Wichita County Fair draws fans from region
CORRECTION: Ken Breitkreutz was misidentified in a previous online version of this story. His former title was also incorrectly reported. Breitkreutz was the former president of the Amusement Association. Leif Christensen is the association's current president.
By BECKY MALEWITZ
LEOTI — As Jaeden Hoar stepped off the Ferris wheel at the Wichita County Fair, she already knew what she wanted to do next.
"Ooh, can we, mama, can we get some candy pleeeeeeeease?!" the 4-year-old said, elongating the word just to demonstrate how much she really wanted a treat before turning to her dad to repeat her request.
"Hey, daddy, daddy, can we get some candy, please, please?!" she said this time jumping up and down with a smile spreading across her face.
Not much has changed at the Wichita County Fair over the years. The games are the same, cotton candy is still bright pink and the carnival rides are still just 25 cents.
The Hoar family — Jaeden, 4, Keanan, 8, and parents Shawn and Tia — made their annual trip from their home in Pueblo, Colo., to the Wichita County Fair this week to enjoy its carnival rides, games and food.
"We have the state fair in Pueblo, but we came to this one because it's affordable fun," said Shawn. "And the food's good."
"It's the best ever," his wife Tia, who grew up in Scott City, added.
"The rides are fun," Shawn said.
Jaeden likes the "horsies" because they are pretty. According to 8-year-old Keanan, the Tilt-a-Whirl is the best ride at the fair.
"He got sick on (the Tilt-a-Whirl) last night," Tia said pointing to her husband, laughing.
"She didn't. She loved it," Shawn said pointing to Jaeden. "She kept going 'go, go, fun, fun,' I was like sick," he said, laughing.
The Tilt-a-Whirl, like all rides at the Wichita County Fair, is owned by the county. Unlike most fairs that have carnival companies come in each year, Wichita County has been purchasing carnival rides since the early 1980's and has been able to keep ticket prices at a quarter apiece, drawing visitors from neighboring counties and states.
Ken Breitkreutz, former Amusement Association president, sat at his post running the Tilt-a-Whirl, as he has done for the past 20 years.
"It's the only ride that the operator actually controls the ride. The others, they just throw a switch, and that's it. The Tilt-a-Whirl, the operator keeps controlling it," he said.
According to Breitkreutz, the Wichita County Fair is special because of its affordability.
"We only charge a quarter for each ride," he said. "That's the way we set it up, and that's the way it's gonna stay as long as I have anything to say about it."
Current Amusement Association President Leif Christensen said he never has any trouble finding volunteers to help run the rides.
"Every year, people come back and do it again, and new ones help take over when someone moves away, or whatever, but we never have a problem filling up the rides," he said. "The whole atmosphere, it's just great; everybody helping each other and taking care of each other. I like that."
Susan Elder, who was selling carnival ride tickets Saturday afternoon, has been volunteering at the fair since the mid-1980's.
"I love it. It's my favorite time of the year. I just love the fair, seeing the people riding the rides, eating the foods," she said. "We come together as a community; we work together."