For many families, attending the state fair is a tradition
August 1, 2017
"Our folks didn't go on trips; but the state fair was a big deal, and it was a family thing. Then as our kids got into 4-H, we'd take the boys down there, and now, we have grandkids who have exhibits there," said Joleen Claycamp of Cuba, Kan., who along with her husband Kenny are excitedly awaiting the week of the 2017 Kansas State Fair.
"We enjoy the Pride of Kansas building (one of the agriculture buildings) where they always make the butter into something, and we like to see the quilts and canning."
They each grew up on a farm, but Jolene was a substitute teacher and Kenny is retired.
"I was in 4-H back in the 1950s and '60s. I was on the livestock judging team. Some of us kids from Narka (Kansas) would stay in the camping building all weekend long," Joleen said.
In the early '60s – Joleen and her friend Judy Cerny won the state bread demonstration for their prune kolaches.
"Then our kids got into 4-H and submitted entries. Kenny would take his camper down (to Hutchinson, Kan.) and I'd bring our sons down, then we'd bring the boys back for the week of school and then go back down. So, it was a family vacation type thing," Joleen said.
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Now, they have grandchildren who have exhibits at the state fair. "Kenny and I still like to go the first weekend before the flowers and vegetables get wilted." They also enjoy seeing people they know.
With the onset of warmer weather, State Fair Board officials in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and many other states are immersed in rounding-up plans for their State Fair, one of the most popular summertime events across the U.S. Deeply rooted in agriculture and history, the state fair in many states offers myriad venues for sharing memories and creating new ones, while showcasing 4-H cattle, pigs, goats and other competitions featuring animals given special tender loving care, interwoven with entertainment, uniquely fair food, homemade crafts and homegrown food competitions, open class opportunities, rodeos and much more.
Here are highlights of the upcoming state fairs in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming:
Tradition and pride about agriculture brings people to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, scheduled for Sept. 8-17.
"The butter sculpture, competitive exhibits — our youth livestock shows have shown continued growth for the past 15 years; the open cattle show has increased participation that has filled the barn to its capacity," said Susan Sankey, general manager of the Kansas State Fair, noting, "We strive to maintain a balance of commercial vendors and exhibits, a carnival, educational promotions, and venue to showcase Kansas 4-H and FFA, while maintaining agriculture as a main focus."
Beyond the fair's 10 days, Sankey says the Kansas State Fair rents out its facilities for 600 other events held at the fairgrounds throughout the year.
New this year is a coupon booklet with various values and "$2 Tasting Tuesday" for fair patrons to experience a variety of samples from food vendors.
Also, Kansas State Fair officials are considering an updated master plan which could possibly transform the race track.
"The agreement with the architect (for an update) was set in July 2015 by the prior general manager, at the direction of the State Fair Board. We are considering the input and economic feasibility for various areas of the fairgrounds including expanding the use of the current track area, transforming it to serve as a host to multiple events," Sankey said. "Opportunities include continued use of the grandstand as an entertainment venue, while allowing for concurrent motor sports and other outdoor dirt entertainment, and the possibility of building a new indoor facility that could host a variety of events, including equine shows, dog shows and indoor sports," she said.
While food, entertainment and shopping are the top reasons people attend the Nebraska State Fair, agriculture is a central component of the fair to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 4, in Grand Island.
"There are livestock shows, 4-H and FFA, equine shows, antique and farm machinery displays. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture commodity groups play a significant role at the fair, providing educational demonstrations and are a partner in the Raising Nebraska: Your Food and the Families Who Grow It exhibit. This is a highly interactive, educational exhibit about Nebraska agriculture that shows how food gets from the farm to your fork," said Joseph McDermott, executive director of the Nebraska State Fair.
In addition to Raising Nebraska, the Nebraska State Fair is also home to several unique exhibits. "The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission presents an indoor and outdoor exhibit during the fair that includes an aquarium, waterfall and meandering stream, archery range, shooting gallery, tree house, climbing hills, tunnels and more," McDermott said.
Ultimately, he said, "It's the family friendly atmosphere, the overall experience, and the memories that last a lifetime, which make the fair special to so many."
The Colorado State Fair; themed, It's Your Fair, will be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 4, in Pueblo. "The Colorado State Fair is a distinctive event, comprised of several facets of family friendly entertainment and education including agriculture, carnival, concerts, rodeo, unique food experiences, shopping opportunities and experiences that Coloradans can only find 11-days a year at the annual state fair," said Sarah Cummings, general manager to the Colorado State Fair. Cummings said the state fair has a strong link to agriculture and has a great impact on the state.
"The Colorado State Fair is a venue for celebration, education and agricultural advocacy. It's a venue to showcase the vibrancy of our beautiful state," Cummings said.
Rich in history, in 1869, approximately 2,000 people converged on what is now Pueblo for a horse exhibition, which became the Colorado State Fair.
"The team at the Colorado State Fair certainly have a few new things lined up for the 2017 Fair — they are sure to be big and exciting … but for now, you will have to plan a visit to the State Fair, Aug. 25-Sept. 4, to see for yourself … See you at the fair …, Cummings said.
The greatest reason people come to the Wyoming State Fair is because of tradition. "We had a patron survey done for three years in a row to find some of these answers, and that confirmed our thinking. People come because they plan on it, they come every year, and they are coming because their parents and grandparents came before them. Also, because it is a safe and family-friendly environment where they can enjoy visiting friends, shopping and letting their children and family go about their leisure time without major concerns," said James Goodrich, director of the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas.
The state fair, which will be held Aug. 12-19, "is like an informal convention for people in agriculture, that happens consistently, every year," Goodrich said.
The Wyoming State Fair also holds the state finals for Ranch Rodeo. "Those winners of the top two teams have the chance to compete in the NILE Ranch Rodeo in Billings, Mont., and a chance to go to Winnemucca if they win the Ranch Rodeo in Billings. It has been good for the sport, our ag community, and for our relationship with other expositions in the western USA," he said.
New this year are the activities and two extra days associated with the total solar eclipse occurring on Aug. 21. "We are extending our fair activities for two extra days. We are among several communities in Wyoming on the center line of the path for viewing the eclipse, and near several locations considered to be the best vantage points in the world for viewing a total solar eclipse," Goodrich said.
As for Joleen Claycamp, she's already planning her family's vacation to the Kansas State Fair. "I'm probably a little more loving of the State Fair-than Kenny is. It's one of our weekend vacations. We've hardly ever missed a state fair, except when our son Jeff broke his arm — is the only year, I can remember we missed it," Joleen said.
"We always have to have one last root beer out of the barrel at the 4-H encampment building," Joleen said. "Going to the fair and 4H … was the best part of our family life."
For more information:
Colorado State Fair: http://www.coloradostatefair.com, phone: 1 (800) 876-4567
Wyoming State Fair: http://www.wystatefair.com, phone: (307) 358-2398
Nebraska State Fair: http://www.statefair.org/, phone: (308) 382-1620
Kansas State Fair: http://www.kansasstatefair.com/, phone: (620) 669-3640