Shank’s Take: The Foundation’s Strive for Progress

As winter transitions to spring, the grass is turning green on the grounds of the Kansas State Fair. The fairgrounds is abuzz with activity as a building crew continues work to raise the 1861 Club.

Plans are in place to dedicate this new venue, which will coincide with the opening of the 2024 Kansas State Fair. The Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation (KFF) has dubbed the 1861 Club a Wedding and Event Venue, a “space as grand as your dreams.”

Tami Rife joined the KFF staff as the venue’s Club Manager and has hit the ground running. It should come as no surprise her phone is responding to a growing number of calls from individuals and organizations desiring to book events. Tami can be contacted at 620-615-7388. For additional information, go to

This month, the KFF Board of Directors will meet to continue working on plans for Boots and Bling slated for August 10, an annual fun-filled evening to raise funds for enhancing the fairgrounds. Pundits fittingly call this event “the best FUNdraising party in Kansas.” 

I fondly recall being involved in the first Boots and Bling on the evening of September 9, 2005. Approximately 200 attended the event that evening and, perhaps, we could not imagine it could get much better. Last year, a capacity crowd of 700 people was in attendance. As we exited the Meadowlark Building, a board member commented we were out of space and could not grow anymore, which leads one to believe this is a good problem to have. 

Sponsorships and table sales are underway. Most importantly, we pause to say thanks to those who step forward every year to donate thousands of dollars in items for silent and live auctions.

In the 1950s, Ronald Reagan was the pitchman for General Electric and signed off his television commercials with the phrase, “Progress is our most important product.” The same applies to the Kansas State Fair. 

At this moment, we are blessed with visionaries who are not content to rest on our laurels and are always in search of new goals and accomplishments. The status quo is not an option. 

We are all living our dream to solidify the Kansas State Fair as the greatest event and meeting place in our state. Our journey has just begun.

-Richard Shank

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