Letter to the Editor

'Cookietown' entertainment center for Golden Plains

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Something is happening in McCook. Something very special.

I'd like you to think about what I have to say and see if you agree.

OK, here's my point. I believe over the years -- especially in the dozen years since the turn of the century -- McCook has become the live entertainment center for a wide area that includes Southwest Nebraska, Northwest Kansas and even parts of Northeast Colorado.

It's the area we call the Golden Plains of America.

McCook's live entertainment reputation has existed for years, going back to the early days when McCook was called "The Magical City of the West." At the time -- stretching from McCook's founding in 1882 until the 1920s -- McCook hosted horse races, huge reunions of the Grand Army of the Republic and political speeches which attracted in excess of 10,000 people.

I believe, from a live entertainment standpoint, the past dozen years have been just as important. Look around and you will see what I mean.

Let's start with the Kiplinger Arena at the Red Willow Fairgrounds.

What a wonderful facility that is. Thanks to Tom Kiplinger and the Red Willow County Fair Board, this special county and this special town have one of the top indoor arenas in the mid-section of America.

Just watch what goes on there. Not only every week, but several times every week, there's something going on at the Kiplinger Arena. And it's not just little stuff. There are some mighty big events at the Kiplinger, such as horse shows with hundreds of participants from several states and the annual McCook Farm & Ranch Show, which draws hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors.

But, as big as it is, the Kiplinger Arena is just part of the explosion of events in Cookietown. Look what's happening at the historic Fox Theatre, where Charlie Coleman and the hard-working Operations & Events Committee have booked an outstanding array of events, including the premiere of Jim Harris' wonderful "Civil War Voices" and a special performance of "Church Basement Ladies."

There's more evidence, much more, of McCook's emergence as the live entertainment center of the Golden Plains. Think about it. There are "Hot Summer Nights;" "Live at the Bieroc" shows; Heritage Days festivities; the red hot Red Willow County Fair; Krazy Days and Krazy Nights; the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival; the John Mullen Pro-Am Golf Tournament; the McCook Home and Leisure Show and countless car shows, sporting events, auctions, conventions and reunions.

I could go on and on. But before I lose your attention, I want to get to the point I've been building up to from the start.

This past Sunday afternoon, my wife Barbara and I joined several hundred friends and neighbors for the first matinee performance of "Big River" at the McCook High School Auditorium.

It was a wonderful show and I was very, very proud of the talent exhibited by my boss, Charlie Coleman, and the other members of the "Big River" cast. I've told Charlie, who blushes when I say it, that he is Broadway good, with his dialogue and songs as Jim, the runaway slave, rivaling that of performers in the playhouses of New York City and the casinos in Las Vegas.

But it's not only Charlie who stands out in the play. The Southwest Nebraska Community Theater Association gets better ever time they put on a show.

And, my friends, you're in luck. "Big River" is going to be presented three more times: Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m. The musical is being presented at the McCook High School Auditorium and the cost is only ten bucks per person.

I'd like you to go and I'd like you to invite your friends and family to join you. And, if you do, I think you will agree with me: McCook is not only the live entertainment center of the Golden Plains of America, it is blessed to have some of the most talented people that you can find anywhere.

Be happy, don't worry: We live in Cookietown ... the live entertainment center of the Golden Plains of America.

-- Gene O. Morris is executive director of the Fox Theatre and former publisher of the McCook Daily Gazette.

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