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Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Kansas towns looking forward to pheasant season

November 11, 2010

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— Mona Hoisington recalls a parade being conducted here decades ago, but not many events have much staying power in Paradise.

One gathering that folks can count on is the Paradise United Methodist Women Bazaar & Turkey Dinner.

"It's the only big deal we ever have," she said.

Started in 1950 to raise money for a new Methodist church, the bazaar and dinner is the church's only fundraiser.

Part of what makes it successful — the 60th anniversary is Saturday — is the added attraction of pheasant and quail hunting season.

"It's almost like an annual reunion, but we do get a lot of hunters," Hoisington said. "A lot of them actually go out of their way to come here and eat."

Pheasant season, which attracts thousands of people to Kansas every year and prompts special dinners and events throughout the state, opens 30 minutes before daylight Saturday. It continues daily until sunset through Jan. 31.

After tromping through fields, pursuing the colorful and elusive birds in northern Russell County, hunters flock to the Paradise School gymnasium for some social time and nourishment. Before returning to stalking prey, the hunters, friends, family and others from several states can shop tables loaded with baked goods and crafts that members work year-round to create.

Several years ago, the Methodist Church moved the event to the gym to allow for enough seating. Up to 400 people attend the bazaar and dinner every year. Average attendance is more like 330 to 340, Hoisington said. The permanent Paradise population is 42.

Handling the bazaar and dinner's local coordination and preparation are roughly a dozen church members.

"It's a long week. I've already started my baking," Hoisington said Monday morning.

Mona bakes a turkey and two pies for the dinner, along with baked goods and crafts for the bazaar. Plus, she helps other church members run the event.

"No one is expendable. You pretty much base your autumn life around this day," Hoisington said.

Loyal reinforcements, past church members from the across Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Florida and other locations, come back every year to keep the tradition afloat.

"We have at least that many helpers from far and wide," Hoisington said.

Mona and Dan Hoisington — co-owners of Post Insurance, Paradise — are entertaining hunters from Kansas City, Georgia and Texas this year.

Their son and daughter-in-law, Matt and Mary Hoisington, are coming from Great Bend, with their daughter, Marissa, 15, who has helped at the bazaar since she was 7.

Josh, 8, will go hunting with his father.

Matt and Mary have a "weekend house" in Paradise, Mona said. So does their nephew, V.R. Hoisington, of Austin, Texas. Others with ties to the town maintain second homes in Paradise, she said.

"It's a weekend retreat," Mona said. "The kids just love it here. They can ride their bikes in the street. It's just a whole different feeling."

Statewide, pheasant and quail numbers are good, said Mike Mitchener, of Pratt, wildlife section chief for the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, although northeast Kansas populations suffered from extreme snowstorms last winter.

The best prospects for quail are in central and south-central Kansas, he said, and southwest and northwest Kansas are showing the greatest pheasant numbers.

"West of Hays it's going to be pretty good, up to (U.S.) Highway 24," Mitchener said.

Hunting in Kansas offers a huge economic boost, Mitchener said, accounting for nearly $249 million in 2006. Hunters will spend on average $40 a day.

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