Shank’s Take: Live and Silent Auction Donations Support the Great Kansas State Fair

Two months before opening day of the 111th Kansas State Fair, the fairgrounds is abuzz with constant activity awaiting completion of the 1861 Club, while the Foundation is making final preparations for Boots and Bling scheduled for August 10. 

The Kansas State Fair has thrived, in part, because of Hutchinson’s support of this great event, which was born with the fair’s origin in 1913. That year, Hutchinson’s residents stepped forward to pass a one percent sales tax referendum to provide $50,000 in seed money for the fair. More than 95 percent of those voting supported the initiative. 

These days, local merchants show their benevolence by donating items to the Boots and Bling live and silent auctions. 

Live Auction items from 2023 Boots and Bling: Champagne Life

Walking the streets of Hutchinson in search of donated items for the Boots and Bling Live and Silent Auction is exhilarating despite the 100-degree summer heat. A downtown restaurant owner donated a $400 gift certificate. An implement dealer opened his store’s cupboard in donating $750 in items, including a pedal tractor. An out-of-town supporter called to donate an autographed basketball from Kansas State Coach Jerome Tang, which will be offered alongside a football from Coach Chris Klieman. 

What is most gratifying is that most local merchants and businesses express support of the leadership direction of the State Fair. 

One of the most unique items in this year’s live auction will be an eight foot by four-foot building, wired with electricity. Who does not need a little building in one’s backyard or farmstead? 

In the early days of Boots and Bling, the event honored Kansas artists by auctioning their donated paintings. The late Jeanette Mull, an artist from Hutchinson, was one who contributed her works to Boots and Bling. Kansas is not known for its accomplished artists, but, perhaps, should be. 

“Circus” Painting by Jeanette Mull
Photo credit:

On the morning after the conclusion of the 2023 Boots and Bling, I had occasion to visit with two Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation board members who were discussing the previous night’s crowd of 700. One board member commented, “we are at capacity (in crowd size) and can’t get any bigger,” which drew a fitting response from the other person by replying “what a nice problem to have.”

Before closing, I would be remiss without mentioning our nation’s 248th birthday, which was celebrated on Thursday. Despite the multitude of problems we are confronting as a nation, we have much to be thankful for. We are truly the envy of the world. 

Meanwhile, in Hutchinson, these are exciting times for the Kansas State Fair. The only certainty is that we will not rest on our laurels as our best days are yet to come. 

See you all in August at Boots and Bling. 

-Richard Shank

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