Corbin H. Crable
Fair enthusiasts, 4-H members, funseekers and plenty of sheep will descend on Gardner next week for the annual Johnson County Fair. The fair runs Aug. 2-7 at the Johnson County Fairgrounds near downtown Gardner.
The theme for this year’s fair is ‘Wild ‘N’ Wooly,’ and, like last year, area merchants have designe
d barnyard animals – sheep for this year — that have a special touch – promoting their businesses.
Patty Gay, a member of the Fair Board’s theme committee, developed the idea of using wooden sheep cutouts to sell to businesses.
“We knew we wanted to stay with an animal theme, because they’re easier to decorate,” said Gay, who added that fairgoers can vote on their favorite sheep on the fair’s website. “We’re evolving with (the theme) more and more. Last year was the first year we had a (fairwide) theme. We felt like if people came in and saw something unusual, that would get them to ask about the businesses and the fair. That’s always a good thing.”
Festivalgoers will be able to see the wooden sheep scattered throughout the fairgrounds, along with lots to see, do, taste, touch and hear. Local and area 4-H’ers will be present all week to give animal and livestock presentations, and judges will be busy judging 4-H projects made by a variety of talents – everything from arts and crafts to pies to quilts to handmade rockets.
Even with 4-H’s projects on display, animal demonstrations and judged events, there is still plenty to do. Main events will include an open youth rodeo Aug. 2, a family fun night Aug. 3, firefighter and police demonstrations Aug. 4, amateur flat track racing Aug. 5, bull blast and barrel racing Aug. 6, and a parade through downtown Gardner will wrap up the fair festivities Aug. 7.
Fair Board President Matt Meek said two factors have contributed to a decrease in both attendance and funding for the fair in recent years – the weather and the economy.
“Last year was actually one of our better fairs because the weather was so good,” he said, “but the recession was still a problem.”
Meek said that in addition to fundraising for the fair, many area businesses have helped sponsor the annual event in other ways.
“We have some people who have traded out in kind,” Meek said. “They’ll loan us equipment, for instance. That part has remained about the same.
“We have one gentleman on our board who takes care of the sponsorships, and we have some longtime sponsors who have worked with us,” he continued. “The amount they’ve been able to help out with has been less in some cases. But we’ve tried to be creative when we ask for sponsorships.”
Meek also said weather, for the most part, remains an uncertainty each year. He said that although it will be hot outside, some rain is expected as well. Meek said he encourages fairgoers to take advantage of the air-conditioned buildings on the fairgrounds where 4-H projects will be displayed and judged.
“We just try to make sure there are places where people can go to get out of the heat,” Meek said.
He added that there are rainout dates scheduled for events such as the demolition derby, but that the carnival would take a large financial hit if the rain persists throughout the week.
“(Weather) does affect the carnival,” he said. “We get a percentage of the revenue from the carnival, and if it’s raining, they’re not making money and we’re not, either.”
Meek said local law enforcement officials and medical officials will be on hand to ensure operations go smoothly and to monitor the fairgrounds for medical emergencies due to the heat.
“The Johnson County Sheriff’s office takes care of security along with the Gardner police department,” Meek said. “We’ll also have EMTs and so forth as well. So we have medical personnel available almost all of the time.”
On the parade side of the fair, Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce President Steve Devore said local businesses are hard at work preparing for the big day.
“The chamber hosts the parade, so we’re busy encouraging participation in it,” Devore said. “Last year we had over 100 entries in the parade, and we’re looking at having more, especially since this is a political campaign year.”
Devore added that the chamber charges a $10 registration fee to participate in the fair’s parade.
A full schedule of fair events is included in this edition of The Gardner News. For more information on next week’s event, including schedules, ticket information, directions and Fair Board news, visit the fair’s website at www.jocokansasfair.com.