The fur and feathers of the Johnson County Fair will arrive in Gardner earlier than usual. The 2014 event will start in July rather than the first week of August.
Darci Hamilton, Johnson County Fair executive board member, said organizers decided to move the fair up a week in order to avoid conflicts with schools.
ìThe schools are starting earlier and earlier,î Hamilton explained. ìWe were having conflicts with the kids having to go back to college and to school events.î
With schools ramping up the first week of August, the fair attendees were also competing with school employees for valuable parking availability near the fairgrounds in Gardner.
ìWe decided to move the fair up a week to avoid those conflicts,î Hamilton, Olathe, said.
With no single access point and free entry, fair organizers have never garnered an accurate account of how many people attend the annual event. However, several years ago, the fair board did have an estimate done by doing a daily headcount.
ìIt wasnít real accurate,î Hamilton said. ìThe fair draws very large crowds.î
They estimated that approximately 75,000 to 100,000 people visited the fair that week, but Hamilton admits that some of the same people may have been counted more than once.
Organizers anticipate similar attendance this year, though the numbers are largely influenced by the weather.
ìIf we have nice weather, we have better attendance,î Hamilton said. ìBut thatís kind of fair life. Youíre going to have hot days, and youíre going to have rain.î
The 2014 theme is ìFur and Feathers.î Hamilton said organizers try to showcase something a little bit different with the fair theme.
ìThis year, we kind of highlighted the rabbit and poultry barn,î Hamilton said.
A new event will replace the Bull Bash, which was a typical Friday night event at the fair. This year, Friday nightís main arena event will be a Ranch Rodeo, a team event that will feature sorting and trailering.
ìItís basically cowboy skills versus bull riding,î Hamilton said. ìItís a little bit of a different feel.î
Most of the traditional events and activities, including the carnival, flat track racing and livestock shows will be a part of the 2014 fair.
The Johnson County Farm Bureau Associationís display area will be larger, Hamilton said.
ìThey last several years, theyíve had an educational display area to promote agriculture,î he said.
This year, the display will include a combine that kids can climb on and ask questions about.
ìSeeing a combine in the field is a little bit different than being up close to one,î Hamilton explained. ìAll of that will be exciting for everyone to learn about agriculture.î
The fair showcases the year-long efforts of local 4-H groups, and it isnít all agriculture.
Group members also do things like rocketry, dog training and photography. Their efforts will be displayed at the annual event.
Largely the effort of volunteers, Hamilton said the fair is jointly funded using ticket fees for fair main events like the demolition derby, county funds and sponsorships.
This yearís fair will run from July 27 to Aug. 2. More information about the fair will appear in The Gardner Newsí annual Fair Edition, which will be available on newsstands on July 23.