HUTCHINSON — "Two generations from now when they've forgotten about all of us," Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday, the Kansas State Fair will be "bigger and better."
Colyer will serve less than a year as the state's top executive, but he signed the legislation during his term that dedicated a states sales tax revenue stream from purchases on the fairgrounds for capital improvements at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
That will help fund the next hundred years of the over-century-old State Fair, said emcee Richard Shank as he introduced Colyer at an awards presentation Thursday in the Domestic Arts Building.
But as much as the State Fair Board welcomed the passage of the sales tax bill this year, it wants to revisit the subject.
There's concern that big-ticket items purchased and later delivered to the buyer as a result of contact made between seller and buyer on the fairgrounds during the 10-day State Fair may not wind up helping the sales tax fund earmarked for fairgrounds improvements, according to State Fair Board President Virginia Crossland-Macha.
She said the issue may need to be addressed through follow-up legislation next year or it could be clarified through rules and regulations. Crossland-Macha said State Fair vendors who market items such as hot tubs and pools and machinery have expressed their desire that sales tax generated by those transactions end up in the sales tax fund for the fairgrounds, and she's pleased to have some big vendors supporting the board's argument.
State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, and State Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, are aware of the State Fair Board's interest in tweaking the legislation passed this year, Crossland-Macha said. State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, is among those who stay in an RV here during the fair, and she also knows about the issue, Crossland-Macha said.
A low cloud ceiling Thursday morning made it impossible for Colyer to fly in his small plane to Hutchinson, so he arrived by vehicle. He missed the 7 a.m. Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, but generally kept to the schedule.
He laughed loudly when Kansas Highway Patrol troopers put a band on his wrist when he arrived on the fairgrounds that said "My name is Jeff" and "if I'm lost," please take him to the nearest trooper.
He toured 4-H exhibits in the Centennial Building, saying he would love to see a rocket with big fins built by Molly Biggs, 15, Shawnee County, fly. He posed for photos with people, including Rush Center resident Sandy Showalter and her daughters, Molly, 11, and Maggie, 9, and with Showalter's sister, Marsha Meyer, Tampa.
Honoring the fallen
The Legislature authorized memorial highway stretches for each of the ten Kansas Highway Patrol troopers who have died in the line of duty. Colyer signed the bill this year.
Families and friends were invited to a ceremony for the fallen troopers and turnout was so large, the event was moved outside. About 75 troopers saluted as the roll call of the men who died was read. The troopers applauded the family members who sat at round tables under a tent.
"The Patrol is so good to all of our families," said Tanda O'Brien, Oklahoma, widow of Trooper Conroy O'Brien, who had lived in Reno County and was shot dead on May 24, 1978, near Matfield Green on the Kansas Turnpike.
"Wonderful," said Conroy's younger brother Kelvin O'Brien, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
There will be a series of events at cemeteries for the ten troopers, and the one for O'Brien took place Thursday afternoon at Abbyville Cemetery. One highway sign for Conroy was erected earlier and a second sign was posted Thursday.
A stretch of U.S. 50 from K-61 to Sylvia is the Trooper Conroy G. O'Brien Memorial Highway.
Laura McReynolds, Hutchinson, won her seventh purple ribbon in the Governor's Cookie Jar competition. Niece Katie Ediger, a senior at Hutchinson High School, helped with the project that featured 12 different kinds of cookies and a wooden Ferris wheel to enhance the jar.
It's been ten years since she last won, McReynolds said, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed that ribbon. Colyer, per McReynolds' request, signed the 2018 ribbon.
"It's a kind of labor of love," McReynolds said.
Other Governors' Awards were presented for: Governor's watermelon: Robert Miller, Newton; Best of Market Wheat Show: Tim Turek, South Haven; Best of Corn: Steven Holz, Belvue; Best of Grain Sorghum: Chace Betz, Ness City; Best of Market Alfalfa: John Ferdinand, Reading; County Agent Award: Vicki Simonsen, Pratt County; and Overall Best of Show Quilt: Jan Hutchison and Mary Eilerts.
Colyer and his wife, Ruth Colyer, and their younger daughter will be in Hutchinson Saturday to visit the Kansas State Fair. Next year, it will be a different governor coming for Governor's Day.
Colyer became governor this year when Gov.Sam Brownback was confirmed for a post in the U.S. State Department. Colyer failed to win the Republican nomination for governor in the August primary and will leave office in January.
He said he will have job opportunities to consider post-governorship. Asked if he would return to a full-time medical practice in Johnson County, the plastic surgeon said, "Probably not."
He is helping Republicans running on the November general election ballot, he said, and just did a fundraiser for Sue Huff, R-Lenexa, challenging State Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park.