The Kansas State Fair weathered the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. It could not do the same with the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
For the first time since it began in 1913, the Kansas State Fair has been cancelled, however, livestock and 4-H events will be held.
The fair's board voted July 13 to cancel the event, which was scheduled to begin Sept. 11 in Hutchinson.
Two weeks before, the board voted to move forward with the fair, despite warnings from state health officials.
Since then, COVID-19 cases have dramatically increased across the country and in Kansas. That forced several neighboring states to cancel their state fairs, including Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Kansas State Fair General Manager Robin Jennison says many of the fair's vendors — who usually travel on a circuit to several states — don't want to come only to Kansas.
"And when that becomes public that we're going to have just 50% of the vendors that we'd normally have, I think a lot of people would question whether or not it was going to be an event worth going to," Jennison said.
The fair board does plan to move forward with livestock shows and other 4-H related events.
Even though the fair is two months away, fair officials said a decision needed to be made now. They said orders needed to be placed for food and other supplies, and staffing and travel plans needed to be sorted out, among other details.
The fair board said moving to a different date also was not possible. The 2021 fair will be Sept. 10-19 in Hutchinson. Fair officials said they are in the process of putting together a refund policy for people who already bought tickets.
“The fair contributes an estimated $74.6 million to the Kansas economy annually, according to a 2018 report by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The economic impact in the Fair’s 60-mile radius is more than $40 million,” said a statement from the fair board.
- Tom Shine, Kansas News Service