Shank’s Take: A Visit With Sara Evans

Young Sara Wight arrived at her first Kansas State Fair as a 4-H member from Burlingame in Osage County and, from all accounts, was “hooked” on what she saw in what was destined to be a lifelong experience. 

Today, Sara is the spouse of John Evans and they are the parents of daughters Kate and Megan and son Dylan, and all five remain involved in the Kansas State Fair. 

In a recent interview with Sara from the Evans family home in Lebo, she said, “As a child, the opportunity to attend the Kansas State Fair was equal to a trip to Cancun (Mexico).” 

If all went as hoped for, Sara’s clothing and baking entries at the Osage County Fair were judged blue ribbon entries, qualifying her for the next level of competition at the Kansas State Fair. 

Marriage to John Evans, a local farmer/banker only increased involvement in the fair. With the arrival of the couple’s three children, the long-term family involvement grew. Soon, Megan and Kate followed in their mother’s footsteps and Dylan brought his animals for competition at the State Fair.  

Scroll ahead to 2003, the Evans family visited with Mary Alice Lair, a State Fair board member and fair enthusiast, who invited the Evans family to serve as a charter member of a new entity to be called the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation (KFF). The foundation’s mandate was to raise funds for the fair’s improvement projects. Soon, the new board of directors said, why not start an annual event to raise funds for the projects. All agreed, and then someone spoke up and said, “Let’s call it Boots and Bling.” 

On the evening of September 8, 2005, guests arrived at the fair’s Encampment Building for the first annual Boots and Bling. 

And, as they say, the rest is history. Boots and Bling has grown from an audience of barely 200 to more than 700. 

Sara was philosophical while speaking on more than a half-century involvement with the Kansas State Fair. 

“It is my hope the Kansas State Fair will become a ‘bucket list’ destination where people aspire to attend,” Sara said. “The Kansas State Fair has much to offer, as it is located in an unusual setting in the middle of the state, with excellent facilities.”

“The State Fair is experiencing amazing growth,” Sara continued. “With restorative efforts underway of venues such as the Bison Building, the fair has an opportunity to become an institution for learning about everything from aeronautical engineering to farming.” 

Sara said she is most pleased about the Foundation’s first project, a successful effort to replace a tiny white house on the fairgrounds with a beautiful two-story structure called the “Lair White House,” which serves in part as the headquarters for the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation. 

The Lair White House

“And, in doing so, we replaced an eyesore on the fairgrounds,” she said with a chuckle. 

Still, at the end of the day, Sara said one of the State Fair’s most important attributes is that the event provides a venue to reconnect with long-time friends and an opportunity to create new ones. 

No words can sufficiently express the appreciation to the Evans family for their long-term support for the Kansas State Fair.

-Richard Shank

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