Wild West World, a $30 million theme park celebrating the American cowboy, is set to open May 17 just north of Wichita, KS. Featuring 24 rides, the theme park also includes skill games, food-concession areas, gift shops, craft and artisan shops and musical performances throughout the park.

The brainchild of Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge of Park City, their vision was to create a theme park based on the values and persona of the cowboy and the Old West -- a Disneyland in cowboy boots. And they've placed the attraction along the Chisholm Trail in the heart of Kansas.

The first part of Wild West World opened in summer 2006 -- the Johnny Western Theatre, which seats more than 1,100 people. The theme park is adjacent to the theatre. Visitors will enter a parking lot and cross a footbridge to enter the park. Then they will walk along what looks like a historic street in an old western town, with old-time storefronts containing dining and shopping alternatives.

The street connects to a circular drive that goes around a manmade lake that's circled by an old-time train to move park visitors. The various rides and gazebos for free, live entertainment are located around the circle. Wild West World also includes a catering area and pavilion seating for corporate or family retreats and meetings with a 3,000-person capacity.

It is estimated that Wild West World could attract 500,000 visitors in its first year. For more info or tickets, visit www.wildwestworld.net.

-- Ron Wilson, Kansas State University