CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kans. — Since 2018 the Kansas Sampler Foundation has been highlighting what makes rural Kansas unique.

It’s called the Big Kansas Road Trip, and this year it’s making its way to Southeast Kansas.

“The Big Kansas Road Trip sort of acts like a magnet to get people to a designated area each year,” said Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation Director.

And this year the Big Kansas Road Trip will be bringing people into Southeast Kansas — highlighting the events, food and attractions in Cherokee, Crawford, and Bourbon Counties.

“It’s like a tri-county open house, adventure a la carte, so people are coming in from all over to choose where they want to go, when they want to go,” said Penner. “They come, they spend money, they get to know Kansas better, and that’s always good for the amount of pride and help economically.”

Sometimes the road trip acts as a resource many cities in Kansas don’t have access to.

“Of the 627 incorporated cities in Kansas, 90% have less than a 5,000 population, and those towns don’t always have marketing departments and they just need help telling the public that there’s lots to see in all these places that maybe you’ve never heard of,” Penner added.

This is allowing tourism in Southeast Kansas to take advantage of a new wave cliental as people continue return to the road.

“We’re seeing an increase in leisure tourism once again coming out of the pandemic. It looks like the numbers at the local museums are starting to increase, especially like Big Brutus, they’re starting to see their numbers climb as well,” Chris Wilson, Explore Crawford County Communications Manager. “We’re really trying to go after that leisure travel, somebody who’s in the big city who wants to go to a small town that has some of those big city things, but it’s a lot quieter, it’s a little slower.”