Kansas State Fair unveils new Explore Kansas Festival

Swedish dancers perform in Lindsborg. The McPherson County town will be part of the Kansas State Fair's new Explore Kansas Festival.

A new festival the first weekend of the Kansas State Fair will feature the treasures and tourist attractions found in Kansas communities.

The Explore Kansas Festival — a showcase of Kansas culture, history, events and attractions — will take place the first weekend of the fair, Sept. 7-8, in Gottschalk Park.

The first-ever festival is a way to educate fairgoers about Kansas’ many attractions all in one place, said the fair’s General Manager Robin Jennison. Visitors will see an interactive display of Kansas byways, dig for a lost village, learn about one of the nation’s oldest town picnics and celebrate the 200th birthday of the Santa Fe Trail.

“The two-day showcase brings together Kansas communities and attractions, creating a place for the public to discover our unique treasures,” said Jennison.

A few of the communities represented:

• Erie — Erie is famous for its annual Old Soldiers and Sailors Reunion, which is held during the second full week of July. The reunion features a Free Bean Feed. The beans are prepared using a historic recipe, simmering all day in cast-iron kettles over wood fires — just like soldiers used in the Civil War. This reunion has been conducted continuously since 1873 and is claimed to be the oldest consecutively running Old Soldiers and Sailors Reunion in the country.

• Ark City’s Lost City of Etzanoa — In June 2015, archaeologist Dr. Don Blakeslee led a wide-ranging field study in central and southern Kansas. One of his primary goals was to rediscover the long-lost Native American city of Etzanoa. He was successful. It was in the present location of Arkansas City, Kansas. This site is now available for tours.

• Santa Fe Trail — William Becknell, known as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail, left Missouri for Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1821. More than half the trail runs through Kansas and many remnants of the trail still exist. The Santa Fe Trail was the first international trail between the United States and Mexico. The Santa Fe Trail Association will have a display celebrating the trail's heritage.

“We see the Kansas State Fair as an important mouthpiece for Kansas Tourism,” Jennison added. “The Explore Kansas Festival can help visitors find unique cafes, fishing holes, hiking trails, next summer’s vacation spot, historic sites, natural landmarks, museums, arts and culture and events — or even a new place to call home.”

The fair has already filled up one tent for the festival and is working on filling a second, overflow location. There are only a few vacant spots. The community application deadline is Monday, June 10. Spots after this date will be filled if spaces are still available.

To apply for the Explore Kansas Festival, please visit the Fair’s website by clicking here. For more information, call Kansas State Fair Director of Marketing Amy Bickel at 620-669-3624 or email her at amy.bickel@ks.gov.

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