Becky  Blake
Guest columnist
There is still plenty of summer to be had in Kansas!  Having just celebrated a number of wonderful July 4th activities across that state, travelers still have huge opportunities to make plans for the rest of the summer.  Here’s a quick peek at some of the options.
Abilene is home to two favorite Kansas events; the Central Kansas Free Fair, Aug. 2-7, and the Wild Bill Hickok PRCA Rodeo, Aug. 1-4.  At these traditional
Kansas celebrations, visitors can photograph the World’s Largest Spur, cheer at one of the top five large outdoor rodeos in the nation, watch a chainsaw artist carve a tree stump into a work of art, climb inside a tractor cab, test their strength in an arm wrestling tournament, and courageously board the carnival rides.  A highlight of the annual event is the Combine Demolition Derby; featuring hulking farm combines ramming into each other to the delight of the crowd!
Long summer days provide the ideal occasion to drive or bike the amazing Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway, near Great Bend. The largest inland marshes in North America, Cheyenne Bottoms & Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, anchor this 77-mile byway and provide bird watching opportunities that will expand any birder’s list or start it off with a bang!
The byway welcomes summer bikers of all kinds. For bicyclists, this road straddles the legendary TransAmerica Bike Trail and the American Discovery Trail. Riders will also find off-road bike trails and paved riverside and county road routes. For motorcyclists, there are scenic back roads that lead to the delicious Sunday buffet at tiny Hudson’s Wheatland Cafe. Communities along the Byway welcome summer visitors with quirky outdoor events (like the Hudson Ham & Jam on Aug. 3), soup suppers, picnics at the winery, ice cream socials, fireworks displays, and band concerts on town squares.
El Dorado Main Street presents the Frontier Western Celebration, Aug. 2-5.  This family fun-filled festival makes our Kansas heritage come alive through events such as the IPRA-sanctioned Extreme Bull Blowout, Smoke on the Prairie State Championship BBQ contest, barrel racing and mounted shooting competitions, and a wildly entertaining ranch rodeo.
The Dodge City Days Annual 10 Day Festival begins July 27 and runs through Aug. 5.  A professional barbeque contest, the Dodge City Hall of Fame PRCA top-rated rodeo, a classic car show, golf tournaments and a two day craft show with over 200 crafters from a 10-state area are all part of the fun.
How about a good old-fashioned block party, like the one scheduled in downtown Independence the evening of Aug.  10?  Put on your dancing shoes, bring your lawn chairs and appetites and get ready to listen to some great live music.
What’s not to like as you travel around Kansas this summer?  Make sure to visit www.TravelKS.com to explore different regions, different activities and special events.  Here’s to a great summer in Kansas!
Becky Blake is the director of the travel and tourism division of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.