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Sandy still provides rocking rides for a nickel; smiles are free at The Chapeau in Pratt

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Five-year-old Tenley Kirby of Pratt, enjoys a ride on Sandy, the old rocking horse, at The Chapeau, 701 North Main in Pratt.  Sandy has been giving nickel rides at The Chapeau restaurant for two decades after being purchased at auction by Chapeau owner Vince Epp.  She was formerly located at the North Dillons in Pratt.

In a COVID world where so many things are changing, it’s reassuring to know that Sandy the Old Rocking Horse at The Chapeau, 701 North Main in Pratt, is still doing just fine, and the fully operational local icon is still giving nickel rides.

“Several generations of kids have plugged their nickels into Sandy’s meter for a ride,” said Chapeau owner Vince Epp who rode Sandy himself back in the early 1960s when Sandy’s home was in front of the old Dillons store at 619 North Main, which is now the Pratt Community Center.

Here’s the backstory about how Sandy came to be a mainstay at The Chapeau.

After Dillons relocated, Epp learned that Sandy was to be sold at auction in Great Bend.

“I found out about the auction from auctioneer Darold Rogers,” Epp said. “I wasn’t able to go, so I asked Darold to bid for me, whatever it took.”

Epp said he was on pins and needles about the auction, not knowing how high bidding would go.

“I did a lot of sweating,” Epp said.

As it turned out, Epp got Sandy for $295 and has proceeded to lay out more cash to restore Sandy to like-new mint condition, including two saddle reconditionings done by J.W. Jacobs of south rural Pratt County.

Adams Electric had a hand in the initial restoration and so did Dan Neehham’s daughter Ashleigh.

“Ashleigh took the broken ‘Sandy’ lettering to school and remade them in her foundry class,” Epp said.

Sandy’s action is belt-driven and Sandy never fails to give a good ride, Epp said.

During the pandemic, The Chapeau has continued to serve food and drink in keeping with social distancing and other COVID protocols.

Epp said that last April Dale Withers of Southwest Truck Parts, Inc., provided funding to support and feed Pratt Regional Medical Center healthcare employees and that The Chapeau was one of the locations PRMC chose for purchasing gift certificates.

“In trying times, that helped us keep doing what we love,” Epp wrote in a Facebook post.

Epp bought the Chapeau from his cousin Kelly Eastes in May 1988.

These days Vince and wife Dawn (nee Urban) use Facebook to post menus and special events.

“Dawn immediately helped me after I bought The Chapeau and has been helping ever since,” Epp said.

The Chapeau is open for dine in and carry out meals.

Dining hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner, closed Sunday.

Phone contact for carry-out orders is 620-672-2012.