John Ary loves Topeka

Robert Burkett

In Topeka, when people talk about picketers, you might see the average citizen cringe or make a sarcastic comment about a certain church and their “colorful” signs.

Last month, though, a different kind of statement has been popping up on the street corners of Topeka. One citizen and his efforts to create a positive image of the capital city have been on display at various points in the city. Colorful signs proclaiming “I Love Topeka” to passersby¾ who crane their necks to see what all the commotion is about¾ are his tools as he strives to make Topeka a place citizens can be proud of.

John Ary is a born and raised Topekan who did what many people do when they graduate from college¾ go out into the world to see what the green grass on the other side really looks like.

“After I was done with school I ran away from Topeka as fast as I could,” said Ary

Ary, like other people of his generation, had grown up with the perception that Topeka was “that boring town where nothing happens” and spent time working in cities around the midwest and southwest United States like Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Little Rock, hoping to find something that Topeka was missing.

“Each city we went to had certain things that were going for it, but you know, it just didn’t feel like home in those places and my family and I decided to come back home,” said Ary.

Upon arriving back in Topeka, Ary felt the city just needed to break out of its mold of being perceived as a tired, old town that subsists on government as its lifeblood.

“We just need to change the mindset that this town is boring” said Ary, “We are a community that has a lot going for it right now with a ton of momentum from a lot of different places.”

One of the current projects Ary feels passionate about is the redevelopment of downtown Topeka. Currently a target of scorn, the plan most popularly set out for redeveloping downtown would put a serpentine street formation down Kansas Avenue. Ary isn’t opposed to the idea, but thinks too many people are putting their frustration into that one proposal, and that the process needs to be about more than one street.

“In order to keep up the kind of positive recognition that Topeka has received like in Kiplinger magazine, we need to do something about what everyone recognizes is a place that is having problems but could potentially change the future of the city for the next twenty years” said Ary, “It doesn’t have to be the shape of a street, but we need to figure out something that will bring people downtown and create a place where people can enjoy what the city has to offer.”

Ary, along with others, will continue to support different initiatives that have ranged from Google’s new high-speed internet experiment to redevelopment of the downtown area to the new North Topeka Art District.

“We just need to keep pushing no matter what it is,” said Ary. “If it’s good for the community then I want to see Topeka pursuing it.”

For more information, go to or check out the “I Love Topeka” Facebook fan page.