Members of Gardner Edgerton High School’s Marching Band line up before the start of the Johnson County Fair parade on Saturday, Aug. 7 in downtown Gardner. The band was one of more than 100 participants in the annual parade. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

A parade watcher plays with her puppies on the parade route last week. 4-H groups had ‘cooling stations’ on the fairgrounds where members could spray their pets with water to keep them cool during the heatwave. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Corbin H. Crable
The last sheep has left the arena and the last funnel cake has been consumed, but organizers of the Johnson County Fair say that within a couple of months, plans will already be under way for the 2011 fair.
There’s one thing they’ll have to assume, however – it’s going to be hot. Excessive heat may have been a factor in a drop in attendance at this year’s fair, according to Matt Meek, fair board president and Spring Hill resident.
“The heat affected our attendance some, it was down a bit, both in general attendance and also with the carnival,” Meek said. “I don’t have all of the numbers crunched yet, but (lower attendance) has to do with the heat more than anything. It could be the economy as well, but our attendance is dependent on how hot it is.”
Temperatures last week hit the upper 80s and low 90s, while the Kansas City metro area remains under an excessive heat advisory this week. The mercury is forecast to soar to the mid- to upper 90s for the next few days.
Meek said fair volunteers and on-site medical personnel responded to at least one heat-related issue each night last week.
“That was from (visitors) being dehydrated, but nothing of major concern,” he said. “We did have a couple of people who had to be taken to an area hospital. But most people were able to be treated by getting hydrated.”
Meek said that despite the heat and lower attendance, he believes the fair was a success.
“We had a couple of days where (the weather conditions) were more bearable. That helped us a bit,” he said.
“I also think many of the 4-H’ers shined very bright,” Meek added. “Their talents really shone through with their projects, regardless of whether it was cooking or crafts or woodworking or displaying livestock. These are quality young men and women, and we saw that again this year. That’s what makes the fair such a great thing.”
Patty Gay, a member of the theme committee who developed this year’s ‘Wild ‘N’ Wooly’ theme, said a total of 81 area businesses decorated wooden cutouts as sheep and posted them around the fairgrounds.
“I heard people telling me a lot of families and kids stopped and looked at them,” Gay said. “They’re just interesting and very creative. We’re amazed at how creative people are when they take a flat piece of wood, decorate them and then bring them back.”
Gay said that although the sheep were good ways for businesses to promote themselves, in at least one case, they led to a friendly competition.
“I know Central National Bank made it a (decorating) contest between their Walmart branch and their (main) branch,” Gay said. “It’s a team-building thing. It’s a positive for the business, and it’s a lot more than just getting their name out there.”
While attendance in general was down due to the heat, fair organizers said they actually saw a slight increase in those who came out to enjoy the fair’s parade on Saturday morning.
“I think the parade went very well. I was overwhelmed by the number of spectators and entries,” said Steve Devore, president of the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the parade. “For it being hot and in August, it was a huge success.”
Devore said the parade had more than 100 entries, which included area businesses, organizations and individuals. Judges placed entrants in a variety of categories, and the top three winners in the ‘theme’ category received a certificate, a ribbon and a cash prize.
First place in the theme category went to New Life Community Church; 4-H Pioneer Club earned second place, and 4-H Morning Glory Club came in third place.
As Saturday wore on, however, cleanup commenced. Meek said volunteers and crews began cleaning up the fairgrounds at around 10 or 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7 and continued through the morning of Sunday, Aug. 8. He said cleanup was finished and the fairgrounds closed by the middle of the afternoon Sunday.
Meek said that after a brief period of rest, the fair board will again convene in the fall and begin planning for the 2011 Johnson County Fair.
“We’ll brainstorm on what was successful this year and what we can tweak for next year,” Meek explained. “(The meetings) are a springboard for next year, since we can discuss different ideas.”
Visitors and fair enthusiasts can view complete results for the 2010 4-H contests online at, where fair t-shirts also are available for sale at $5 each.