Marci Penner

Year Inducted: 

In 2002 and 2003, she visited every incorporated town in Kansas, 627 of them, as research for "The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers", a popular 432 page tome for people who want to explore the mostly rural areas of Kansas. She again visited all of those towns in 2014 and 2015 for a second edition of the guidebook that will be published in 2016.

She started the Kansas Sample Festival that has been held annually since 1990, allowing over 150 communities to show what they have to offer.

Among many other things, she organized the We Kan! Conference which helps rural communities be the best they can be at being themselves.

Listed are below are a few of her many achievements:

o 2007 - Leader of the Year for Tourism Development Award from the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development

o 2005 - Distinguished Kansan of the Year from the Kansas Native Sons and Daughters

o 2005 - Momentous Achievement Award from Osborne County Tourism

o 2003 - Tourism Award of Merit for Individual Achievement from the KDOC State Travel and Tourism Division



Few have done as much for rural Kansas as Marci Penner. As one of her nominators wrote, "there are several small towns in Kansas that still have post offices and grocery stores because of Marci’s advocacy." Marci is the executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and has spent more than 20 years promoting Kansas, particularly rural Kansas. While recuperating from a serious injury, Marci rode around the state with her father. Those long car rides gave rise to a passion for exploring Kansas, which Marci channeled into the publication of several Kansas travel guides. To research her first travel guide, which is now heralded as the go-to Kansas guide for rural travel, Marci visited every incorporated town in Kansas. She will soon complete—if she hasn’t already—a second trip to all of Kansas’s incorporated towns and the publication of a second edition of her prized guidebook, "The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers."

Marci’s love for rural Kansas also led her to create programs to help highlight and sustain those communities. In 1990, Marci started the Kansas Sampler Festival, allowing over 150 communities to show what they have to offer. The three-day festival has moved every other year for the past two decades to towns across the state who compete to host it. Attendance in 2014 and 2015 averaged 12,000 people. She also organized the We Kan! Conference to bring rural communities together to discuss how best to promote themselves and to provide them with the tools to do so. Her influence and advocacy convinced at least one person to use his talents to help rural Kansas, Don Steeples, mayor of Palco, Kansas and professor emeritus of geology, told the Center that "Marci continues to be a source of ideas and inspiration to me as I search for ways to help keep a town of 270 people from becoming a ghost town."

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