Twenty-nine days remain in advance of the opening of the 106th Kansas State Fair.
Bob Moeder, interim general manager for the fair, regaled Rotarians with stories about the fair in a July presentation to the Hutchinson Rotary Club.
“Find Your Fun” is the theme for this year’s fair and from what Bob told Rotarians, there is no short list of options awaiting fairgoers.
The Kansas State Fair saw its origin in the Salt City in the early 1900s, but it took the 1913 session of the Kansas Legislature to make it the “official” one and only for our state.
Forty years ago, the State Fair was a fair-only operation when the late General Manager Bob Gottschalk and his staff decided the 280 acres of grounds replete with a few dozen buildings would be a suitable venue for various activities. Apparently, others thought the same and, as Moeder pointed out, more than 500 non-fair events are held on the grounds each year. Today, it is not uncommon to attend everything from weddings, funerals, and horse shows on the fairgrounds.
“The Kansas State Fair is a fee-based agency that is self-funding,” Moeder said. “So, funding sources include gate admission, RV Park rental, and vendor fees, along with non-fair events.”
The economic impact of the fair is more than pocket change and, as Bob reported, totals $108 million annually to the state of Kansas. The economic impact within a 60-mile radius to Hutchinson is $43 million.
Thanks to some heavy lifting by Sen. Ed Berger and Rep. Steve Becker during the 2018 legislative session, the Kansas State Fair will retain sales tax collected throughout the year for capital improvements going forward.
Regarding the upcoming fair, Moeder assured his audience new things are on the drawing boards this year. “People seem to think the fair is always the same, but it is not,” Moeder said.
For the first three nights of the fair, an electronic fireworks show will follow the evening performance in the grandstand. Kiddieland located on the northwest side of the fairgrounds will provide new entertainment options for young children.
On Sept. 8, the gubernatorial candidates will square off in a debate at the Bretz Arena. Nearby, a stump will be installed allowed other candidates to deliver “stump speeches” throughout the day. Retired television anchor Larry Hatteberg will be at the fair on opening day, along with author Marcie Penner to talk about exploring Kansas.
For those young fairgoers uncomfortable about farms and animals, Moo University, a group providing guided livestock tours, will give educational tours of the fair barns.
Evening entertainment kicks off on opening night (Sept. 7) with KC and the Sunshine Band. Those ordering tickets by Aug. 20 can pick from $5 and $10 seats. On Sept. 15, the Beach Boys invade Hutchinson for a 7:30 p.m. performance.
I am told there will be a good assortment of vendors selling limestone signs touting Kansas State University and Kansas University. And, if your favorite school is not in Lawrence or Manhattan, they will still find a way to fill your order.
This Saturday night, the Kansas Fair Foundation will host its annual fundraiser for 450 supporters featuring a silent and live auction, with proceeds to be used for improvement projects on the fairgrounds.
Let’s all plan to meet at 11 a.m. Sept. 7 at Gottschalk Park near the spot where the first fair was opened 105 years ago. Once the fair is officially opened, we can fan out across the fairgrounds and choose from several dozen dining options, including my personal favorite, the South Hutchinson Methodist Kitchen in the Food Court (for a serving of chicken and noodles or meatloaf). For dessert, the Dairy Bar under the grandstands will be serving ice cream, as will the AMBUCS store across from the KWCH booth.
Those who make this great Kansas event happen each year share a love of the Kansas State Fair that, which like fine wine, gets better with age. The fair staff and the volunteers never rest on their laurels. Instead, these visionary leaders are in constant motion searching for ways to make this annual event even better.
So, what more can be said other than “Let the fair begin.”
Richard Shank is a retired AT&T manager, is employed in the healthcare industry and has farming interests in Saline County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.