Kansas Explorers Next Cook Series Presenters


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Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe will present “The Nooks and Crannies of Kansas” as the next event of Cloud County Community College’s Cook Series on Thursday, Feb. 8. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. at the Brown Grand Theatre in downtown Concordia. Penner and Rowe’s presentation will follow the presentation of the 2017 Cook Legacy Award for the Arts to Susie Haver.

Penner is the executive director of the Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation, and an author, speaker, promoter, and supporter of rural Kansas. She and her father founded the Foundation in 1993 after traveling the state to write three guidebooks. The mission of the Foundation is to preserve and sustain rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas, and networking and supporting rural communities.

In 2012, Penner and assistant director and co-author Rowe embarked on a four-year journey to visit all 626 incorporated cities in Kansas. The result of that journey is their new “Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers.”

“We will take the audience on a picture journey throughout the state, sharing road trip ideas and telling stories about our adventures,” Penner said. “From restaurant suggestions to art, architecture, history, geography, and more, we’ll give you a sampling of what to see in Kansas and share tips on how to explore.”

After the program, the authors will sell and sign copies of their book. The 480-page book is full of information that can be used to plan Kansas road trips. Along with 4,500 entries that provide descriptions, directions, hours, and contact information, there are more than 1,600 color photos.

Among the entries, guidebook users will find historic bridges, statues, specialty shops, quirky sites, little known points-of-interest, cemeteries, bike trails, and scenic back road drives statewide.

“There really is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for outdoor sites or ways to get to know a town,” Penner said. “Many people will be interested in the 843 restaurants, cafés, drive-ins, and soda fountains.”

Penner said the book reads like a travel guide, but is also intended to help people get to know the state and learn about towns of every size.

Penner was named Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 2005, and has received other state and national awards for her work with rural communities. More information on Penner and Rowe and their journeys across the state can be found at

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the Charles and Marian Cook Series at Cloud County Community College. The Cooks were travelers who wanted to bring the world to those who could not travel themselves. More than 70 events have been presented through the sponsorship of the Cook Foundation and the Division of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business at CCCC. It was always Marian Cook’s wish that all Cook Series events be free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Brenton Phillips, Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business at CCCC.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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