Keeper of the Plans

An age-old State Fair tradition gets torn to shreds

Attendees at the Kansas State Fair.
Attendees at the Kansas State Fair. File photo

The Kansas State Fair has officially stepped into the 21st century.

No longer will fair workers have to spend days counting and weighing – yes, literally weighing – ripped ticket stubs to figure out how many people attended the fair.

In the offseason, the Kansas State Fair upgraded to an electronic ticketing system, allowing fairgoers the chance to buy tickets in advance.

Ticket-purchasers will receive a code in their email, which is then scanned by people at the gate, much like a concert at Intrust Bank Arena.

Don’t worry: for those without smartphones, tickets are still sold at the gate – you’ll just get a print-out code instead of the standard cardboard tickets the fair used to use.

“It allows us to have a lot more efficiency,” said Susan Sankey, who is in her second year as general manager of the Kansas State Fair. “It allows us to have a better knowledge of our audience and the fairgoing public in providing them with a service that has probably been around in a lot of venues for a long time.”

Sankey said fair staff “had some anxiety” about broaching the upgraded ticket system to its longtime volunteers, most of whom have had many years’ experience taking tickets the old-fashioned way.

That fear was quickly allayed, she said.

“One of the first questions ... was why didn’t we do this a long time ago,” Sankey said. “It’s been a welcome change. ... We live in a society that has an expectation of instantaneous whatever-it-is. Nobody wants to stand in line.”

To purchase tickets in advance, visit

What about WiFi on the fairgrounds?

Vendors can provide WiFi, Sankey said, but it’s not provided by the State Fair as an amenity. One day, she said, fair staff hopes to add fairground-wide WiFi.

“It’s just an expectation that people have,” Sankey said. “We won’t be there this year, but in the future, those are things we’re really talking about. ... We feel like we’re high-tech, but we have a ways to go.”

Another new fair perk: on the two weekends of the fair, there will be a complimentary shuttle service from the Hutchinson Mall to the fairgrounds.

A bus will pick up fairgoers from north of the JCPenney store, 1500 E. 11th St. in Hutchinson, during the following times:

▪ noon-11 p.m. Fri., Sept. 9 and Sat., Sept. 10

▪ noon-11 p.m. Fri., Sept. 16

▪ noon-8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 17

Parking there, as well as on the fairgrounds, is free.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt