BY DENISE NEIL
The Wichita Eagle
Kansas turned 150 years old in style on Saturday, celebrating with parties all over the prairie. From Wichita to El Dorado to Topeka, residents of the Sunflower State honored its sesquicentennial with giant cakes, re-enactments — even a basketball game between the state's two biggest college rivals.
Kansas entered the union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861, and 150 years later, proud residents and history buffs from border to border are planning a year's worth of activities to commemorate the anniversary.
But Saturday was the birthday, and there was cake to spare.
In Wichita, people paused from exploring Exploration Place's new shark exhibit to sing to the state and share in a Kansas-shaped cake.
In Ottawa, residents competed in a Kansas trivia contest and had cake. In Kinsley, locals expressed their feelings about Kansas in poetry and had cake.
And in Lansing, revelers competed in a Kansas cake-decorating contest.
There was also cake in El Dorado, where the staff of the Butler County History Center and Kansas Oil Museum drew several hundred revelers for a full slate of Kansas Day activities.
Grownups played "guess that Kansan," seeing if they could identify pictures of famous Kansans such as Gordon Parks, Amelia Earhart, Carry Nation and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Children played "pin the tail on the bison," made meadowlark-friendly bird feeders using pinecones and peanut butter, and colored pictures of cottonwood trees.
The highlight was a birthday serenade to Kansas and the cutting of a giant cake adorned with frosting sunflowers and the image of an ornate box turtle. Blue and yellow punch was served, too.
The museum has thrown a Kansas Day party annually for the past six years, said assistant director Lisa Soller, and the crowds are always big.
The sesquicentennial upped the interest even more, she said.
"Anytime there's a milestone, it's exciting," she said. "And this day should be exciting for the state of Kansas."