Shank’s Take: Hart Fondly Remembers Her Part in Establishing Boots and Bling

Lori Hart has dozens, perhaps hundreds, of fond memories from her employment with the Kansas State Fair (1999-2015). Some of her favorite recollections are the part she played in establishing the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation and Boots and Bling. 

Hart joined the Fair for a 16-year stint as Assistant General Manager in 1999. Prior to her departure in 2015, she was the event’s Acting General Manager before being named Director of Education and Member Services for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, a position she holds to this day. Kansas State Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz serves on the association’s board of directors. 

In a recent interview, Hart talked about events of 20 years ago when state, county, and city leaders appropriated funds for an enhancement/restoration of the fairgrounds. “Everyone at the time knew that we needed to develop a revenue stream going forward to continue improvements on the fairgrounds,” Hart said. 

“Next, the Fairgrounds Foundation saw its origin and discussions were held to hold an annual fundraising event,” Hart said. “The naysayers said people would not support an event of this type to benefit the Kansas State Fair, but that made us more determined that it could be done.” 

Hart recalls when the original board of about 10 fair advocates, including the Evans family of Lebo, met to draw up plans for the event to be called Boots and Bling. 

Attendees hitting the dance floor at the record-breaking 2023 Boots and Bling – Champagne Life

“Somehow, it all came together on the Thursday night prior to the opening of the fair (September 8, 2005) for the first Boots and Bling,” Hart said. “We wanted the event to be something special, so extra attention was given to décor, which included silver-tipped red roses. Auction items from Kansas artists included paintings from Jeanette Mull from Hutchinson, and a table made from the roots of a large tree.” 

As the event wound down, Hart remembers the Foundation board breathing a sigh of relief and saying “Mission Accomplished.” All were pleased with a profit of $30,000. 

Boots and Bling started on a shoestring and those of us involved in the first event are pleased to see it grow over the years.

Lori Hart

Although Hart’s current job takes her on travels throughout the nation, she is never far from the Kansas State Fair. Hart and her husband Kelly continue to reside barely a stone’s throw (three blocks) from the fairgrounds, an event they attend each year. 

-Richard Shank

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