News Column

Hansen: Sedalia leaves a great final impression

July 18, 2013


July 18--Sedalia doesn't make a great first impression. As I drove down from North Dakota after accepting the job offer from then-Democrat editor Bob Satnan, I saw a town that was blandly industrial. And I assumed it didn't have an entertainment scene, since there was no "entertainment" category on the Democrat website (as locals knew, it was called "Swoop").

Four years later, I leave Sedalia knowing it'll always have a place in my heart. Not because of how it looks, but because of the people.

First, a nod to three Seths (no, not Rogen, MacFarlane and Green): Former Democrat sports writer Seth Stringer, who taught me to appreciate prep athletics; Galaxy 10 owner Seth Wagenknecht, with whom I had conversations about movies and life for hours after the movie ended; and Seth Hofstetter, who has kept the heavy metal scene alive with his "Metalomedy" concerts.

An arts scene needs selfless, passionate dedication. Justin Lawson is a local legend among young musicians for his "Making the Band" classes and concerts. We have our own Dewey Finn right here in Sedalia.

While he promotes his own work (which I appreciate, because I'm not good at reading minds about upcoming shows), "enchanted guitarist" Bill Gordon shills just as heavily for his fellow entertainers.

Dustin Schmidt and the members of the Sedalia Visual Art Association are great ambassadors of visual arts. Like the musicians, they keep the scene alive through love, not profit motive.

Thanks to directors Eric Yazell and Tim Wells and an endless turnstile of student talent, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better two-year theater program than what State Fair Community College delivers.

The sports scene also stays vibrant because of people, not inertia. I'm thankful that my five summers in Sedville overlapped with the first five Bombers seasons; it's unfathomable to me that Liberty Park Stadium didn't have a summer team before that. I hope the Bombers can pull off a second-straight Miraculous Final Week and add to the trophy case.

I never figured high school hoops could be so entertaining as watching Steve Goodwin's full-speed-ahead Sacred Heart Gremlins. I hope Steve wins a state basketball title someday, but more importantly, I hope we'll continue to talk movies like we did during our "Movie Talk with John and Steve" videos.

I know some Sedalians could do without the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival and the state fair, but I enjoy them both. Every June, the best ragtime musicians in the world (no hyperbole) play downtown for free.

At the state fair, the grandstand gets the hype, but I'll take the Bud tent. The final round of Missouri State Fair Idol was my favorite annual event to cover. It's hard work juggling a notebook, a camera and a video camera (and a soda and a gyro and a funnel cake), but there are worse things to get paid to do.

I'd do it for free -- and indeed, I will continue to write about TV and movies and national trends on my blog ( -- but I am thankful to Bob for giving me the go-ahead to grab the entertainment beat.

I leave here as a more versatile journalist. I worked with young talent like former intern Kristin Mothersbaugh, who showed me that video is not as hard as I feared, and sports writer Eric Ingles, who taught me TV-style scripting. I worked with endlessly patient copy chief Roger Hooker and two of the best photojournalists in the country (no hyperbole) -- Sydney Brink and Hal Smith.

Billy Crudup's character partied with "good Topeka people" in "Almost Famous," and when I hang out with pals like truck driver/aspiring journalist Kurt Rodewald, teacher/(starving) artist Brad Binning, and the Jimmy John's gang, I think "good Sedalia people."

Moving to a paper in Panama City, Fla., is a good career move (and the sarcastic "Must be tough" comments lead me to think the beach location is desirable), but it's not an easy thing to say goodbye to all of you artists, sportsmen, journalism pros, and -- above all -- friends. I'd love to stay in touch; find me on Facebook, comment on my blog posts, or email me at


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