Archive for Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kansas Sampler Festival to end after 2017

December 13, 2015

— Despite its continued popularity, the Kansas Sampler Festival will end its nearly three decades of operation after the 2017 event in Winfield to allow organizers to plan new ways to promote things to see and do in Kansas.

Kansas Sampler Foundation Director Marci Penner said this week the ending is not because of dwindling interest. Last year's festival in Wamego drew a record attendance of 12,000 and had so many exhibitors that some had to be turned away, The Hutchinson News reported.

"The festival is on an upswing, it is strong," Penner said. "We are coming at this decision from a point of strength — use the festival as a springboard into the next idea — to promote what to see and do in the state."

Penner, Assistant Director WenDee LaPlant and the foundation board are still considering possibilities for the future. Ideas could include efforts to attract people to Kansas places, rather than just handing out information at the festival.

"It might sound crazy, or we might seem like we have a screw loose, but I believe in our network so much that I believe we can come up with a more active way to get people to see what we have to do in this state," Penner said.

The festival began in 1990 when the late Mil Penner and his daughter, Marci, held a book-signing party on the family farm near Inman, along with promoters of about 30 places included in the new Kansas Weekend Guide.

"It snowed, it sleeted, we didn't know what we were doing," said Penner. "But a thousand people came to the farm that day. We thought 'wow - maybe this is telling us something. People are interested, and they want to know what there is to see and do in the state.'"

The festival began moving in 1998 as host communities were chosen for a two-year stint through a rigorous application process. Communities included Pratt, Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, Concordia, Leavenworth, Liberal, and Wamego.

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