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Archive for Saturday, January 22, 2011

Boston journalist raves about traveling to Wichita

January 22, 2011

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Geoff Edgers returned to Boston after four days in Wichita last fall, stuffed full of chicken-fried steak and biscuits and gravy.

But Edgers, a filmmaker and journalist at the Boston Globe, also returned home unexpectedly charmed by a city full of nice people, funky antique malls, public art and all-night taquerias.

The visit moved Edgers to write a glowing travel piece in the Globe that has sparked a mutual love fest between him and Wichita.

And now, he's coming back to "Do It Again."

Tallgrass Film Festival directors are teaming up with the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Go Wichita and Clear Channel Radio to bring Edgers back to Wichita for another screening of his film "Do It Again" in February, and they've offered to help him raise money to get the movie on television.

"I've written travel stories before, but the response I got was so incredibly strong from folks in Kansas," Edgers said during a phone interview from Boston. "I was shocked."

Edgers and his family came to Wichita in late October for the Tallgrass Film Festival, where he was screening his independent film about his quest to reunite feuding members of 1960s British Invasion group the Kinks, known for hits such as "Lola" and "You Really Got Me."

Festival directors put up Edgers, his wife and two small children at the Hotel at Old Town and gave them a few suggestions: Eat at Old Mill Tasty Shop, check out Exploration Place.

The family enthusiastically took both pieces of advice and discovered even more of Wichita on its own.

Edgers' story, which was published in the Globe on a Sunday — its highest circulation day — featured a photo of his young daughter Lila draped over the bronze horse sculpture outside of the Bank of America building.

In the piece, Edgers praised the sculptures, marveled at the desertedness of downtown streets on Saturday morning, raved about the hipness of Old Town and called Wichita "on-the-cusp America, a place where old ways and new styles are beginning to blend..."

He mentioned by name Mead's Corner, A Legacy antique mall, Old Cowtown Museum, Gallery XII, Uptown Bistro, Rene's Mexican restaurant and Old Mill Tasty Shop, where owner Mary Wright gave Edgers a black Old Mill T-shirt that became his standard uniform during his visit. (She also gave him a heaping second serving of biscuits and gravy one morning, and Edgers thought it would be rude not to eat it.) The day Edgers' piece was published, Wichita's social media was buzzing, said Ann Keefer, vice president of marketing for Wichita Downtown Development Corp. She got in touch with Tallgrass executive director Lela Meadow-Conner, trying to plot a way to get Wichita's newest champion back to town.

"When an article like that is published on a national level, it does a lot for a city's image across the country," Keefer said. "Go Wichita feels very confident that they're already hearing inquiries as a direct result of that article."

Another screening of Edgers' movie was scheduled, and the Wichita groups offered to raise money to help Edgers' get his film shortened and syndicated for public broadcasting, a process that will cost between $8,000 and $10,000. Edgers has raised about half of that already.

Meanwhile, Edgers was back in Boston fielding e-mails from Wichitans thanking him for his kind words.

If he raises $2,500 while in Wichita, Edgers intends to include a "thank-you" to Wichita in the credits of his syndicated film.

He's looking forward to a return visit, he said where he'll eat more biscuits and gravy and return to Mead's Corner so he can personally thank Jeremy Hanna, an assistant manager who embodied the Wichita spirit for Edgers.

While at A Legacy antique store, Edgers found a vintage record with artwork by famous illustrator R. Crumb, which he considered a steal at $35.

But he accidentally left it at Mead's Corner while sipping lattes one afternoon.

A few weeks later, he e-mailed the coffee shop on the off-chance that they still had his treasure.

They did, Hanna told him, and he offered to mail it to Boston. No need for reimbursement.

That would never happen in Boston, Edgers said.

Hanna, who struck up an e-mail friendship with Edgers in the following weeks, said his own big-city friends are often impressed by what they find when they visit Wichita: An uncrowded city with friendly people and art and culture to spare.

"Hey, Wichita is a good place, and people here are nice," Hanna said. "That's just how we do things."

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