First of all, these are actual buffalo chips. Secondly, they’re harder to throw than you’d think.
The annual Buffalo Chip Throw has been a part of the McPherson County Fair since its inception. For 69 years, children from across the county have competed to be the best at throwing, well, you-know-what, farther than any other child.
“The kids don’t mind it, it’s kind of a novelty,” laughed McPherson County Fair president Mary Jane Lauer. “It’s a real buffalo chip from the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. The chips are dry and they’re about three inches around, but some kids will try to pick a big chip. Those don’t always go very far.”
The Buffalo Chip Throw is for children ages 3 to 14 and will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday before the demolition derby at 7 p.m., both in the Tom Miller Arena. Firefighters from the Canton Fire Department will measure the throws.
Bison, and subsequently their chips, have a long-standing history with the Canton community because of the refuge’s presence 8 miles north of town.
“Maxwell is part of Canton and it’s just been a tradition started because of the reserve,” Lauer said. “We’ve had the buffalo out here for a long time, there’s little buffalo on our main street, so the buffalo chip throw has just become a part of the fair.”
This enduring event saw a recent addition of young people looking for more activities steeped in McPherson County traditions — the McPherson County Ulster Project.
For the past 11 years, eight Protestant and Catholic teenagers from Portadown, Northern Ireland pair with McPherson County teens, who work together to learn peace-building strategies through the month of July.
The group engages in activities ranging from swimming at the lake to hosting blended church services. In recent years, coordinators have added the Buffalo Chip Throw to the roster.
“They’re usually grossed out at first, but some of the guys step up and most of them will try it,” said Kristen Houston, coordinator of the project. “It’s the McPherson County Ulster Project, so we try to do things that represent McPherson County. One of those things is Maxwell and it’s also good to have an experience with buffalo because it’s the Kansas state animal.”
The purpose of the project, held in 28 cities across the U.S., is to soften religious tensions between groups in Northern Ireland, but American teens also learn about how they relate to others through tough discussions with the group. Though activities like a Buffalo Chip Throw don’t directly contribute to these conversations, they build trust between teens with diverse backgrounds.
“These things round out the project. You can’t just talk about emotional, heavy issues all month because it would be too much. It’s in and among all the serious stuff and the light-hearted stuff that they grow,” Houston said. “The service projects and field trips and goofy things like the buffalo chip throw — that’s where they bond and get to know each other.”
The teens participate against each other in the buffalo chip throw and the winner will receive a medal.
After the competition on Sunday, cars will take to the arena for the 34th annual demolition derby.
“A lot of the drivers are there to put on a show more than they are to win it. People drive around and put on a show to please the crowd, which makes it really fun to see,” said event coordinator Travis Regehr. “It can be a family affair. My brother and I have driven against each other, there’s also sets of siblings, friends. Even people who don’t seem to get along, they always seem to band together and help each other out.”
Tickets for the demolition derby are $8 for adults and $3 for children ages 4 to 12 years old. For more information, call 620-245-4996.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.