Prairie Rose Opera House
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Roses On The Prairie

The Rich and Colorful History of the Music of the Prairie Rose

Going all the way back to 1999, the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper began with an idea and an open piece of ranch land.  From there, it grew to be one of the largest tourist attractions in Kansas, and was home to internationally-known bands that played from Benton, Kansas, to Carnegie Hall in New York City, and atop the Great Wall of China, as well as hundreds of other venues around the world.

The Home Rangers

The Home Rangers

The Home Rangers combined their love of bluegrass music and cowboy songs into a mix they call moograss. All of the Home Rangers had been involved in music for years. They have all played in various bluegrass bands in South Central Kansas, but it was their mutual love of western music that brought them together.

The Home Rangers were the house band for the first half of the first season of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper, playing outside under the stars. During that first summer, Stu Stuart, who had recently moved back to Kansas, started playing with the Home Rangers, joining in on fiddle and guitar.

 

When they were offered full time jobs, all politely declined except for Stu and Orin Friesen, who put together the Prairie Rose Wranglers.

Home Rangers and Stu Stuart

The Prairie Rose Wranglers

The Home Rangers "transformed" into the Prairie Rose Wranglers in 1999 to be the full-time band at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper. Stu knew of a songwriter and guitar player from Tennessee who played Western music and called him to be a Wrangler.  Jim Farrell drove between Nashville and Wichita for the first season at the Prairie Rose before he finally made the move.

 

In 2000, after the first season outdoors, the owners built an indoor venue, the Opera House. With a full kitchen, mercantile, restrooms, and an amazing concert hall, the Opera House offered more comfort and less concern about the ever-changing Kansas weather.

Prairie Rose Wranglers
Wranglers at Carnegie Hall with Dusty Rogers

The Wranglers grew to become one of the best and most in-demand groups in Western music.  In 2003, they performed a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Great American Cowboy In Concert. The show was so successful, they were invited back to do another show in 2004 and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius appointed them “Official Musical Ambassadors for Kansas”.

In addition to traveling to New York City, the Wranglers have headlined five Cowboy Cruises in the Caribbean, and performed in Nashville and in Branson.

In 2006, the Wranglers became the first musicians from the western hemisphere to perform cowboy music in China, as well as the first musicians given a permit authorized by the People's Republic of China to have an official concert ON the Great Wall of China.

Winners of the Will Rogers Award for 2008 Western Album of the Year from the Academy of Western Artists, the Wranglers have also been honored for their original music. "Trail Dust", penned by group arranger Jim Farrell, topped the Western Music charts for weeks.

Johnn Western and Wranglers on the Great Wall of China

The Prairie Rose Rangers

Prairie Rose Rangers 2007

Ranger (n.) – One who roams or ranges the countryside, especially in the American West; ie: a cowboy (or cowgirl).

Disaster struck the Prairie Rose in 2007, and the owners filed for bankruptcy and sold the ranch.  Greg and JW Johnson were looking for a year-round venue to be home to their cowboy church, and purchased the Prairie Rose to fill that purpose. Though the Wranglers had moved to Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, the Johnsons put together a new band, the Prairie Rose Rangers, and continued the Chuckwagon Suppers.

After the first season of Chuckwagon Suppers with the Rangers, Greg and JW asked Orin Friesen to come back to the Prairie Rose, to resume his previous position as operations manager, and to be the new band leader. Orin came back, and brought his son, Jesse, along to play guitar.  Kris Johnson and Kim Coslett stayed from the original Prairie Rose Rangers, and Orin hired Jolynn MacIntyre to be the new fiddle player.  Orin's extensive knowledge of Western music, old and new, helped get the Rangers and the Chuckwagon Supper shows back on track.

Orin and Jesse Friesen
Prairie Rose Rangers 2016

The Prairie Rose Rangers went through a number of changes, including bringing back Ranger Stan Greer from the Home Rangers, but Orin and Jesse were both part of the band until 2018.  Orin left as the regular bass player following the 2018 Christmas season, ready to retire and spend some weekend evenings at home.  Jenny Lou Melcher, who had been singing and playing guitar for a few years, switched over to bass, and Jesse and Ranger Stan took over most of the on-stage banter.

After 12 years, the Johnsons made the decision to close the Chuckwagon Supper and disband the Prairie Rose Rangers.  They worked with Jim and Martha Farrell, and Trucker's Radio USA, to make the transition to hosting special shows and events, instead of the weekly Chuckwagon Suppers.

The Diamond W Wranglers

When the Prairie Rose closed and was sold in 2007, the Prairie Rose Wranglers moved to Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas.  They renamed themselves the "Diamond W Wranglers" and started the Diamond W Chuckwagon at Cowtown.

Diamond W Wranglers
Farewll from the Diamond W Wranglers

In 2010, the Diamond W Wranglers were honored to represent Kansas and Oklahoma on an official tourism marketing mission to Germany. They entertained travel agents and journalists at a special event in Munich, and serenaded thousands of Europeans attending Americana 2010 in Augsburg.

After ten years away, the Diamond W Wranglers returned to the Prairie Rose for a special show in May of 2018.  After that, they were regular guests on stage at the Prairie Rose, performing a number of western shows and Christmas shows.

After the world shut down in 2020, bass player Chip Worthington, and Steve Crawford, king of the cowboy drummers, both moved away from Kansas.  Orin Friesen came back to his former position as bass player, and the Wranglers carried on.  We lost the great Jim Farrell in early 2022, and Western music lost one of the greatest and most talented songwriters and producers.

With the loss of Jim, Jesse Friesen has joined the band, and the Wranglers are returning to their roots as a trio.

Diamond W Wranglers 2022