the sand creek summer daze festival
Sand Creek Charlie
(SPOOKY MELODRAMA INTRO) Sand Creek today is a GREAT place to have fun exercising, fishing, biking etc. But in the early days of Newton the creek played a vital role in both providing a watering stop for trains, as well as providing a livelihood to many residents. Many legends of the wild west, like the Earp’s, stopped by or lived in Newton for a time. But some figures took residence, and to this day, have never really left. If you wander along Sand Creek on some foggy nights, sometimes you will see a figure on the water seemingly working amid the waves of fog; cutting, scraping and pulling out block shapes amid the shadows. When that cold air comes over you and the goose bumps spring up, you know that you have seen Sand Creek Charlie…
(GOOD GUY INTRODUCTION) This mythical figure of Newton was one of the individuals who took full advantage of the waterway know as Sand Creek. Charles Charlsen, spent most of his life on the creek both brewing, cutting ice and generally overcoming continued bad luck… (OOOOH!)
(BAD LUCK STORY # 1) For a time back then, if you had a cold beer, you’d probably have Charlsen to thank. (YEAH!) Charlsen came to Newton after running a saloon and brewery in rough and tumble Wichita. He saw shootouts, he was held up, and he saw theft by many outlaws. (BOO! HISS!) He needed a new place to call home and eventually ended up in Newton in the early 1870’s, a place equally wild at the time.
In 1872, he built an ice house on the bank of Sand Creek at 811 N. Elm. He owned about a block of land on both sides of the creek. The basement of the house was the equivalent of a two-story building and used to store up to 800 tons of ice year-round. (WOW!)
(BAD LUCK STORY # 2) For four years, starting in 1876 Charlsen ran a brewery on Sand Creek about four blocks north of Athletic Park, in two 16 by 18-foot buildings. It pumped out the beer, capable of producing 96 gallons or 12 kegs a day. Kegs cost $3, less than a single beer at a bar today. Charlsen continued this way of life for four years, selling to Newton saloons such as the Mint, The Custom House, and The Legal Tender. In 1880 the State of Kansas (BAD GUYS!)passed a prohibition law which made Charlsen’s brewery illegal. (BOO! HISS!)
While they gave Charlsen some time to sell his beer, he reported much of it as “stolen” to the state of Kansas. While no record exists, it gives us all hope to think that Charlsen stored the kegs away for personal use, perhaps toasting a time where people could again have the freedom to drink beer. (YEAH!)
(BAD LUCK STORY # 3) With his legal brewing done, Charlsen continued with his business, Charlsen Ice Co., for 37 years until the State of Kansas (STILL BAD GUYS) put out regulations that required ice to be tested for purity. Due to the regular use of Sand Creek by ice skaters, Charlsen’s ice had extra sediments in it and did not meet purity standards. (BOO! HISS!)Charlsen eventually did resume cutting ice later in his life however, and continued to do so until 1928. (YEAH!) It was in that year, on a cold January day, that he walked out onto his beloved Sand Creek, inspected the ice, suffered a stroke and eventually died. (OHHH NO!)
Charlsen’s legacy exists in the wild stories about him, his sightings on the creek, and with his descendants which still call Newton home. Today we bring him back to life to celebrate what the creek brings to us as a community and honor Sand Creek Charlie as the festival’s ambassador of good luck! (YEAH!)
So, when you find him roaming the festival grounds, be sure to shake his hand or give him a high five and good luck will be yours for the upcoming year! (YEAH!)
2021 Sand Creek Charlie
Leroy grew up on a farm about 20 miles east of Newton. He was the youngest of 5 children in a very hard-working, conservative family. He loved playing basketball and hanging out with his cousins and friends on the farm. He moved to Newton when he was 18. About a year later, Leroy met his now wife of 41 years, Susan, and started dating. Several years later they were married and within 5 years had 3 children Austin, Trent and Laura.
After their 3rd child was born around 1984, Leroy was painting the front of his house when a guy stopped by and asked if he would go give him an estimate to paint the exterior of his eyewear dispenser office. He agreed to do that and from there he continued to receive a steady stream of word of mouth referrals for paint projects. At the same time, Leroy and Susan started purchasing rental houses and before long they were managing several properties alongside their painting business all out of their home garage. Leroy painted alone for several years and during the summers would hire on college students. Slowly he started hiring on full-time painters 1 at a time.
Due to continued growth, in 1994 they purchased their office building and shop at 204 W. 6th and 206 W. 6th. This became the home base of Koehn Painting Co. In 1995 they landed their first sizable commercial painting contract, the Newton Outlet Mall on SE 36th St. They painted the whole exterior and 40 of the interior tenant finishes. Once again that lead into developing more relationships with general contractors, word of mouth referrals and gaining experience in both residential and commercial painting. Although they were very busy maintaining and growing a business, family has always been one of Leroy and Susan’s top priorities. Leroy continuously made time to coach his children in various sports all year long for a total of 12 years. In the summers he would also teach his kids to paint in order to earn extra money for the school year.
Today Koehn Painting is one of the largest and most trusted painting companies for residential and commercial painting in the Newton, Wichita and surrounding areas. His family continues to be involved with the business as his daughter has worked in various roles for the last 14 years and it is not an uncommon occurrence that 1 or more of his 12 grandchildren help grandpa coordinate and run errands or come work for a week during the summer.
One of Leroy’s other passions aside from his business, family and working out at the local Newton YMCA, is his Newton Community. His past and current involvement includes past President Newton Chamber of Commerce, past President Newton Rotary Club, past President Harvey Co. Builders Association, President elect Peace Connections, two term Newton City Commission, two-time Mayor of Newton, and member of Harvey County Council of Governments.
Past Sand Creek Charlie Ambassadors
2019’s Sand Creek Charlie was Newton resident David Yoder. David was born in Newton and a Newton high graduate. He graduated from Wichita State and Washburn Law School. He served in the Air Force ROTC while in college. Since 1982 he has served in the legal community and has been an attorney, judge and prosecutor. His civic involvement includes, Newton Rotary, Harvey County Bar Association, Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Task Force, Family Advocate Support Team, Harvey County Drug Free Youth Coalition, and many more.
David is a member and past Deacon at First Presbyterian Church of Newton. He and his wife Lori have been married for 19 years and they have six children and eleven grand children. In their spare time David helps Lori’s dog boarding business named Buster’s Trails.
2018’s Sand Creek Charlie was Newton resident Dan Heinze. Dan started his business career in downtown Newton in 1988. He is a champion for downtown and the entire community of Newton. Dan was chosen by the Sand Creek Summer Daze Committee because he is a strong advocate for giving back and being engaged in the community with his time and resources.
Dan has served several times on the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce board as an ambassador and as Past President. He has also served on the Harvey County Economic Development board and many years on the Newton Substance Abuse board of which he is Past President. Dan has been a loyal Newton Lion’s Club member and is currently the President. For many years, Dan has been an Elder at the First Baptist Church and a friend and supporter of USD 373, having a seat on the Railer Booster board.