,â Conkey said.
Throughout the day, various speakers will discuss local history.
“We are going to have speakers on historical events including the history of Kansas, the Indian wars and the forts of Kansas,” he said, including a performance by one of the most famous residents of the country. Ellis County, George Sternberg, and sessions on the Bissing family.
“And we will have German immigrants from Bucovina, we will have a discussion about it. Of course, we will also have questions and answers after all this.”
He said the flagship event would be James Drees speaking about Jim Curry and vigilante violence.
âSo if anyone wants to hear a true story about these shootings, they’re there to provide it,â Conkey said.
To conclude the evening, a celebration from 7:30 p.m. to midnight in the Hays Community Theater building, 121 E 8th.
âWe’re having a dance party, come in costume if you like, anytime,â Conkey said. âIt’s the Historical Society, so you’re from the 1980s if you wanted to. It’s more of a party. We’ll have a cake there, and we’re also having a raffle for our Henry repeating rifle there.
All of the day’s events are free and free to the public.
Although the activities are a celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary, Conkey said it would also help usher in a new era, as work is underway to strengthen the company’s ties with the community.
âWe just want to remind everyone that we exist,â Conkey said. âIt’s been a tough, tough few years. We haven’t opened our museum for three years now, I believe, other than special events, and we aim to move forward and try to get our museum back on track. . Track.
âThis 50th is our reboot, if you will, for the museum,â he said.
Most notably, the company has struggled to open up to the public as its main building, the Presbyterian Church at the corner of 7th and Main has been closed due to water damage and then COVID and will now require a major investment before it can be reopened to the public.
âItâs starting to fall into place. Itâs a process,â Conkey said. “We of course write a lot of grants to try to get things going again. And of course we need a lot of help from the community as well.”
He said that in the past few months many have left the community to help the company come together.
âEven in high schools, school-aged people are just as interested in this as the older people in the community,â Conkey said. “So it’s just more, more than I thought in the last few months.”
But he said more volunteers are welcome as the work and planning continues.
âWe want our main gallery to be located, at least replenished,â Conkey said. “It’s a tough process. We’ve got plaster crumbling to dust in there. So we’re trying to fix our walls, get our records in the basement and everything. It’ll just be a process, it’s okay. take time.”
He said that while work on the main building continues, the stone church will serve as the main exhibit.
âAs far as our grand design goes, there will always be this need for a building,â said Conkey. “We have this whole block on the north side of Seventh and Main. So we have a lot of room to grow. That’s another great feature. Once we get the funding to do it.”
âBut there are a lot of plans going on. They’ve had plans since the 1970s to move forward with a reconstruction of old Front Street, sort of like a Dodge City type deal. Our shooters are thrilled to be a part of that too. And it’s all really going to grow from here. “
In addition to revitalizing their facilities, he said future events will also help solidify the company as a valuable part of the community.
For more information or to volunteer for the company’s efforts, email [emailÂ protected] or call 785-628-2624.
âWe are happy to find places for everyone,â said Conkey.