To give more Kansas communities an opportunity to promote their local offerings during the Kansas State Fair, officials have arranged a pilot “Explore Kansas Festival” in Gottschalk Park during the Fair’s opening weekend.

Some 40 different cities or towns, representing an even larger number of state attractions, will be set up on folding tables under white tents just inside the 20th Avenue gate.

The tables will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 7 and 8.

“This takes the pressure off communities from having to commit to 10 days,” Fair Board member Karen Hibbard of Manhattan said during Friday morning’s board meeting. “To have a targeted time is more beneficial.”

Some communities will still promote their locales and attractions in the Pride of Kansas Building during the entire fair run, but this lets some who couldn’t make that commitment participate, said Fair general manager Robin Jennison.

“It’s expensive for those places to have an employee here the entire 10 days, with hotels and having to have them gone,” Jennison said. “It makes the fair unachievable for some.”

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase what Kansas has,” Hibbard said. “Each community has its own story to tell.”

Participants will include at least Chanute, Dodge City, Lindsborg, Arkansas City, Newton, Liberal, Manhattan, Salina, Winfield, Council Grove and Wichita, as well as representatives from Land of Kansas, Boot Hill and the Santa Fe Trail Association, Hibbard said.

Depending on the response this year, they may explore expanding the event over both weekend’s next year, Hibbard said, giving more places around the state an ability to participate.

Hutchinson Fire Chief Steven Beer, also at Friday’s board meeting, invited board members to attend a daily emergency services briefing held at the fire station at 20th and Main which includes Hutchinson police and fire, EMS and the Reno County Sheriff’s Office.

“We expect it to be a busy weekend, with heat-related stuff,” Beer said. “It’s forecast to be in the low- to mid-90s, which brings issues with people with medical conditions we deal with daily.”

Beer said they made 30 medical runs last year due to the heat.

“But be assured, we’re prepared to handle everything,” he said. “We’re geared up and fully staffed.”