Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Festival from the Inside


The Kansas Sampler Festival will take place Saturday, May 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, May 2 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Venue is Ray Miller Park, 4201 S. 4th Street, Leavenworth. A neat opening ceremony will take place on Saturday at 9 a.m.

I like to call it the kick-off event for the 2010 exploring season. More than 300 exhibitors will be there to inspire you to explore Kansas! You'll be swimming in day trip ideas when you leave and you'll be happily filled to the brim with Kansas pride. You'll hear Kansas music, eat Kansas foods, buy Kansas products, and talk to lots of Kansans about their favorite nooks and crannies in the state.


Bob Topping of Leavenworth started laying the groundwork for Leavenworth County to host this festival many years ago. By the time the Kansas Sampler Foundation held the informational meeting for potential hosts in January 2008, Bob had already been setting forth plans. Keyta Kelly was tapped as the director. She orchestrated the effort to complete the preliminary application and the rigorous final app. The KSF board went to Leavenworth for a site visit and interview before officially granting the festival to Leavenworth County in the fall of 2008. By the time the 2009 festival rolled around in Concordia, Bob, Keyta, and her two daughters, Kaitlyn and Rachel, came early during prep week to pitch in and learn the ropes.

Since then, there have been some unexpected twists and turns but everything is looking great for a strong 2010 Kansas showcase. The public will view the many tents and exhibitors as if they had been magically planted there. They'll miss seeing the craziness of set-up when volunteers unload 325 exhibitors and help transport booth materials to their designated areas.

The public won't see the months and months of long hours and endless details of getting everyone registered, marketing, finding sponsors, producing the festival guide, and answering a thousand different questions. Parking and parkers, security and fencing, tent ordering and layout are just a few of the details. Straw bales, picnic tables, electricity and water have to be brought in to the park. It seems that every one of the 325 exhibitors has a different set of needs and all must be attended to. Who will staff the admission gate, the information booth, and who will pick up trash? How many port-o-pots are needed, how many food vendors, and how do we convey the message to buy all supplies from locally-owned businesses?

Volunteers have to be trained, signs need to be made, fence posts need to be pounded in for the community flag lane. Plans must be coordinated with sound technicians, electricians, and EMTs.

That's just the life of the host.


Exhibitors all over the state have been planning their booths, performances, food, or products for months, too. Authors must make sure to have enough books on hand. Artists are creating. Entrepreneurs, wineries, and Kansas breweries are producing extra inventory. Promoters are making brochures and figuring out a display that will get the public's attention. After all, there will be competition for getting noticed...

BUT COME MAY 1 and 2 adrenalin will kick in and we'll all be excited to be a collective force in sharing what's great about Kansas.

By now, our Leavenworth County hosts might be wondering if it's all worth it, but once the music begins at the opening ceremony and the communities come marching up the lane with their flags, goosebumps will serve notice that all the work, all the sleepless nights, and all the persistence and endurance was worth it.

Due to Leavenworth County and the hundreds of local people and statewide enthusaists involved, thousands will see Kansas with new eyes -- and will make plans to go out and around Kansas. New professional relationships will be started, networks strengthened. Products, art, and books will be happily sold. Musicians and historic performers will get bookings, sell CDs, and find appreciation for their talents. Food vendors will serve us well.

And maybe best of all, rural and urban will seamlessly come together. Under these tents will be one Kansas. If you aren't able to come, just step out your door and look towards northeast Kansas. You're likely to catch a glimpse of some mighty good energy filling the Kansas sky.

May 1-2, Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner