A Kansas State Fair Experience….#208 (the 90’s)

Kansas State Fair - Hutchinson

Kansas State Fair – Hutchinson

The Buick was navigational correct, headed due north on highway 14 towards Kingman, then 10 mile east on US 54 and back north on state highway 17, the destination, Hutchinson and the Kansas State Fair.  For some unknown reason Gary suspecting that the earth’s magnetic field was misaligned in Hutch, having no difficulty driving to the Fair Grounds, but always getting his sense of direction turned around when leaving, having to rely on Jan to address highway 17 south.  The late Saturday morning journey finding the Kansas weather for the third week of September most cooperative, this time of year a smorgasbord of conditions, choose your day and your temperature, thankful for the passing of the summer’s sweltering heat.  On arrival,  Gary having no problems parking, the directing attendants on South Main St. and on the parking area giving no options, you parked where directed.  Disembarking, everyone thankful for the open-air-shuttle ride to one of the entrance gates.   Once inside the family having no problems addressing the midway, just follow the flow.

North American Midway Entertainment

North American Midway Entertainment

Lake Talbott

Lake Talbott

Robert and Sandi, 13 and 12 years of age were given their freedom to roam the midway, but unbeknown to them, their father when not accompanying them was keeping a watchful eye from a distance.  Gary having been acquainted with midway concessionaires years earlier in Oklahoma City was well aware of the means employed for them to show a profit.  He did capitalize on the barkers mistake at the target dartboard, the rule is to allow a customer only three darts at a time, the participant having to place three darts in the 50 cent size circle.  The concessionaire mistakenly giving Gary six darts, the added number allowing him to better align his aim with success, chalking up three hits and one large stuffed animal.  There were many permanent mainstays on the 280 acres of the Hutchinson State Fairgrounds, over twenty buildings, many open year round to provide for a variety of activities.  The grounds includes a small botanical garden and lake for rowing which was formed from a sand pit dug during the construction of the Fairgrounds Grandstand in 1928.  Lake Talbott, named for Joe Talbott, a pioneer teamster on the Medicine Lodge and Sun City cattle trails, who was appointed the first Fair superintendent on its inaugural opening in 1934.  Talbot went on to live until 1954, passing at the age of 101.  Gary finding the history of the Kansas Fair visualized the exhibits, discovering the changes made thru the years and little known events such as the fair grounds landscaping and original buildings were built using prison labor and a portion of the ground was used as an internment camp for WWII German POW’s.

Miniature train provides a restful tour

Miniature train provides a restful tour

Ye Old Mill - built in 1915

Ye Old Mill – built in 1915

Inside Ye Ole Mill gloomy cave

Inside Ye Ole Mill gloomy cave

The two rides that Gary enjoyed were both permanent fixtures at the Fairgrounds.  The first being the miniature train that circled the large enclosed encampment.  The echoing sound of it’s whistle not only delighting the younger generation, but penetrating the memories of the older adults too.  The enjoyable ride not only furnishing a restful sit, but making it possible for the riders to view exhibits at the far ends of the grounds, enabling a decision whether to venture the distance.  The other exhibited ride remains the Fair’s oldest concession constructed in 1915, ” Ye Olde Mill “,  a water way boat trip thru a darkened cave like tunnel, the posted sign from the past written in the vernacular of the past, proclaiming  “A gloomy cave of gleesome gladness”.  Gary finding North American Midway entertainment pretty much the same every year, but this year a popular new exhibit, a swinging replica of a boat able to provide seating for forty people.  Jan and Sandi beaming to board ship and experience its pendulum progression.  Robert and Dad deciding to forgo the boat ride, opting for what they considered a more harrowing experience, the two person Wild Mouse.  An invitation extended, but Jan and Sandi declining to venture aboard this rickety looking contraption.

A pendulum boat ride

A pendulum boat ride

Hang on its the Wild Mouse

Hang on it’s the Wild Mouse

Can't resist a funnel Cake

Can’t resist a funnel Cake

Gary and Jan when asked what was the best part of attending the Kansas State Fair, the answer was always the same, “the food”.   No hamburgers, hot dogs or french fries, not when you have Bavarian Smoked Sausage, a Hungarian Rhapsody on a toasted bun, deep-fried Vidalia Blooming Onions, funnel cakes,  a bounty list of delightful diligence, an array of substances never found in a restaurant.  A close second for focused enjoyment was the Grandstand entertainment, performers demonstrating their talent in concert, but the original purpose for the gathering still the biggest attraction of them all, the displaying of over 33,000 exhibits by people from every walk of life.  The ranchers and their animals, farmer and produce, the homemaker with their canning, the commercial exhibitors with a walk thru of RV’s, trailers, farming equipment, home products and business opportunities, as cornucopia of human endeavor.  Gary realizing why so many like his father-in-law,  stay in their travel trailer, spending up to a week encamped at the Fairgrounds.

Grand Stand performance - The Oak Ridge Boys

Grandstand performance – The Oak Ridge Boys

A last look before leaving

A last look before leaving

Gary noticing the midway crowd beginning to thin, it was nearing show time at the grandstand, the popular Oak Ridge Boys performing.  The rural Kansas family determining which Grandstand entertainment feature they would enjoy.  The entertainment chosen on a rotating family basis, everyone in agreement with this year’s selection decided by Jan, The Oak Ridge Boys.  Gary in previous years discovering not everyone agreed with some of his choices, opting for Red Skelton and even television impressionist Rich Little, but one couldn’t go wrong with a Country & Western entertainer, Bud Murrow’s favorite, fiddle playing Charlie Daniels and the Charlie Daniels Band.  The evening concert beginning, Gary discovering another new addition to the Grandstand, two large projection screens on either side of the stage enabling a closer view for those sitting in the upper sections.  With darkness prevailing, The Oak Ridge Boys presentation coming to a conclusion, a tired family filing out, once again participating as members of the flow only this time exiting the State Fair and with no shuttle ride provided to the parking areas, a slow but tedious walk, concluding a fast but tenacious day.

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