There’s lots to love about the Sunflower State, but we’d be willing to bet there are lots of things that the average person doesn’t know about the beautiful state of Kansas. Here are nine things you probably didn’t know about the state of Kansas.
1. It’s named after a Native American tribe
Most people know that Kansas was named after the Kansas River, but they may not know that the river and the state take their name from the Kanza Native American tribe. The Kanza, also known as the Kaw, are sometimes called ‘the people of the south wind.’ For many years, Kansas was actually home to many diverse Native American tribes, though today there are only four established Native American Reservations in the state.
2. Kansas is literally flatter than a pancake
The University of Utah measured the flatness of an actual pancake from the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) and compared it to the topographical profile of Kansas. Surprisingly, the state appeared to be flatter than the pancake during their comparisons. They may have only been proving what Kansans have been saying for years, but it was still a fun study.
3. Kansas has a lot of nicknames
Most states have a nickname or two, but Kansas has at least eleven widely recognized nicknames. Call it the Sunflower State, the Wheat State, Midway USA, the Central State, the Cyclone State, the Grasshopper State, Garden of the West, the Squatter State, Bleeding Kansas, the Battleground of Freedom, or the Jayhawk State, but don’t call Kansas boring. Each nickname relates to a unique characteristic of the state or event in its history. With so many monikers to choose from, Kansas shows that it’s more than just the place where Dorothy came from.
4. It has a LOT of tornadoes
Speaking of Dorothy, there’s a good reason why the Wizard of Oz used Kansas as Dorothy’s home state. The tornado that took her to Oz was probably one of nearly 100 that hit the state of Kansas every year. According to meteorologists, Kansas gets an average of 96 tornadoes each year. Of course, not all of them do a lot of damage. Some are minor, but there have been a few very strong tornadoes in Kansas in the past decade. Considering the fact that Kansas lies smack in the heart of ‘tornado alley,’ most of the states residents know what to expect during the peak tornado season and they prepare accordingly.
5. The geographic center of the United States is in Kansas
There’s a reason why Kansas is called Midway, USA. Just under 3 miles outside of Lebanon, Kansas, there’s a small sign and mile marker that proudly declares the spot’s claim to being the center of America. Of course, experts are quick to point out that this claim to fame may not always be accurate since changing shorelines can technically alter the size and shape of the US, but for now, Kansas is proud to have the distinct privilege of being the center of our country.
6. The first Pizza Hut was built here
The next time you have pizza from Pizza Hut, you can thank Kansas. In 1958, brothers Dan and Frank Carney wanted somewhere they could get good pizza near Wichita State University. They opened the first Pizza Hut in Wichita and had six more Pizza Huts open within a year. Eventually, the brothers’ pizza chain franchised and became one of the most famous pizza restaurants in the world with over 13,000 locations worldwide. Not bad for a couple of hungry college kids with a hankering for a slice of pizza!
7. It’s also the birthplace of Icee
If you need something cold and refreshing to wash down your Pizza Hut pizza, you might want to grab yourself an Icee, which, coincidentally was also created in Kansas. The same year that the Carney brothers were opening their first pizza restaurant, a Dairy Queen owner was creating a cold and refreshing ice beverage to serve to his customers. Omar Knedlik placed bottles of soda in his freezer to keep them extra cold, but discovered that the frozen beverage was just as tasty as its liquid counterpart. This serendipitous discovery was a hit with his customers, so he commissioned a machine to freeze and dispense the drinks. This gimmicky concept, combined with the refreshing drink itself, became a hit that is now sold all over America in restaurants and gas stations.
8. It’s the birthplace of the first modern fast food restaurant–White Castle
There’s just something about Kansas that inspires cooks to create new things. For example, the first noted hamburger chain restaurant ever to open in the US was the White Castle. The first White Castle opened in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. The small, slider versions of the traditional hamburger became a big hit with the locals and the chain expanded, eventually expanding across the United States. Its first restaurants were designed to look like actual white castles, a gimmick that has lasted since the first restaurant opened. You can still find White Castle burgers around the US today, though they cost a fair bit more than the original $0.05 price of the 1920s.
9. It officially has the windiest city in the US
Chicago may be called the ‘Windy City,’ but it’s not the windiest in the US by far. Kansas can lay claim to that title thanks to Dodge City. According to wind measurements, the average wind speed in Dodge City is just under 14 miles per hour, compared to Chicago’s less-impressive 10.3 miles per hour.
What does this mean for Dodge City? Well, it means that the state can harness the power of the wind using turbines, for a start. According to some reports, Kansas hit 5000 megawatts of wind power generation in 2017. That’s a lot of energy from just the wind, and it’s estimated that Kansas already gets over 30 percent of its energy from wind power. As of 2017, only three other states in the US got over 30 percent of their energy from wind power, too, with Kansas only behind Iowa in wind energy production.