It was hot and windy overall gorgeous in Wamego on May 3 and 4 and that brought out the crowds in record-setting numbers for the 25th annual Kansas Sampler Festival, with just over 11,700 people turning out for the state's largest outdoor travel show.
The festival, which is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, is designed to provide the public a sample of what there is to see, do, hear, taste, buy, and learn in Kansas.
The host city of Wamego, led by Julie Roller, Michelle Crisler, Bunny McCloud, and Betsy Riblett, provided all the organization and volunteers. Wamego, population 4,485, is the smallest city to have hosted the festival. Pratt, Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, Concordia, Leavenworth, and Liberal have also hosted since the festival.
The event began as a weekend book signing for the first Kansas tour guide book published by Mil and Marci Penner in 1998 on the Penner farm near Inman.
As it grew, the decision to move it to different communities around the state was made.
This year's 282 exhibits were spread out over the 12-acre Wamego City Park and a nearby ballfield. The tulips, redbud trees, a pond, the 1879 Dutch Mill, a children's train and the historical complex provided a picturesque backdrop to the huge white tents and free-standing displays. Long lines were constant in the exhibit tents, the food concessions, and the Kansas wine and beer sampling tent.
Exhibits ranged from communities promoting day trip opportunities to entrepreneurs selling their Kansas products. Photographers displayed their work and gave workshops to standing-room only crowds. Packgoats, a replica Longren airplane, and living historical encampments were found among demonstrations of horseshoes, Wicketball, and Kubb, a Swedish lawn game.
Foundation director Marci Penner said, "I have no doubt that the 11,728 who attended have a new measure of knowledge and pride about Kansas. This weekend was a really tremendous celebration of our Sunflower State."
The festival rotates around the state on a two-year basis so will be held in Wamego again next year on May 2-3. For more information go to www.kansassamplerfestival.com.