Random Thoughts: Where is the glamour, Wichita?

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By Travis Mounts, managing editor

If you were to describe Wichita to someone from another state, or maybe from another country, what words you choose?
Friendly comes to mind. Unpretentious. Easy to navigate. Comfortable.
Glamorous? Probably not.
I’m a native of Wichita. Those of us from here or who have adopted Wichita or one of the surrounding communities have a pretty good idea about the plusses of the area – and there are many – as well as the minuses.
Still, it kind of stung a little when I saw in a recent email that Wichita is one of the least glamorous cities in America, at least among the 50 largest cities in America.
That’s according to a ranking by those fine folks at LawnStarter, who I have never heard of.
We get lots of these types of rankings and surveys and listicles all the time. Most go right into the digital version of my circular file. Occasionally, we’ll turn one of them into a small news item, especially if it is flattering to one of the communities we cover.
It makes for a light-hearted (and easy) piece of content. Most are worth no more than the paper they are printed on – which is nothing, since they come by email.
But still…Wichita ranks 47th out of the top 50 cities in terms of its glamour. We are right behind Fresno, Calif., and ahead of other sexy, glitzy places like Bakersfield, El Paso and Corpus Christi.
The 20 “glam” factors that were used include high-end jewelry and cosmetic stars, Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels, Fashion Week events, and household wealth. Keep in mind, glamour is being decided by a group called LawnStarter, which sounds much more like something you would find in Wichita than those top five glamorous locales: Miami, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Now, you can find plenty of glamour in these cities. I’ve been to four of them, although I have virtually no memories of New York because of how young I was. But I have plenty of second-hand knowledge of New York and Miami because of the number of friends who have visited there.
Las Vegas definitely screams glamour along The Strip, although you can find plenty of hustlers (bad Elmo costumes, women in showgirl costumes who don’t work at shows at all taking pictures with tourists, random folks selling bottled water from coolers) that don’t fit the idea of glamour. Get off the strip, and suddenly the city looks very different.
San Francisco has one of the worst homeless problems in the country. They have looked at urine-resistant paint to go on all sorts of things downtown in an effort to reduce the number of people peeing anywhere.
It’s been a lot of years since I’ve been to Atlanta, but it faces many of the same issues as other large metropolitan areas.
Now, let me say this…I also love San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Part of that is because of memories made with family and friends. San Francisco offers tremendous beauty, and culture options from food to shopping to entertainment that allow you to sample the entire world within a single day. Las Vegas and the surrounding dessert offer its own type of beauty, and the glitz of The Strip as well as downtown Las Vegas (think Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin) must be experienced. I was in Atlanta in the 1990s, when the city really came on to the national stage. It is a wonderful diverse and energetic city that defies many of the stereotypes of the South.
And I love Wichita. The city has changed so much from my youth. So much more entertainment (pre-pandemic, anyway). There are amazing artists. We have become a true foodie town, with so many options – in spite of a love affair with Texas Roadhouse that I just don’t understand.
And the energy of the city is seen everywhere, and that energy flows outward to the neighboring communities that are as much a part of the Wichita as any neighborhood actually within the city limits. As a youth, I never could have imagined spending the majority of my adult life here. But I can tell you now, that the Wichita area is so much more than I imagined back in my youth.
But as far as glamour, well…we’re probably ranking right where we’re supposed to be. That’s not us, and that’s OK.