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Hoisington not keen on fair idea

11/8/2013

By Amy Bickel

By Amy Bickel

Special to The Hays Daily News

HOISINGTON -- Hoisington city leaders don't want their 117-year Labor Day celebration to be overshadowed by the 100-year-old Kansas State Fair.

City Council members plan to pass a resolution declaring they are against an idea spurred by Gov. Sam Brownback to move the state fair's start to Labor Day weekend. Barton County Commissioners also signed a resolution Monday stating "they strongly opposed" Brownback's idea, adding that citizens should contact state fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein, as well as a consulting group that the fair is having study the governor's plan.

"It's our chamber's livelihood," said Hoisington's Deputy City Clerk Cecelia Conrad, in regard to the city's Labor Day celebration. She added, "It really brings in revenue."

Brownback first proposed moving the state fair's dates to fair board members in 2011, saying that moving the start of the 100-year-old fair to Labor Day weekend would help increase attendance. Brownback, who once served on the board while he was Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, said he first brought up the idea of moving the fair's dates during that time.

The fair solicited a study by the University of Kansas' Jayhawk Consulting group. The university marketing company conducted a survey earlier this week, which included a series of questions about what fairgoers would like to see at the fair, as well as whether they would attend the fair if the dates moved.

Board members and Stoecklein, however, have expressed concern in the past that moving the date would hurt attendance, with Labor Day weekend drawing crowds to state parks and other events.

Hoisington's resolution came as a surprise during the fair board meeting Thursday morning.

"Let's sum it up: Wow," said board member Angie Clark, noting that is the kind of information they want to learn.

Hoisington's celebration is one of the state's largest Labor Day events, Conrad said.

The event started in 1896, less than 10 years after the town was founded. According to the town's website, Hoisington had a large railroad influence and railroad employees decided to hold a picnic that year. It became an annual tradition and the date was eventually moved to Labor Day weekend.

Hoisington's Labor Day observance is now a four-day celebration, Conrad said. It includes a parade, concert, demolition derby, games, carnival and street dance.

Stoecklein said the Jayhawk group is going over the surveys and expects to have some information ready by December.