100th Kansas State Fair offers fun, food, music

09/05/2013 10:30 AM

08/05/2014 8:50 PM

The Kansas State Fair faced a birthday brain-bender this year.

The very first official state fair was in 1913, meaning that the 2012 Kansas State Fair is the 100th being put on.

But birthdays are usually celebrated in a more numerically aligned manner: If it’s born in 1913, it’s 100 in 2013.

“One of the exciting things for us is that this year and next year are historic times for us,” said Denny Stoecklein, the fair’s general manager.

So which one to celebrate?

Stoecklein and his staff chose … both. This year, they’ll commemorate the 100th fair and next year, they’ll celebrate its birthday.

As a result, the 100th fair, which opens Friday and runs through Sept. 16 on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, has a new logo. The animal-themed “It’s a Wild Ride, Baby” has been retired, baby, replaced with a colorful, vintage mustached man reminding us that the fair “Never Gets Old.”

The fair also will celebrate by displaying some fair artifacts, including the very first “prelim” book used in animal competitions in 1913.

Even though the fair is celebrating the past, many of the events and approaches are new, Stoecklein said.

Hoping to bump attendance back up to the 350,000 range — last year’s unpredictable weather dragged it down to around 340,000 — the fair is offering attendees more discount options and more free entertainment.

But it’s also raising the gate admission price for adults from last year’s $8 to $10.

“The only revenue we get for our operation is through the fees we generate,” Stoecklein said. “None of our ticket prices have been increased for a few years. As we looked at it, we knew we were going to have to make an adjustment somewhere, and we didn’t want to affect the children and senior prices.”

Ticket prices for children and seniors did not change. They remain $4 for children ages 6 to 12, and $6 at the gate for seniors age 60 and over. Children 5 and under are admitted without charge.

Following is a look at some new and notable offerings at this year’s Kansas State Fair.

•  More free entertainment: The fairgrounds will be full of roving entertainers, such as Richard Holmgren, a joking juggler whose act is called “Flying Debris,” and The Procrastinators, a group of “Stomp”-style drummers who use items such as empty water jugs and pots and pans as their instruments.

“I really like that aspect of the fair, whether it’s them or the stilt-walker or Oscar the Robot,” Stoecklein said. “You’re walking around the fair, and it’s kind of that added element of surprise.”

•  A new deal: This year, the fair has added a new way for fairgoers to save money. In addition to the popular “Dollar Day” on Monday, during which outside gate admission is $1 all day for ages 6 and older or free with a Dillons Shopper Plus card, a new promotion scheduled for Thursday called “$4 after 4” offers $4 gate admission beginning at 4 p.m.

•  Double the zip line: Last year’s zip line across Lake Talbott was popular with fairgoers, but it wasn’t very convenient. Riders who zipped one way had to walk all the way back around the lake to get back to where they started. This year, two lines will be set up. An $8 ticket now qualifies riders for a round trip on the zip, and they’ll finish where they started.

•  Sea Lion Splash: The fair always offers a free family-friendly show that draws big crowds to Gottschalk Park. This year, the show will feature a portable pool filled with frisky sea lions. It’s one of the most popular traveling shows on the fair circuit, Stoecklein said.

•  Grand Grandstand lineup: The Grandstand once again will feature nightly big-name concerts. The best-selling show so far this year is classic rock band Boston, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Sept. 15’s double country bill featuring Billy Currington and Jake Owen also is selling well. Other performers include teen queen Victoria Justice (Friday), classic rockers .38 Special (Sunday), country legends the Oak Ridge Boys (Tuesday), country singer Chris Cagle (Wednesday), Christian rockers Casting Crowns (Thursday) and sister duo Heart (Sept. 14). Tickets to all the shows are on sale at www.kansasstatefair.com.

•  Foods, funky and fried: As always, the fair will offer a menu of crazy deep-fried foods. This year’s list includes deep-fried Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, bacon-wrapped corn dogs and deep-fried giant turkey legs.

•  Traditional favorites: The fair also will bring back all the favorites fairgoers expect, including the high-flying Midway rides, the butter sculpture, comic hypnotist Ron Diamond, the Ye Old Mill ride, free yardsticks, pig races, a Spam cooking contest, livestock competitions, the petting zoo, camel rides, the birthing barn and more.

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