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Welcome to My City:  Salina Boasts Small-Town, "Mayberryish" Charm

01/31/2014

Emily Schrader is a National Bank Examiner in the Salina satellite office. She has worked for the OCC for nearly 14 years.

Hello! I am NBE Emily Schrader, and I was born and raised in Salina, Kansas. I went away to college thinking I would never live here again. Eventually I found my way home, and I am glad I did. Normally, when I tell people where I am from, they respond, “I drove through there on my way to …” While there is plenty of agribusiness in the area, and we have certainly felt the effects of drought over the last few years, Salina is worth a stop. Here are a few of my favorite aspects of Salina.

Salina Park

Salina

What I love most about Salina is … the semi-small town atmosphere. I love that we are raising our daughter in a town that still has some small, “Mayberryish” charm, but we do not exactly know everyone (or their business). The community loves sports, both high school and college. Most residents would affiliate themselves as a Cougar or Mustang (high school teams) or a Jayhawk or a Wildcat (college teams), depending on their allegiance. Salina has just under 50,000 residents, and you would not believe the excitement in town when we found out we were getting an Olive Garden. People actually petitioned for it.

The best-kept secret in Salina is … our really long airport runway (12,300 feet). I have been told that it is actually long enough that it was once on the list of contingent landing sites for space shuttles (if, say, ten other landing sites were unavailable). Well, maybe it is not a secret if it was on NASA’s radar but since we are pretty much right in the middle of the country, large aircraft frequently use it as a refueling stop.

One of my coworkers here in Salina, NBE Mary Anna Wolf, says the best-kept secret is an annual blues concert that a local business, Blue Heaven Studios, hosts annually. The concert “Masters at the Crossroads” is an effort to “record the remaining blues legends in first-class fashion.” The studio’s Web site notes that its work has not gone unnoticed. The studio “has drawn national attention, including extensive coverage by NPR’s All Things Considered, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, and The Associated Press.” So again, maybe not the best kept secret, but close enough. Maybe Salina is not very good at secrets.

Whatever you do, be sure to … check out the zoo. The Rolling Hills Zoo and Museum is quite special, especially for a community as small as Salina. The late Charlie Walker, a prominent local businessman, formed a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species. The zoo is beautiful, well maintained, and the animals are very active.

My three favorite restaurants are … La Casita for great authentic Mexican food. You must ask for a side of the green chile sauce. They do not even give you a menu unless you ask because almost everyone is a regular and knows exactly what they want. If you have met me, you know that I have an opinion on Mexican food. Bogey’s is a hamburger place that started in a gas station. Bogey’s serves hamburgers, curly fries, nachos, and most impressively, over 100 flavors of milkshakes. I have only tried 10 or so because I am a creature of habit, but they were all awesome!!! Finally, Scheme Restaurant and Bar, which has amazing pizza. The joint has its quirks, like you really have to order ahead of time, you most likely need a reservation, they are only open three days a week, they don’t deliver, and please do not ask them to turn the music down. Despite all of that (or maybe because of all that), it is worth going every time. BEST PIZZA EVER. I know, that is quite a statement to those Chicago- or New York-style pizza lovers, but … maybe we should expand the debate to include Scheme-style!

And finally, I would add … we have absolutely one of the best art festivals. Once a year on the second weekend in June, Salinans and out-of-town guests gather in Oakdale Park for the Smoky Hill River Festival. The festival is nationally recognized but, best of all, it is like “old home” week. It is an opportunity to be outside with your beverage of choice and family and friends. The festival hosts four stages of musical entertainment, storytellers, roving artists, children’s games and crafts, and numerous artisans from around the country displaying their talents. It is truly a vibrant experience. For me, it is a family event, something I enjoy doing with my daughter, sisters, husband, nieces, and parents. Every year, I buy a little something from one of the artists. My purchases are truly some of my favorite decor in my home. In 2014, the festival will enjoy its 38th year, and it continues to go strong with a wide array of local corporate and community support.

Last Updated: 03/19/2014