The theme of this year’s Jasper County Fair “Country Pride, County Wide,” resonated with me for a number of reasons.
And no, it’s not because I see myself as country, it’s just because of what the theme represents. To me, this theme represents being proud of your roots and having unity amongst the citizens of Jasper County. During fair time, it doesn’t matter if you were/are a Cardinal, Tigerhawk, Hawk, Raider or Mustang — what matters is that you are part of this collective of people that encompass the 733 square miles that make up Jasper County.
The reason this resonated with me so much was because of a growing trend back in my hometown Kansas City, Kan. called “I’m so Wyandotte County.” When people ask me where I’m from, I always let them know that I’m from Kansas City, Kan. and not Kansas City, Mo.
Despite the close proximity, the two towns hate each other, heck, even our states hate each other. Although we are only separated by the Missouri River, you’ll find that these two cities are vastly different. While it may seem silly to outsiders, it’s a very serious issue back home.
So, when the “I’m so Wyandotte County” movement started trending on my social media accounts, my chest swelled with pride. I was reliving memories of home just by reading people’s words and it seemed that my old county was coming together — just like my new county comes together during fair time.
While the movement is still going strong, all good things are replicated and pretty soon “I’m so Kansas City” posts started clouding the beautiful choruses of Wyandotte County Pride I was enjoying.
This irritated me to no end. For once, KCK had something great going without people associating us with KCMO, (sidenote: Kansas is so great the second biggest city in Missouri begins with “Kansas”), and Missourians hopped on the bandwagon unable to stand KCK having any sort of positive momentum.
A lot of those Missourians also happen to be my relatives. You see, I was born in KCK and spent the first eight years of my life in KCMO — that’s where a majority of my family lives — before my mother finally returned me to my native land.
My relatives debated with me that I shouldn’t be siding with Kansas, but that I should be claiming Missouri since that’s where “I’m from.”
Let me be clear, I’m a Kansan through and through.
I graduated from Washington High School in KCK. My formative years were spent ripping and running through the streets of KCK with my friends — who I’m still friends with until this day. I learned how to drive in the parking lots of WHS, Wyandotte High School and Eisenhower Middle School — not at Swope Park in KCMO like most of my family.
I watched the economic demise of Indian Springs Mall and the surrounding development and the resurgence of KCK via the Kansas Speedway and Legends Entertainment area. I played basketball at Lil’ Stevie’s house (anyone who’s ever played pickup in KCK has played there), drank James Lemonade like it was going out of style, gobbled slices of pizza from Italian Delight and always go to Gate’s BBQ KCK location for its exclusive wing packs.
When ever I go back home for a visit, I don’t feel like I’m at home until I’m on Interstate 635 southbound and I drive past the Leavenworth Road, Parallel Parkway and State Avenue — the three most important streets in KCK — exits.
To me, the few years I spent in KCMO are valuable — I made my first friends, collected POGs, discovered “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” — but those can’t amount to what KCK has meant for me.
My first kiss and my first rejection from a girl took place in KCK. I discovered journalism at WHS, dislocated my thumb at wrestling practice thanks to a slam from Big Shane at EMS, and just about every significant thing that’s happened to me since I was 8 has taken place in Kansas or while I’ve lived there.
The way I get passionate about KCK is also how I feel about Newton and Jasper County. Having county pride on a wide scale was such a perfect theme for this year’s fair and it can mean a multitude of things to people. As I said, for me, it brings about unity and makes me think of how much I love my new home and my old one.
And as far as my family back in KCMO goes, sorry, I’m just so Wyandotte County.
Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 6532, or at email@example.com.