Editor’s note: This is the second article in a commentary column by staff writer Julie Fiedler called, Beyond the Gates. In Beyond the Gates, Julie helps Soldiers, Family members, civilians and retirees discover Kansas by highlighting local destinations, fun and easy day trips, as well as quirky Kansas attractions.
One of the aspects of military life I enjoy is exploring new places. While out and about, I am always on the lookout for interesting billboards. Sometimes an intriguing exit sign is all it takes to launch me on a new adventure. Take, for instance, Paxico.
After driving along Interstate 70 a few times, I found myself drawn in by this unusual name.
Paxico, a quaint town about 30 minutes east of Fort Riley, makes for a nice half-day trip beyond the gates.
Paxico is a mecca for antiques shoppers. The town’s two main streets, Main and Newbury, are littered with charming storefronts full of vintage treasures. Walking through the streets is like stepping back in time.
The oldest standing shop, Mill Creek Antiques, started Paxico’s antiquing craze about 40 years ago when it opened, according to local resident Susan Harris. Today, the shop boasts architectural antiques, quilts, baskets, license plates, furniture and other items.
Mill Creek Antiques also has a unique side-business restoring antique wood-burning stoves. The stoves are works of art – majestic masterpieces from days gone by.
For more information, visit http://www.millcreekantiques.com/.
Aunt Peg’s Antique Mall, which offers vintage items from different collectors, and European Antiques and Upholstery, are two other notable stores.
The Prairie Ghost Gallery features a vast collection of Native American and wildlife artwork collected over the years by gallery owner Dick McCabe, a retired wildlife biologist.
“He had a personal relationship with these artists and collected some amazing pieces,” said Harris, who works part-time at the gallery.
Harris showed me around the gallery, pointing out unusual works of art that use different techniques, like scratchboard, tar painting, ledger art and wolf hair ceramics. Curious art lovers need only ask at the desk, and passionate clerks will undoubtedly provide a mini-tour.
For more information, visit http://www.prairieghostgallery.com/.
Housed in a tiny building is Wano World, a two-room toy and military museum, displaying artifacts collected by owner Wayne “Wano” Ervin. In addition to vintage matchbox cars, Soapy bubble bath containers and Barbie dolls, the museum also has a dinosaur display, a camera collection and a separate room featuring military displays.
The museum is quirky and intriguing, but be aware that you’ll get a dose of Wano’s world view along with his collectibles. For example, his G.I.
Joe doll collection also includes bad guys.
“When I started collecting, I decided to get both sides,” Ervin said. “It does leave a bad taste in some people’s mouth, as it should.”
Ervin’s wife wanted to include a counter-culture display alongside the military displays, so a hippie scene also is featured.
The museum is open on weekends and offers free admission to military personnel, veterans and Family members.
For more information, visit http://www.wanoworld.com/.
Just up the road from Paxico is Newbury Township. A five-minute round trip will take you along a dirt road, which is home to several picturesque chapels and churches, including stunning Sacred Heart Church, which can be seen for miles.
There is no place to eat in Paxico, although locals assured me they are working on it. However, local stores offer tastings that might tempt you to bring a little something home.
Wyldewood Cellars, a retail outlet of the winery located in Mulvane, Kan., offers free tastings of their wines, which include elderberry blends, fudge and jellies.
“Elderberry is our signature product,” said Tammy Matthews, senior sales person. “We even have elderberry fudge.”
Wyldewood Cellars offers military discounts and is open daily. For more information, visit http://www.wyldewoodcellars.com/.
As you head back to Fort Riley along I-70, you might notice a large red building with a bright yellow banner on the northern side of the interstate. That is Grandma Hoerner’s, a store and factory featuring natural and organic foods.
A viewing area adjacent to the store showcases part of the production line, so visitors can watch workers canning jellies and sauces. Free factory tours also are available, but you must call ahead to schedule.
Samples of salsa, chunky apple sauce, barbecue sauce, jams, jellies, honey, butter and more are available for peckish visitors. The new French toast apple sauce flavor was a marvel.
The store also offers a military discount. For more information, visit grandmahoerners.com.
Traveling in Kansas can be like hunting through an antiques shop. The search is entertaining, but coming across a hidden gem makes the hunt all the more worthwhile. Paxico is just such a gem of the Flint Hills. A tiny town with a lot of charm, its size and proximity to Fort Riley makes it worth a quick trip to walk the main strip and enjoy the shops and sights.
For more information on Paxico, visit http://www.paxicomerchants.com/.
By Julie Fiedler
1st Inf. Div. Post
Charming storefronts line Newbury Avenue in Paxico, Kan., which is home to several antique shops.
Julie Fiedler | POST
Antiques for sale are displayed outside along Newbury Avenue in Paxico, Kan. Paxico boasts several antique stores.
Julie Fiedler | POST
A dinosaur greets visitors with a toothy grin at Wano World, a combination toy and military museum, in Paxico, Kan.
Julie Fiedler | POST