HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas State Fair begins in hours, and fair vendors and administrators alike are gearing up for the opening day.
“The grounds have come alive with their indoor and outdoor booths,” Kansas State Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz said.
Last year, the fair board canceled the event due to COVID-19. It was a first in 106 years, not even the Spanish flu or World Wars halted the annual end-of-summer rite.
This year’s set-up is also providing an additional challenge to staff. COVID-19 has left them with 25% fewer workers.
“Those individuals that were retained have stepped up,” Schulz said.
Bryan Schulz has been managing fairs for more than 10 years. This will be his first time managing the Kansas State Fair, a next step he says he’s grateful for.
“[I] was going on to be the CEO of the Oregon State Fair before COVID hit, and that position was eliminated because of COVID, but I’m very excited about being here in Kansas,” Schulz said.
The growing excitement is also a sentiment shared by first-time and experienced vendors.
“I’ve never done anything like this, and so we’re excited,” Russ Snyder with Mel’s Diner said.
“I’ve been in Tupperware my entire life. We’ve been here for 75 years,” Heather Wheeler, director of Tupperware, said.
Both Snyder and Wheeler say they’re looking forward to greeting many of the 350,000 people expected to visit the fairgrounds this year.
“It’s a good thing people are being careful. It’s a good thing to be together,” Wheeler said.
“There’ll be an excitement, you know, that they missed out on quite a bit last year, and I know the locals are really excited to have it back,” Snyder said.
“The opportunity of seeing someone smile, and that is from a 10 day old to a 105 year old, when they see what goes on at the fair, it brings a smile to everybody,” Schulz said.