Lynette Steele-Coon, a junior at Valley Heights High School in 1971, was given the task of finding entertainment for the school’s prom. She hired the band Kansas to perform for the dance.

“We hired them before they were popular,” Steele-Coon said. “Our theme was ‘Suspended Animation’ and the gym was decorated all in black with black light posters and glow-in-the-dark decorations.”

Recently, Ken and Zita Duensing, Blue Rapids, Kan., came up with the idea to have Kansas come back to perform in Marshall County.

The rock band, with hits such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In the Wind,” will headline KANSAS Rocks the Oregon Trail Saturday, September 22, at Alcove Spring Historic Park, Blue Rapids.

The concert is sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative.

“We wanted to do something for the Marshall County Arts Cooperative, Alcove Spring, and Marshall County,” Ken said. “Zita and I put our heads together and decided we wanted to do something we’re interested in, too. That led us to suggest bringing in the band Kansas.”

The Duensings approached the leaders of the arts cooperative to pitch their idea; the cooperative agreed to add the concert to its 2018 season of artists.

“Not only did Ken and Zita approach us with a great idea, they also agreed to help us raise the funds for the concert,” said Sally Oliver, a board member for the arts cooperative. “Since we bring in artists every year and since we presented Orchestra on the Oregon Trail at Alcove Spring we felt confident we could effectively add Kansas to our season.”

The arts cooperative has a history of bringing professional artists to Marshall County dating back to 2006. The group has presented Grammy Award-winning groups like Turtle Island Quartet, The King’s Singers, and Canadian Brass. Often public performances are free or offered at affordable rates. “We try to remove as many barriers as possible so everyone has access to the arts,” Oliver said. “We are working hard to make this concert affordable, too.”

Three tiers of tickets are available for the September concert. The tickets with seats closest to the stage, referred to as the Pit-Experience, are $85. Tickets in the center of the natural amphitheater, referred to as Mid-Park, are $65. General admission tickets are $50.

Tickets go on sale soon May 4 and may be purchased at mcactickets.com or at the Chamber of Commerce office, Marysville.

In addition to being pleased with the three tiers of ticket prices, the Duensings are excited about presenting Kansas in the natural beauty of Alcove Spring Historic Park.

“The location is perfect,” Ken said. “It’s a beautiful location featuring 250 acres of pristine ground that’s never been broken.”

Alcove Spring Historic Park, located six miles north of Blue Rapids and six miles south of Marysville, was a stopping point along the Oregon Trail and still bears the wheel swales from hundreds of wagons that crossed the prairie in the 19th century. It is one of the Marshall County sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Duensings’ involvement with the park started in 1999 when their son, Chris, built a bridge at the park for his Eagle Scout project.

“We had three generations of Duensings out there building that bridge,” Ken said. “My dad came out to help and we all worked on it together.”

Kansas will perform in front of a natural bluff at the park. Although the park is able to accommodate thousands of visitors, ticket sales are limited to 3,000.

“What excites me most is that we’re having a small number attend the concert in a beautiful setting with the natural background,” Ken said.

People should visit the group’s website for updates on ticket sales, mcactickets.com, or they may call 785-619-6050.

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.