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Kansans and their fellow High Plains neighbors are devastated without their state fairs.

The Sunflower State shares common ties with its neighbors who had to make the painful decision to stop the “great get-togethers” as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision is an economic hit to the states and local communities that host the events.

The Kansas State Fair has a $74.6 million impact to its economy, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, and has over a $40 million impact to a 60-mile radius of Hutchinson.

In Kansas, the state fair is a fee-funded agency that does not receive funding from the state although in 2018 lawmakers approved a small percentage of every dollar of tax generated can be retained. As a result, the Kansas State Fair survives on concert sales, gate admission, vendor rentals, sponsors and competitive entries. As it is in all states, the fair income is generated in a tight time window in favorable times but is unfortunately closed this year. The cancellation of the fair means the Kansas State Fair will have an operating shortfall of $2.3 million.

In the Sunflower State, the 2020 edition was the first fair that was shut down. It survived the previous 106 years that included the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the end of World War II in 1945 and in recent times the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Our other High Plains neighbors can also relate similar stories from their states.

The cancellation decision has a painful ripple as it hurts vendors, many of whom draw loyal fans who want to purchase unique treats, artwork and household goods from entrepreneurs as they lost their economic circuit, too. That does not take into account many organizations that had food stands as volunteers served tens of thousands of tacos, hamburgers and breakfast specials, with proceeds that allow youth to take servant trips to places far beyond their state’s borders.

Without the injection of financial capital it will cause even a greater loss to human capital. While fairs have changed over the years to attract urban cousins, the core remains the rural agricultural roots and in Kansas several non-public judging events occurred. We credit board members, organizers and their staffs that remain bullish about 2021 because they believe their story will resonate with state fair-goers.

Donations, more now than ever, are important to the individual fairs in each state. In the Sunflower State, people can send a check to the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation, 2000 N. Poplar, Hutchinson, KS 67502 or visit online at KansasStateFair.com. We encourage High Plains readers in other states to take a few minutes and consider making a donation to their own state fair foundations.

It is also appropriate to visit with state and federal lawmakers to encourage them to commit monies to help fairs to have a stable financial base so that the next generation of fair-goers will also learn and benefit from the rural story.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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