If your kids or grandchildren haven’t informed you yet, there’s a carnival in town. And when it’s blocking off Main Street south of downtown Hays, it can only mean one thing: The annual Wild West Festival is under way.

The gleeful screams of youngsters riding the many Heart of America Carnival’s attractions will be heard through Saturday night.

So will the music being played onstage. WWF’s usual lineup — two nights of country and one evening of rock ‘n’ roll — will draw thousands to Municipal Park beginning today. The festival committee wrings the most out of generous donations from private companies and local government by blending Kansas talent, rising country stars and older rock bands who still know how to put on a good show.

Performing tonight will be the Adam Capps Band (from Wichita), Butler County’s Rusty Rierson & The Forever Young Band, and Maddie & Tae. On Friday, Lucas Maddy (Norton) & The Kansas Cartel, Logan Mize (Clearwater), and BlackHawk cap off the country segment. Saturday’s rock night includes Hays’ own Hannah Norris, Home Brew from Barton County, and the headline act Warrant.

Warrant, one of the big-hair bands from the glam-metal 1980s, likely best is known for hits such as “Heaven” and “Cherry Pie.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Cherry Pie album release.

Seriously dedicated fans of the band could end up on stage Saturday night — if they’re willing to pony up big bucks. An online ticketing service company teamed up with Warrant to offer a VIP Diamond Live Package for a mere $1,999. The package allows the individual to choose between guitar, bass, drums or vocals and perform with the band that night. If that wasn’t enough, all band members will autograph a souvenir guitar and give it to the fan, who also receives a VIP souvenir laminate, guitar pic set, group picture with the band and have their own personal items autographed.

The Warrant VIP package is not presented by the Wild West Festival, so that person still will have to purchase a ticket to enter the grounds. We simply hadn’t realized such packages exist, let alone become an entire cottage industry layered atop the music business.

We also wanted to give a heads up in case one of the songs sounds a little different. We only can hope any fan willing to dish out two grand for the experience actually is a musician.

The weekend full of music and carnival fun also is complemented by a variety of other events. There are exhibitions at the Hays Arts Council and the Ellis County Historical Society, a baseball tournament, Lazer Tag with proceeds benefiting Early Childhood Connections, the “Rally ’Round the Flag” parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the crowning of this year’s All American Citizen Award-winner.

At 10 p.m. Monday, the 22nd annual Wild West Festival concludes with its blockbuster free Fireworks Spectacular.

The long holiday weekend in Hays is made even more special because of volunteers willing to stage such a big event. We tip our hats to the entire committee, others who give an assist, and to the donors who make it all possible.

Their preparations are complete. All that remains is for the community to enjoy itself.


Editorial by Patrick Lowry