Date:  September 23, 2007   Sunday
Time:  noon - 4 pm
Place:  Franklin Community Park, 502 S. Broadway


The annual FCCI Community Picnic was held Sunday, September 23 with food, displays, games, door prizes and fellowship.   Lunch was served at noon followed by a short program which included our annual awards ceremony.   

This years award recipients were:   

Certification of Appreciation:

Friend of Franklin:  Johnnie Zibert

Heritage Preservation Award
:   Linda Knoll

The following article appeared in the SNPJ Prosveta (a national newspaper): 

Johnnie Zibert, President of SNPJ Lodge 225, Vice President of Region #7 and Member of the National Board was awarded the annual “Friend of Franklin” award at the Franklin, Kansas community picnic Sunday, September 23, 2007.    Awards were given to people who have played an important part in the rebuilding of the community and those who have touched the community in a special way.   Many Slovenians settled in this small mining community which grew to a population of over 2,000 during the 1920s. 

Craig Stokes, President of Franklin Community Council, Inc. welcomed the residents, friends and guests.  In his opening remarks he told of the tragedy that fell upon this community over 4 years ago.  He spoke of the volunteer group that has continued to persevere and is proud that the community is being resurrected.   Goals that were set throughout the past 4 years have been accomplished.   The community center and the park are two of their most visible achievements.    What was once a barren and sad reminder of the tragic events of 2003 has become a sign of hope for everyone.    He said the community realizes they can never forget that day in 2003 but perhaps it is what has made the community so strong.  

Several awards were given throughout the program.   Two Franklin families shared the “Appreciation Award” – Lee and Agnes Goodman and Ron & Janet Pommier and family.

Linda Knoll received the Heritage Preservation Award for 2007.   Linda wrote the play “Army of Amazons-An Oral History of Southeast Kansas”.  This dramatic, rich, story was performed for the Franklin Centennial Celebration on the historic site in which it took place in front of so many whose story it was. 

The Friend of Franklin award is given annually to a non-resident who proves themselves to be a true friend of the community.  The definition of a friend isA person whom one knows, likes, and trusts”.   By that definition alone Franklin has many, many friends.     While the community tries to move beyond their recovery process from the tornado of 2003 they cannot help but remember those who came forward to help.  Some came with hammers, saws and shovels.

But one man came with his accordion.   This talented man is well known around the country for his skillful talent of producing some of the most beautiful music you have ever heard.    

Recovery can take many forms.  While the rebuilding of structures is a very important part of the recovery process it is also important to rebuild the spirit of the citizens and put joy in their hearts.    When Johnnie is involved you can be certain there will be smiles, goodwill and happy memories.   

Franklin is very proud to be the community where Johnnie began his music career.  Johnnie began taking accordion lessons at age 9 from Professor John Catanzaro. His parents purchased his first 12 bass accordion for $25 at the Hess Music Store in Pittsburg.   He began playing dances while a senior in high school and played his first dance at Vignatelli’s Hall which was located at the exact spot of the new community center in Franklin.   Johnnie said he was honored to play at the first polka dance at the new community center which was rebuilt after the tornado of 2003.  He was joined by Jarboe Watson, George Barberich and Johnnie Joe Zibert.   

During his career he has traveled and played for the A J Cripe Show at the area rodeos.  He also played on A J Cripe’s radio program at the KOAM Station. 

A band called the Melody Boys (Johnnie Zibert, Joe Tuminello and his wife Little Nell and Luella Zibert’s brother Jarbo Watson) had a regular radio program on KSEK Radio on Sunday afternoons which was sponsored by Fred Bosinio Appliance Store in Arma, Kansas.     

As Johnnie brings his joyous music to the new community center a new generation follows in the footsteps of their ancestors.  His granddaughter, Jessi Fields, once wrote a beautiful story about her grandpa in which she talks about the pride she has in her heritage.  She talks of being “swept away by the hypnotic waves of Grandpa’s fingers over the ivory keys and my uncle’s captivating voice as he, too, raced his hands vertically along a set of accordion keys.  Jarbo’s (Watson) thick fingers plucking the bass strings gently made my legs move that much faster and smoother.”  She continues on that “I’ve never been hit so strongly with any feeling before.  I felt so envious of them up there on that stage, the way they can make people smile and forget all their worries, the way that a 75 year old woman with bad hips and arthritis who can barely make it to the grocery store once a week will always come to one of my grandpa’s dances to remember old times and perhaps polka a little.   I think that after that night of dancing and listening to the reminiscences of Steve Lomshek describing my grandpa’s early years with the accompaniment of Joe O’Blak, I appreciated my Slovenian heritage and the fact that my grandpa is the best accordion player I’ve ever heard. I feel very proud and consider myself to be of the highest privilege to the able to introduce myself as Jessie Fields, granddaughter of Johnnie E. Zibert, famous Slovenian accordion player.”

Johnnie and his wife Luella have 3 children, Debbie Davis, Jim Zibert and Johnnie Joe Zibert.   They continue to carry on the tradition of providing happy memories and joyous music.   The community of Franklin is forever indebted to Johnnie for sharing his talents and donating untold hours of unforgettable music. 

More photos of this event can be seen on the
Franklin website. You can also read about the true spirit of the community and visit their “history” section which has many photos, memories and stories about early Slovenians that settled in this small mining community.   

Getting ready

Kids playing

Looking at old photos

Bocce Game

Lunch is ready

Game of Football

Certificate of Appreciation Award
Ron & Janet Pommier Family

Friend of Franklin Award
Johnnie Zibert

Heritage Preservation Award
Linda Knoll

Special Award
Phyllis Bitner

Calling Bingo

Cleaning Up

Community Events
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