Fair through the eyes of a vendor
Bob McPhail has seen his share of Kansas county fairs over the years, and says Marion County Fair is one that keeps chugging along.
“For county fairs, it’s probably one of the better ones,” he said. “The only thing is trying to get some other rides, and some of the scheduling. The fair boards always change, so that makes it a little difficult.”
The fair’s tractor pull, free concert, and a community 5K all were held simultaneously, illustrating some of the scheduling problems.
While officially a Pittsburg resident, McPhail spends most of his year living out of a camper, travelling between shows and clients for Lewis Cattle Oilers.
“We’ve lost a lot of vendors that were here over the years,” he said. “I’ve only been here three years, but I know that years ago all three buildings had people selling crafts and different things. Now it’s more or less informational booths.”
Another part that makes it difficult is a lack of support for the effort involved in 4-H from people who have never been involved, Shirley Bartel said.
“They just don’t know what goes into 4-H,” she said. “The time with the animals and how much they have to train those things.”
County fairs are seeing declining participation and attendance across, particularly from larger communities in their areas, McPhail said.
“A lot of the time, county fairs are being supported more by small communities because of ag than the bigger ones,” he said. “I imagine if you took a poll of how many are from Marion, or even Hillsboro, you’d find a lot of them from Goessel, Florence, Peabody, and some of the smaller communities.”
Not all events suffered declining attendance.
The Glow Run is in its third year, and has seen between 150 and 200 participants each time, organizer Lena Kleiner said.
“People really like that it’s at night, and the glow in the dark seems appealing,” she said. “People buy their own glow-in-the-dark stuff, and we provide some, too. They really go out and decorate themselves.”
While not officially partnered with the county fair, Kleiner said the Young Professionals Association chose fair weekend because of the boost in out of town visitors during the fair.
“There are a lot of people from out of town in the area,” she said. “A summer event during the fair just makes sense.”
Last modified Aug. 1, 2019