Non-KC Area Kansans Perspectives (Wichita, Overland Park: crime, movies, school)
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As a native Overland Park-er I have always felt very little connection with other areas in the state of Kansas such as all the little towns out west as well as larger cities like Wichita and Topeka. Much of my family lives in Fort Collins, CO and to me the drive through Western Kansas would always start at Topeka, despite Topeka being geographically located in Eastern Kansas.
My question is just something I have been curious about for a while. What do Kansans from outside Johnson County and the KC area think about that region? If people from small towns were to go into the city would they travel to the KC area or Wichita? Does Johnson County have the same snooty reputation in Western Kansas as it does on the Missouri side of KC?
I just graduated college in Des Moines, IA and it seemed like Des Moines was much more connected to the small towns that made up the majority of the state than Overland Park/Olathe/Lenexa/Shawnee are. In my opinion Johnson County is not very well connected with either Kansas or Missouri, something completely different from Des Moines.
I'm probably not an objective KC "outsider". I grew up in Joco..lived 24 years (grew up) in Shawnee/Lenexa/Overland Park, three years in Emporia, and now 27 years in Manhattan. When I lived in joco I never thought anything existed west of Topeka. When I lived in Emporia we were more or less than halfway between Wichita and Kansas City, but would travel to KC more as we both had friends and family in KC, though I really liked Wichita. There were a couple of restaurants we liked to go to in Wichita, but KC (MO) had much more entertainment.
We have quite a few joco students at KSU and yes, joco is viewed as snobby at KSU. When I lived in Emporia I imagine I was perceived as snobby (I was a recent transplant) as I did have the joco attitude then. I've outgrown that. Now when we go back to KC (our kids have grown up and moved the the KCMO area) we're mostly on the MO side as our parents are no longer living.
I think people in KC make more of the joco snobbery than those outside the area. I don't think it's a focus of attention as I've found small town living in Kansas to be very similar to the Overland Park area...same restaurants, same stores (maybe smaller) and limited things to do (eating out/movies/shopping). There are a couple of areas in Manhattan that look as if they could be smack dab in the middle of JOCO. I don't see anything outstanding about Joco at all and IMO, think the hype is self perpetuating by those in Joco. They really aren't the center of the universe
I rather agree that JoCo is not very well connected with the rest of Kansas. (That's why it's so amusing to me when people make comments about Kansans when they really mean JoCo-ites. Not that generalizations do any good anyway But I digress ...)
I grew up in the Western part of the state, went to school in the central part and now live in JoCo. I have been to and know people from all over KS, from the smallest of towns to Wichita. So personally, I feel very connected to KS.
I think JoCo is somewhat removed because it's suburban and its way of life more corporate-driven while the rest of the state is mostly rural and agriculturally-driven. It makes for a very different economic and cultural environment that you see and feel in other parts of KS. (Not better or worse, just different.)
Even Wichita and Topeka tend to have a very rural feel to them IMO (with a few exceptions). The way of life outside of JoCo tends to be much more rural in nature. I think this is why there is a disconnect, but also because JoCo attracts people from outside of KS much more so than other areas, so there is more of a mix of folks. Topeka, Wichita and other KS cities or towns may attract some from outside of KS, but I think they are more heavily populated by those moving within the state.
I don't believe JoCo has the reputation for snottiness throughout KS that it gets around KC. I have been all over the state and I have never heard the kind of comments made about JoCo that I hear around here.
The impression that I get in the small towns of KS is that they honestly don't think about JoCo very much. Many people from Smalltown, KS think of Overland Park as "big city". That may sound silly to you or me, but it really does represent a very different pace and place; one that often feels much too crowded. And being way up in one corner, JoCo really is pretty far removed from most Kansans!
I don't claim to speak for the whole state, by any means. These are just my impressions and observations. There are many things I love about the small towns of KS and I enjoy visiting them and the people there. I will always be a Kansas girl at heart. There are also things that drive me nuts about rural KS and that's why I live in JoCo! I have the best of both worlds!
We have quite a few joco students at KSU and yes, joco is viewed as snobby at KSU.
Maybe things have changed since I was there. KU people were viewed as snobby, but I don't recall JoCo being much of a topic.
I've found small town living in Kansas to be very similar to the Overland Park area...same restaurants, same stores (maybe smaller) and limited things to do (eating out/movies/shopping). There are a couple of areas in Manhattan that look as if they could be smack dab in the middle of JOCO.
I'm sorry, but Manhattan doesn't qualify as "small town living in Kansas"
Depending on the area ok Kansas, some small towners will go to wichita. Mainly western Kansas goes to Wichita if they need a mall or other city stuff. I think most that are on the south eastern side of the state would go to KC or Tulsa before Wichita. I think people in Wichita feel like KC is a nice place to go for a weekend getaway for a little change of scenery. Wichita has most of what you need for day to day living but if someone wants to catch a chiefs game or the wife wants to shop at the plaza or legends, those things aren't found anywhere else to close. I've always thought KC is a much prettier area-hillier, greener, taller trees, just prettier. I'd live there.
Overland Park may not be a big “city” per say, but it’s certainly a big suburb and would only fit within the limits of a major metro area. I guess my point is that when driving down I-435, you could be in a major built up suburb of just about any major city in the country. So to people from rural areas or even other large metros, that area of KC is very much “big city” by suburban standards.
I did a lot of work in rural Kansas and visited many small towns in Kansas for my last job. On a trip to Great Bend, I remember overhearing (ok, eavesdropping) a conversation in a resturant about going to the “city” this weekend. I thought they were talking about Wichita, but they eventially said Salina and I actually over heard them mention that Wichita was way too big and crowded and had too much crime and traffic. I thought my god, these people must think KC is Chicago or something.
Same deal with the wife’s family in mid-Missouri. For many people the big bad city is Springfield while places like Jeff City are borderline too big.
Going into "the big city" meant going to the eastern burbs of KC. Independence Center was about as far into the city they would go.
I remember when I was little thinking K-State was the school for Western Kansas. Then I looked at a map and realized how far east it really is both geographically and culturally. Growing up in southeast Kansas if we went to a big city it was Wichita. Not for shopping or anything, but because we had family there. But we spent quite a bit of time in KC. You see, we were 2 hours from Wichita, KC, Table Rock, and Tulsa. So even though it was a small town, I always felt it was easy to find big city amenities while stil growing up in a small town. If we went for shopping, what couldn't be found at the JC Penney, sporting goods stores, or other smaller shops we went to Joplin. Kansas City was always the big city of KS but not something that we always thought about. I will say this, when I moved here for college it was quite different, but it wasn't like it was the Clampets moving to the city or something. I did think that JOCO was different to the rest of KS because instead of being a mix of poor, middle class and some upper middle class it was mainly upper middle class and above. Now having lived here I know that there is a mix of many income levels represented. Still, it is the only county in the state that is so one sided in income/white collar situations which of course makes sense because of it's role in KC. But I do laugh when I hear people talk about crime, or going to the "ghetto" school when they live in JOCO. I grew up in a town of 12,000 and it was way more "hood" than JOCO. That said, where I grew up wasn't hood at all. Anyway, in my career I work with a lot of youth, and when it comes down to it we're all Kansans. I was driving back from Colorado this past weekend and I immediately felt like I was "home" at about Salina, because that is about as far west as I have spent real extensive time in. I have the most connections personally to SEK, Wichita and central Kansas, and KC. But I still feel connected to all of Kansas.
My question is just something I have been curious about for a while. What do Kansans from outside Johnson County and the KC area think about that region?
Most Kansans think of Kansas City as the biggest city that is the most closely aligned with Kansas. When I say Kansas City, I mean the whole metro area. Some people in western Kansas are closer to Denver, but they still think of Kansas City as more like Kansas and Denver more like...California? So, most Kansans like Kansas City and feel close to Kansas City, no matter where in Kansas they live.
If people from small towns were to go into the city would they travel to the KC area or Wichita?
If they are from northeast, east-central, or southeast Kansas, they would probably go to Kansas City. If they are from north-central Kansas, they might go to Kansas City or they might go to Wichita, since the driving distance is about the same. If they are from central or south-central Kansas, they would probably go to Wichita. If they are from western Kansas, they would probably go to Wichita.
It's a little more complicated in the border areas. People in extreme southwest Kansas might go to Amarillo, Texas. People in far western Kansas might go to Pueblo, Colorado Springs, or Denver. People in the Coffeyville area might go to Tulsa. People in the Pittsburg/Baxter Springs area might go to Joplin or Springfield, Missouri.
Most people who would go to Wichita would not see Wichita and Kansas City on the same level. They would just go to Wichita because it's closer or more convenient. Going to Kansas City would be more of a destination trip.
Does Johnson County have the same snooty reputation in Western Kansas as it does on the Missouri side of KC?
Not really. Western Kansans don't really care about how Johnson County interacts with KCMO. That is more of an issue for Kansas City to deal with. I think that most western Kansans, or most Kansans in general, recognize that Kansas City is a diverse place with different types of people, so I don't think they would see your average Johnson Countian as particularly snooty anymore than they would see your average Kansas Citian as snooty.
The main thing that western Kansans think about Johnson County is that it is growing so much that it is starting to eclipse them. The political center of gravity in Kansas is moving eastward.
I just graduated college in Des Moines, IA and it seemed like Des Moines was much more connected to the small towns that made up the majority of the state than Overland Park/Olathe/Lenexa/Shawnee are.
That's a good observation. Des Moines is located very close to the center of Iowa, and it is Iowa's largest city and state capital. So it is easy for Iowans from all over Iowa to look to Des Moines as their main city. In Kansas, we don't have a main city right in the center that is both the state capital and largest city.
We have the state capital in a smaller city in the northeast part of the state, about an hour west of Kansas City. We have the state's largest city, Wichita, close to the center of the state, but still a little south and east of true center. Then we have Kansas City along the eastern border. Those are the three main metro areas in Kansas, and it's been like that for a long time. Even when Kansas City, Kansas was the main city on the Kansas side of the KC metro, it never had a very strong connection with the whole state of Kansas. It was more connected with KCMO. But we made it work. Kansas City, Kansas was the largest city in Kansas for many decades, until Wichita passed it sometime during WW2.
The closest thing we have to a Des Moines-type city is Wichita. But people in northeast Kansas tend to look down on Wichita, so it doesn't work the same way.
In my opinion Johnson County is not very well connected with either Kansas or Missouri, something completely different from Des Moines.
The geography is what it is. Johnson County is on the eastern border of Kansas, right next to Missouri. The rest of Kansas stretches out 400 miles to the west. I can definitely see how people who live in Johnson County, who do not have family or friends in other parts of Kansas, would feel disconnected from the rest of Kansas. It is a big state with a lot of open areas. Culturally, they don't share a lot of similarities with Johnson County. Unless you spend some time traveling around the state, studying maps, and reading the history of Kansas, you won't feel much of a connection to the rest of Kansas.
But if you call yourself a Kansan, we're glad to have you.
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