Kansas State Fair Begins Saturday

Activities galore at 'The Wild Ride, Baby.'

Published on: Sep 4, 2006
The Kansas State Fair, which runs Sept. 8-17 in Hutchinson, has something for everyone.

For the agriculture set, a number of key activities are taking place. One of them is the annual Grand Drive, which features the top two entries from each category of the beef, swine and sheep livestock shows, in one showmanship contest celebrating the "Best of the Best." The event takes place at the Prairie Pavilion at 6 p.m. Sept. 9.

At stake is more than $30,000 in prize money, which will be awarded to the top two finishers in the beef, swine and sheep showmanship categories.

Another noteworthy event takes place at the Kansas Farm Bureau Arena at 11 a.m. Sept. 9. A gubernatorial forum between incumbent Governor Kathleen Sebelius and her challenger, Jim Barnett, Emporia, will take place at the Farm Bureau Arena. The event takes place at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast live by AM 580, WIBW Radio.

New entrance

About 100,000 of the 300,000 annual visitors to the Kansas State Fair enter the Fairgrounds at Gate #9, at the corner of Plum and 20th streets. This year, they'll find a brand new building to welcome them. The attractive, metal building replaces portable wooden stands, says State Fair general manager Denny Stoecklein.

"The wooden booths were not a good way to welcome visitors to the Fair," he says.

The new building has four ticket windows and is climate controlled for the ticket-takers. A new sidewalk leads to the facility, which is safer and allows vehicle traffic to flow in and out of the adjacent gate.

Tickets to the fair can be purchased in advance; they are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children aged 6-12. Children 5 and under get in free.

The Old Mill

Chances are, the Kansas State Fair marketing folks didn't have the "Old Mill" in mind when they developed the "Wild Ride" slogan. For generations of Kansans, however, the Old Mill was indeed a wild ride: old, kind of scary, dark and damp. The attraction, part of the Fair since 1915, nearly was torn down six years ago, it had become so dilapidated.

This year, however, the Old Mill has new life. Louis Bruce, warden at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility, volunteered inmate labor to completely renovate the Old Mill. "I just about went ape when I found out there was talk of tearing the Old Mill down," he recalls. "This is one of the few rides like it left in the U.S. The Old Mill is the epitome of what the Fair is all about."

Labor from inmates saved about $200,000 in renovation costs. "They did a beautiful job and meanwhile, their self-esteem has been built up as a result," Bruce says. "I think it will be a very popular exhibit."

The cost to ride the Old Mill is $2.50 per person. About 35,000 people – more than 10% of the fair's total attendance – ride the Old Mill each year.

For complete Kansas State Fair information, log onto www.KansasStateFair.com.