For the first time in more than half a century of activity, Event location Eberly Farm no longer belongs to an Eberly.
“We appreciated everyone we helped celebrate,” Judy Eberly said.
She and her husband, Sam, and their son, Chad, sold their business to Stacy Rogers of Rogers Properties.
“We thought wow, what an iconic piece of Wichita history and a wonderful, rich history in this place to be able to continue that and be able to create something new as well,” Rogers said.
“Nothing changes, including the name,” COO Jennifer Arnold said. “We continue the tradition.
Judy Eberly said the decision to sell was not difficult for her and her husband.
“Because we are 77 and 78, it’s not that difficult. If you own your own business, you can never truly retire.
The property, at 13111 W. 21st St. between 119th and 135th Streets, was in the countryside when people first started heading there.
“It was nothing but a buffalo cow pasture,” Judy Eberly said.
The Eberly family first purchased 260 acres there in 1883, and it became a working farm with livestock, farm animals, and crops.
Sam Eberly’s parents, Merl and Dixie Eberly, started welcoming people to the property in part because Dixie Eberly wanted the place to be a gathering place, Judy Eberly said.
The Eberly family was the only farming family in their church, so they often hosted other church members on the property.
The Eberlys built a cinder block building with open windows, which they called the Lodge. The property became a summer event venue with a swimming pool, and there was winter ice skating on a creek.
“It was just kind of a natural evolution,” Judy Eberly said.
The farm animals were part of the attraction, especially for the children.
“She loved showing them the baby pigs and the little calves,” Judy Eberly said of her mother-in-law.
Girl Scouts took riding lessons there.
Eventually there was a day camp with a variety of activities, such as archery, swimming, hiking, and arts and crafts.
“Just a bit of everything,” Chad Eberly said.
Slowly it became a business, Judy Eberly said, “And then Sam and I took it to the next level.”
They bought what was then 140 acres in 1979 and in 1985 built a year-round events center called the Outpost. When that burned down, they built another – still called the Outpost – which can hold 260 people inside and has room for another 800 outside.
Then they started building more buildings, patios and walkways, planted trees and created hiking trails.
Only churches and children used the property before 1979.
This changed when the family added corporate events and weddings.
“It definitely kicked everything up a notch,” Chad Eberly said of his parents.
He was 7 years old when he started working for the family business selling soft drinks and sweets. When he grew up, he added barbecue to the centre’s offerings.
Chad Eberly manages day-to-day operations.
“I couldn’t find anyone to help me,” he said. “Overall, the biggest factor for me wanting to sell is not being able to find quality employees.”
He said it had been a problem for several years, “But as soon as COVID hit, it got really bad.”
Eberly said he had 20 employees at a time, but lately it’s been him and someone else, and they’ve stopped serving food during the pandemic.
He said the sale is “a huge weight on my shoulders, for sure”.
“This is the first time in (over) 30 years that I haven’t had 16,000 moving parts in a week,” he said. “Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.”
He said he would find another place to work and never own a business or employee again.
“I’m just glad the family has room to switch gears.”
The family still owns about 60 acres of their original farm. They sold Rogers not quite 15 acres plus the event center.
Rogers owns several businesses, including a Consignment Kid’s Closet Connection franchise that currently operates in Wichita Hoops.
“One of my goals is to have a permanent location for this pop-up sale throughout the year,” Rogers said.
“It was the original thought of how we presented this property,” she said of the deal with Eberly, though that doesn’t mean it will be Kids Closet’s future home.
Rogers is still finalizing plans for new things it might add to the site.
“Rest assured . . . we are not changing anything from what is currently planned.
Rogers has ideas of what she would like to add.
“We have some hopes of bringing back some food and expanding to a more public place.”
She thinks of Christmas and Halloween events, something where families might come for the day or evening.
“It’s not a fully formed thought yet,” Rogers said. “I’d probably like to leave it like that.”
She said it was her hope, however, “If all my dreams and wishes come true.”
This story was originally published January 19, 2022 5:00 a.m.