Sedgwick County Fair brings four days of free, live music to Cheney

We strapped a GoPro onto the head of a state fair carnival rider

See three different Kansas State Fair midway rides from the perspective of someone strapped in. (Video courtesy of Sasha Keehn and Alexis Jungman)
Up Next
See three different Kansas State Fair midway rides from the perspective of someone strapped in. (Video courtesy of Sasha Keehn and Alexis Jungman)

Some like it live, some like it local and everyone likes it free.

Music, that is.

The Sedgwick County Fair is back in Cheney from July 18-21 at 308 S Main St. This year’s theme is “#SomeLikeItHot.”

Fairgrounds open at 7 a.m. on Wednesday for four days packed full of food, fun and furry friends. The complete fair schedule of events is available at the Sedgwick County Fair website.

Admission and parking for the event is free.

Marti Johnson, Sedgwick County Fair public relations director, said when the fair board decided on the theme #SomeLikeItHot, they took a bet on the July weather.

“It was February—it was really cold—and we agreed that the weather would be hot come July,” Johnson said. “As a betting girl, it was one I was willing to take.”

Johnson said for the past four or five years, the fair had been closer to the Fourth of July because of the carnival schedule.

“The board had been trying for several years to get the fair’s dates pushed back later in July, and this year we got it to work out, so this is traditionally when the fair has been scheduled,” Johnson said.

The fair’s new website is cell phone friendly so people can navigate it easier to check the schedule or buy tickets for some of the ticketed events, Johnson said.

The four-day, family-friendly event’s emphasis is on local, live music—something the fair shifted its focus to last year.

Once the day cools off, featured bands ranging from country to covers will take the stage at the Open Air Arena.

“Sedgwick County has a pretty thriving music scene,” Johnson said. “Several years ago we tried bringing in a big artist. It was a lot of work and there wasn’t a big turn out. The local names had a much bigger turn out.”

Johnson said after a “palm to the forehead moment,” the fair board realized they should be focusing on local music anyway.

“This year we have a plan and it covers a large range of music tastes,” Johnson said. “And the best part is free cover—you just have to show up.”

Four nights of live music start Wednesday with solo acoustic guitarist Bruce Huss from 8-9 p.m. Huss’s original songs range from anywhere from folk to blues, to “almost country,” according to his website.

On Thursday, the Molly Neeley Trio will take the stage from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Trio is a Wichita-based variety band, covering current hits, classic rock, alternative, indie and more.

The southern Kansas-based Jason Boyd Band kicks off country night at 7 p.m. Friday, July 20 with Red Dirt country, a genre that combines classic country with rock, blues, and more.

Later that night, Wichita’s Adam Capps Band will come on at 8:30 p.m. The classic rock, country and southern rock band is returning to the fair for the third year in a row. This year, concert-goers will get the chance to preview Capps’ new album titled “The Beat Goes On.”

Big Fat Fun will close out the Open Air Arena concerts on Saturday at 9 p.m. Big Fat Fun is a variety band covering music from the sixties to current hits.

Johnson said the band has a huge local following and is celebrating its 20th anniversary since getting together in 1998.

“Big Fat Fun used to play the fair all the time—that was probably a decade ago when they were playing a zillion gigs a year,” Johnson said. “Now they are playing a limited number of gigs and we landed one of them. The Saturday date should be on everybody’s radar.”

Later on Saturday July 21, hang around for the street dance, a Sedgwick County Fair tradition, from 10:30 p.m. to midnight to end the fair.

For those that would rather be up on the stage instead of in the crowd, the annual Fair’s Got Talent is back at the Open Air Arena stage at 7 p.m. Thursday July 19 before the Molly Neeley Trio takes the stage.

Competitors sent in video auditions to earn a spot in the show. The line-up was finalized on July 2. Finalists will advance to the last round of judging on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. before Big Fat Fun. This year, the winner of the talent show will receive $500 in cash and prizes.

More than music

Although this year’s focus is on music, the fair is bringing the heat with a variety of events from a demolition derby to an amateur BBQ contest. Here are some of the main events.

Some call it Riptide, some call it the Flying Dutchman, others call it what is: a 22-person bench-style ride that goes in circles 65 feet in the air. The ride is a new addition to the returning Pride of Texas Carnivals and this year, it’s coming to Cheney.

Carnival armbands can be used any day at the fair and are on sale in advance for $20 on the Sedgwick County Fair website, ourcountyfair.com, and for cash only at Cheney City Hall at 131 N. Main St. Wristbands also will be sold during the fair for $25 at the carnival ticket booth on the east side of the fairgrounds.

The armbands are good for unlimited rides for one day of your choice during the fair. The carnival rides will be open from 6-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 6-10 p.m. on Wednesday. All rides have height and weight restrictions and armbands are nonrefundable. Lost armbands will not be replaced.

The Sedgwick County Fair’s 2018 food vendors include the fair’s two original food trucks, Trinity United Christian Church and United Methodist Church, as well as fair favorites such as D’Mario’s Pizza, D&J Pronto Pup, Kolanders Commission, Aussie Cakes, Los Toritos, M&M Concessions, Squat & Gobble, Black Sheep Kettle Corn, Western Sedgwick County Arena Saddle Club, Cotton Candy Dreams, Parsnipity Cafe’s LumpaPalooza, Kandy’s Koffee, Cheney Recreation Commission and Delano 4-H Club.

Returning for a second year, the Ranch Rodeo will feature three team competitions that are similar to everyday tasks ranchers complete at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 19 at 7 p.m.

Johnson said if visitors have never seen the Ranch Rodeo, it’s very different than the typical rodeo.

“These are real cowboys out there with roughstock,” Johnson said. “These are not contractor animals that know the drill. They’re fresh out of the pasture that day. It’s real entertaining to watch.”

The activities include ranch bronc riding with normal working saddles, sorting individual animals out of a herd of steers and a final test to see how contestants handle cattle. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for kids ages 4-12. Children 3 and younger will be admitted free.

To burn off those turkey legs and pronto pups, people can literally run into the fair. Registration begins at 6 a.m. Saturday for the eight-mile, one-mile and 5K races and costs $20 before July 20 and $25 the day of the race. Following registration, the eight-mile race starts at 6:30 a.m. at Garden Plain High School, 720 Sedgwick in Garden Plain. At the fairgrounds, the 5K begins at 7:30 a.m. and the one-milers will take off at 8:30 a.m.

The best part of the fair, Johnson said, is kind of the whole experience.

“It’s being there and seeing all your friends and talking to the 4-H kids,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for a long, long time, and no matter what it is, whatever you’re doing at the moment is fun.”

And the fact that it’s close to home.

“It’s not like people are driving to Colorado,” Johnson said. “It’s close and a nice drive into Cheney. Part of the beauty of the fair is that is doesn’t change from year-to-year terribly much.”

The State Fair of Texas is famously filled with fried foods from the deepest corners of the imagination. Watch as Star-Telegram contributor Anna Caplan and her son, Gabe, sink their teeth into this sugary Tex-Mex burger from our dreams.

Sedgwick County Fair

When: July 18-21

Where: Cheney Fairgrounds, 308 S Main St.

What: Live music, carnival rides, food vendors, 4-H competitions, and more.

Tickets: Admission is free. Carnival armbands are $20 until July 17 and $25 at the fair. Tickets for the rodeo are $7 for adults and $5 for kids four to 12. The Run to Cheney is $20 until July 20 and $25 the day of the race.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle