Shank’s Take: Sharing Kansas State Fair Memories

The final days of any year produce thoughts of nostalgia and priceless memories to last a lifetime. 

To explain my favorite State Fair memory is difficult in that so many exist but it is safe to say that the first recollections are often the best. 

As a child, we were up early on the farm one fine September day for my first trip to the Kansas State Fair. Interstate 70, I-35, and Highway 61 did not exist as we wound our way to Hutchinson on two-lane roads. 

Arriving at the north entrance adjacent to the Bison Building, we entered the grounds and walked west for a glass of Root Beer at a stand that remains to this day before proceeding to the Channel 12 booth to meet some real-life celebrities including Cecil Carrier, the station’s legendary weather forecaster. In those days, the taffy vendor was marketing his product nearby, so life at the 1956 State Fair was as good as it gets, and I was hooked on the Kansas State Fair. 

Another defining moment came in 1988, while working at the Southwestern Bell Telephone home office in Topeka. My boss unexpectedly called while I was on vacation to let me know that upon my return, I would need to pack my bags for a transfer to Hutchinson as the company’s Area Manager for External Affairs. My first reaction was, wow, now I can attend the State Fair every day, which has been the case for 35 years. 

Then, in 1994, Mayor Jim Fee called to let me know that State Fair Board Chairman Ross Beach had recommended me to serve as Hutchinson’s Ambassador to the State Fair, succeeding the legendary Jack Caton, who passed away in December 1993. 

People ask what a State Fair Ambassador does? The job is manifold including service as emcee for major fair events, judging outdoor exhibits, and announcing bands performances in the Peoples Bank Arena. 

The State Fair continues to change and evolve with the times. 

Our greatest days are yet to come. We have so many memories to savor, and I urge everyone to step forward and share your great memories of the Kansas State Fair. 

-Richard Shank

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