By ROD ZOOK & NICK GOSNELL
HUTCHINSON — Two world wars, The Great Depression and 9/11 could not stop the Kansas State Fair from holding its annual get-together. But the pandemic has won out.
On Monday, the fair board decided to cancel the fair ending 107 consecutive runs.
"I got a couple of letters that were just really frustrated that we would make a decision about the state fair over finances, when it's really about the 4-H and the kids coming up here," said Fair General Manager Robin Jennison Monday. "That's great, but people need to understand that what makes it possible for us to do all of that are the vendors and the sponsors that are in partnership with the Kansas State Fair. When we don't have those, it's really going to limit our ability to do some of those things."
Although officials believed they could run the fair in a safe manner, many vendors opted not to attend since many area fairs were canceled.
The fair announced Monday that all gate admission tickets, packages and food tickets already purchased will be valid for the 2021 Kansas State Fair.
Staff is currently working to reschedule the 2020 Nex-Tech Wireless Grandstand lineup. If rescheduled, those tickets will also be honored at next year’s fair. How to obtain refunds will be announced soon.
While there will not be a 2020 Kansas State Fair, the fair will have 4-H and FFA youth livestock competitions, plus open class livestock exhibitions in September. The board is also considering having youth static competitions. The board will reconvene Aug. 4 to gather more information.
Livestock events begin Thursday, Sept. 3, and continue for three weekends, ending Sunday, Sept. 20. Event rules will be modified.
Grand Drive: FFA and 4-H youth from across the state compete to be the best of the best in this premier Kansas livestock competition. The Grand Drive is Sept. 11-13 and features the market beef, sheep, swine and goat shows. These shows are closed to outside spectators but can be viewed on Walton Webcasting. The event is sponsored by Midwest Ford and other great partners.
Deadline to enter the Grand Drive is July 15.
Champion Livestock Show: The Kansas State Fair is partnering with Special Olympics Kansas to introduce a new event: the Champion Livestock Show. The competition takes place at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.
Ten athletes will be selected by Special Olympics and paired with 4-H or FFA members to show a meat goat. The athletes will have time to work with their mentor and animal the morning of the event. Open Range Trailer Sales and Services and Cimarron Trailers is the event sponsor. Key Apparel will provide T-shirts for participating competitors and mentor exhibitors. This show is closed to outside spectators but can be viewed on Walton Webcasting.
Mustang Days: Youth train untamed yearlings in the Mustang Beginnings Youth Challenge. They work to gentle the Bureau of Land Management wild horses over the summer then demonstrate their training skills. The event is Sept. 12-13.
Supreme Drive: The Supreme Drive recognizes the best bull and female of each breed in the open beef shows. The event is Sept. 19.
4-H Horse Show: This annual event will occur Sept. 17-20.
Many of these events will happen this year thanks to the fair’s great partnership with 4-H and FFA and these organizations’ staff and volunteers. This includes the fair’s Grand Drive event.
All shows will be closed to the public to help create a safe event. Entry deadline is July 15 for the 4-H/FFA Grand Drive and Aug. 15 for all open livestock shows.
On June 30, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman advised the State Fair Board that they should cancel this year's fair.
"If I were only talking about it from a public health perspective, it would be best to not have the State Fair," Norman said. "There's no question, it will engender illness." Norman didn't think fairgoers would wear masks.