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For immediate release
October 8, 2003
Laura Gross

NPR News Presents "Prairie Diaries"

Thousands Chronicle Life In Kansas As part of "A Day In My Community" Project

WASHINGTON -- On October 11, 2001, thousands of Kansans went about their day. Farmers cut corn, factory workers bottled soap, Mexican and Central American immigrants went to work in slaughterhouses, schoolchildren played football and soccer, volunteers renovated a church, grandmothers made quilts and surfed the Internet ...and then they all sat down and wrote about it.

Over six consecutive Mondays beginning October 20 and on Thursday, November 27, NPR News will share some of these "Prairie Diaries" along with interviews with the diarists and the sounds of their communities. Listeners can hear "Prairie Diaries" on Morning Edition (for broadcast times, please check local listings or log onto to find the NPR member station in your city). Additional diaries, pictures of the diarists, and information about how to launch a similar project in your community, can be found by visiting

More than 5,000 Kansans took part in the "A Day in My Community" project. They kept a diary for a single day, to leave a historical record of their lives at the beginning of the millennium. The diaries will be permanently archived by the Kansas State Historical Society.

The diarists came from small towns, sprawling suburbs, and isolated farms in counties with fewer than 1,500 residents. An 83-year-old woman in Frankfort worked on the local newspaper column she has written for three decades. The children of immigrants described the rough and ready boomtowns of the cattle industry's "Golden Triangle" in southwest Kansas. Two retired professors worked on their sixth Habitat for Humanity house in Atchison. An amateur historian in Mission explored old pioneer trails. A county supervisor in the Flint Hills grappled with the bureaucratic aftermath of September 11th. A 13-year-old boy on a ranch near the Colorado border remembered the calf he raised before it drowned in a flood.

Segments include:

Monday, October 20

Excerpts from the diaries of Kansans of all ages and backgrounds introduce the series.

Monday, October 27

Room to Grow Amber Peterman, a high school freshman, describes a life in the country that is slower-paced and a little more sheltered than that of many American teens.

Monday, November 3

Town and Country Elton Lombard describes his family's move to a predominately white suburb of Kansas City. They're African-American, and they return to an urban church to keep their children's cultural heritage alive.

Monday, November 10

The Athlete High school football and wrestling star Matt Ybarra copes with the pressure of his athletic success, and tries to live up to his immigrant grandfather's inspiration.

Monday, November 17

A Little Help From My Friends Oretha Ruetti, an elderly disabled woman, is able to stay in her own home because of the daily help she receives from her small town neighbors.

Monday, November 24

The Golden Triangle Dakota Garett Button, a teenage cowboy, grows up roping calves and riding fences on his family's isolated ranch. Nearby, the Mexican immigrants who work on cattle feedlots and slaughterhouse are revitalizing their small towns with a feeling that's as much Southwest as Midwest.

Thursday, November 27 (Thanksgiving Day)

Monday Lunch For years, residents of Olsburg have taken turns cooking lunch for each other every week since there's no restaurant open. One third of the tiny town (population 192) have gathered for today's lunch and wonder how many of their children will carry on the tradition.

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