Paul Kruse loves pie.
Chocolate pie. Raisin Pie. Coconut pie.
Dixie pie. Hoosier sugar cream pie. German chocolate pie.
And he has a plan for his hometown of Gypsum, population 400, which sits 70 miles north of Wichita.
“I’m on a quest to turn it into the pie capital of Kansas,” he said.
Kruse is the organizer of the Kansas Pie Festival & Car Show, which he describes as “small town Americana at its best.” It’s scheduled for Sunday, May 29, in Gypsum.
This will actually be the third year for the festival, but this year, Kruse has changed the name to reflect pie’s growing prominence at the event.
Kruse, a delivery driver, has always loved pie. As he travels for his job, he makes it a point to stop in every small-town cafe he can find and order a slice.
“I’m always taking pictures of pie,” he said. “I travel a lot, and I stop and sample pie.”
Kruse said he was inspired to launch the festival, which he formerly called Poverty Flats Pie Festival and Car Show, about four years ago after visiting Paxico’s annual Meatloaf Festival.
“They had a meatloaf festival, and I thought, ‘Who ever heard of that?’” he said. “I went to it and it’s a little bitty town and they pulled it off and it went really good. And I thought, ‘Heck, I could do that, too.’”
Last year, he said, he was surprised to draw 1,000 people to the festival. The pie went fast, so this year, he’s tripling the amount of pie he’ll have at the festival.
Those who attend can order slices of pie and find fried pies. Kruse is giving away 50 whole pies as trophies for the car show winners, and he’ll also put on a charity pie auction. All the money he raises will benefit the town of Gypsum. With last year’s proceeds, Kruse purchase a public address system for the town.
“We use it year round to play music,” he said. “And we use the microphone during our annual parade.”
The pies at the festival will be baked by Our Daily Bread Bake Shoppe in Barnes. Kruse said he’ll also be serving homemade ice cream. Those who made the trip also will find four food vendors, including two food trucks and two Gypsum restaurants, which are downtown and in the middle of the pie action.
The festival will start from 8 a.m. and “runs all day” on May 29. Admission is free. It’ll also feature more than 150 cars, including Kruse’s 1955 Ford that he’s put the Pie Festival logo on and has nicknamed “The Pie Wagon.” Arts and crafts vendors also will be set up.
Part of pie fanatic Kruse’s motivation for organizing the festival is selfish, he admits.
“I hope to attract a full time bakery,” he said. “I would like that.”
Kansas Pie Festival
When: Starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 29
Where: Downtown Gypsum