McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Local residents recall fun at the fair

  • For many McPherson County residents, the fair has become a long-standing family tradition.
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  • For a century, the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson has been attracting people from across the state to partake in its particular flavor of entertainment.
    This year's fair starts today and lasts through Sept. 15.
    For many McPherson County residents, the fair has become a long-standing family tradition.
    Alice Toews of rural Canton remembers the fair as an annual family event. During her childhood in the 1980s, they'd drive from Miami County so she could show cattle in 4-H competition.
    "The state fair was our family vacation when I was a kid," Toews said.
    Toews is now the mother of a fair competitor as her son Cash, 13, competes in 4-H horse showing.
    "He enjoys seeing his friends, and he enjoys the rides," Toews said, "and, having been in 4-H myself, I felt it was important to give him an opportunity to learn all it can offer, too. It takes a lot of work, but we keep going back."
    Toews said today compared to when she was a child, 4-H children have cut back on cattle and have become more involved in showing smaller animals, such as meat goats.
    "The competition quality of livestock has gotten better," Toews said, "and smaller animals like meat goats are more inexpensive to raise and show than cattle."
    Anita Redden of Canton, now 58, also spent her childhood competing at the state fair. From the '70s through the '80s, she worked for 12 years onsite in the 4-H offices.
    "Later on, I'd take the week as vacation and stay onsite," Redden said. "We would take everything from Manhattan — every piece of paper, every paperclip — and set up down there."
    During her time working in the 4H offices Redden saw and took part in the judging system's conversion to computerization.
    "We started out with judging cards that we'd type using manual typewriters," Redden said, "then we'd end up running around Xeroxing copies to pass around. In the 80s, we started converting to computers. It started with us going to the South Central Extension Office and typing it all out on a computer to print. We were often there as late as 2 or 3 in the morning."
    Within several years, the 4H offices had their own computers. Redden said and she marvels at how far the technology has come.
    "Now, all of the information for competitors is usually pre-registered online," Redden said.
    Redden went on to train others in the job, and, despite still being a visitor to the fair every year, has found that there are things she's come to miss.
    "I feel sad that the encampment building competing kids would stay in isn't used very much anymore," Redden said. "Not many kids stay there now. They just don't have the number of kids staying onsite anymore since kids have easy access to cars or their parents or family are willing to drive them back and forth. It was a great place to make new friends and visit with old ones."
    Page 2 of 2 - Inman's Allen Thiessen, 58, has visited the fair for multiple days annually since the 60s when his father would bring sheep and, later, dairy cattle for competition. During the years, he's seen the fair from both professional and personal angles, as he worked for a number of years for KFDI and other radio stations.
    "It was a lot of fun to get to work in the radio booth," Thiessen said. "Throughout the '90s I emceed the antique tractor pull and the celebrity milking competitions."
    Thiessen said the old adage, "If you go to one fair, you've seen them all," just isn't true.
    "There's always something different to look at," Thiessen said. "There are antiques, wood carving, art, photography and the food always keeps me coming back. I have to get my pronto pup fix. It's tradition."
    Moving food vendors into Cottonwood Court was a bad decision, though, Thiessen said.
    "I liked that they had their own buildings. When they did that, the fair definitely lost some of its personality," he said.
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