Festival showcases rural Kansas
The 2000 and 2001 Kansas Sampler Festival could be a boon to the Baldwin community and the annual Maple Leaf Festival.
The two-day festival that showcases Kansas and is expected to attract at least 10,000 people will be a mere 20 minutes away in Ottawa's Forest Park.
"It gives a sampling of what there is to see and do in the state," said Murray McGee, director of the Franklin County Convention and Tourism Bureau, at a Wednesday meeting of Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce members. "People use the festival to plan their trips and vacations for the year."
More than 285 Kansas communities have been invited to show off what their part of the state has to offer. The festival also features Kansas entertainers, Kansas products, Kansas artists and Kansas food.
For the past two years, the festival was held in Pratt. Before that, the festival was simply held on a farm near Inman. With more than 130 communities participating and 8,000 visitors, the festival outgrew it original location, and its organizers sought other communities to host the festival two years at a time.
The festival will be held in Ottawa the first full weekend of October for the next two years. McGee expects the festival to attract 10,000 visitors its first year and up to 40,000 in its second year, because of Ottawa's proximity to the Kansas City and Topeka metropolitan areas.
"Everything at the festival is to be part of the Kansas experience," McGee said. "They want things there that represent Kansas."
The flavor of the festival is rural, and is a boost to rural tourism.
"We want to teach people to look at the rural communities of our state," he said. "The festival is very unique. When you mention festivals, people immediately think arts and crafts. This is more see and do."
The event is held rain or shine, with community and product displays and entertainment areas set up under tents.
Despite the busy time of year for Baldwin the Maple Leaf Festival follows the Kansas Sampler Festival by two weeks chamber president Diane Niehoff envisions a strong Baldwin presence at the sampler festival.
"It is not the best time of year for us in Baldwin, with the Maple Leaf Festival following so closely," Niehoff said. "With advanced planning, I think we can represent our community well without taking away from our responsibilities at home for the Maple Leaf Festival."
McGee said the Kansas Sampler Festival would draw attention to the Maple Leaf Festival because of the timing of the two events. He said enthusiastic visitors bring wagons and strollers and fill them with materials from Kansas communities.
Niehoff is gathering a list of Baldwin people and visitors interested in participating in the sampler festival. She can be reached at The Three Sisters' Inn, 594-3244.
A training session for exhibitors will be presented from 1 to 4 p.m. March 14 at the First United Methodist Church, Ottawa. The registration fee is $10. To register call (785) 242-1411.