We just got done with the 20th annual Kansas Sampler Festival held May 2-3 in Concordia's city park. 135 Kansas communities were represented in 217 exhibits of Kansas day trips, products, art, books, music, historical performances, and free-standing exhibits. Over 5,000 attended.
THOSE WHO MAKE IT HAPPEN
Because it moves around every two years, it's a little tricky to organize. It's not like everyone does the same job they've done for ten years and could do it in their sleep. Those patterns haven't been established yet.
So the effort by all those involved in the preparation of it is immense. Susie Haver, Tammy Britt, and WenDee LaPlant had the lion's share of the responsibility on their shoulders -- but they made it great. We also have festival groupies who come days before the festival to help. This year they came from Liberal, Salina, Oklahoma, and Leavenworth County. And then there is the outstanding crew during the festival from tent bosses who take care of the exhibitors to the college kids who descended on the exhibitors to make Friday set-up a breeze.
It is a tremendous amount of work but because of willing people, it all gets done.
THOSE WHO EXHIBIT
Have you ever heard of Manchester, Everest, or Hardtner? Even those small towns were represented at the festival. But so were Topeka, Manhattan, and Hutchinson.
Many of these towns do not have the benefit of the transient guest tax so monies for the festival expenses come from anywhere around town they can get support -- chamber, city, county, economic development, PRIDE, local businesses -- or from their own pockets. Money is needed to develop the displays, to pay the registration fee, and to cover travel expenses. Some people take off work to help at this event. Exhibitors are a highly dedicated group.
The camraderie among the exhibitors is one of the highlights. They get ideas from each other, they spell each other in the booths, and they find connections. The Blacksmith Roastery from Lindsborg gained some new wholesale clients for his coffee. Musicians and historic performers got bookings.
Ten people get We Kan! awards -- and there are many tears.
People were there from Texas, New Mexico, and other states but they also come from all around Kansas.
A twenty-something young man wrote on his blog about how cool the festival was. He now wants to explore Kansas more.
An older woman explained how she gathers brochures at the festival, goes home and spreads them out on her table and makes a plan, and then travels to Kansas places in the summer.
One ten-year-0ld had to be at every Stump game.
People continually comment how they had no idea Kansas had so much to offer.
The Kansas Barn Alliance had conversations with diehard barn owners.
Mom & I's Candy was a big hit, as usual.
Lb. Brewing gave away so many samples they had nothing left for Sunday.
Every year there is one or two people who attend and when they find that their town isn't represented, they say it will be next year -- and it often is.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
No other state does this kind of event. It's unique to get the smallest of cities and the metro areas all together in an outdoor setting under large tents. It's not an over-commercialized event and it's done with a purpose, not a profit motive.
The purpose is simply to help people love Kansas and "get Kansas."
It always turns out that they do.
Next year the Kansas "classroom" moves to Leavenworth County. Hope you can be there!
KE #2 Marci Penner