Berger thanked for taking the helm of State Fair. Attendance is down, but sales appear to be on the rise.


The Kansas State Fair Board has officially accepted the resignation of interim fair director Ed Berger as the 2021 event enters its final days.

In its briefest meeting yet during the fair, the board also learned that estimated attendance through Friday was well below what officials had hoped for, but some vendors said it was It was their best year ever as those who attended were willing to spend.

A stimulating role

The board of directors appointed Berger as interim manager on October 20, 2020, during a period of uncertainty for the show due to the continuing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Former fair director Robin Jennison resigned his post on July 14, 2020, a day after the fair board voted to cancel the 2020 fair. Jennison had been in office for less than two years.

The board initially announced in June 2020 that the fair was still ongoing, despite a recommendation from state and local health officials to cancel it, but over the next three weeks, enough vendors and sponsors withdrew so that fair officials determined it was not financially feasible. proceed.

Following Jennison’s departure, the board appointed David Tobias, director of operations and human resources for the show, as interim manager. He quit after only 13 weeks to take another job.

Fair administrators placed most of the fair’s staff on extended leave until Berger secured more than $ 1 million in COVID relief funding through the Kansas legislature. However, even after funding was secured, many staff did not return.

The new fair director, Bryan Schulz, was hired on July 14 and started on August 2. Berger stayed throughout the fair to help him.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Kansas State Fair and to work with an exceptional board of directors and incredible staff. Their commitment during this difficult time was exceptional, ”said Berger in his resignation letter, which Board Chairman Harmon Bliss read to the Board.

“I am excited about the new direction the board has brought to the fair and know it will take the Kansas State Fair to new heights,” the letter concluded.

In comments at the meeting, Berger said that so often the employees “pretend,” the staff at the state fair “are hired 12 months a year,” and it was only their engagement that made the fair of 2021 to take place.

The board praised Berger for his efforts and Bliss noted “we could work together on other projects.” Berger operates a private consulting business.

After giving Berger a standing ovation, Sarah Hill, a board member, informed him that the board members have all contributed to the acquisition of a bench to be dedicated to him and him and to his wife, on the exhibition grounds.

Attendance but increased sales

While chief executive Bryan Schulz said on Thursday that he would not release daily attendance estimates until the end of the fair, he reported on Saturday that cumulative attendance through Friday was estimated to be “roughly” at 175,000.

Schulz said ahead of the fair that he expected him to shoot between 225,000 and 250,000.

Attendance has averaged over 300,000 people a year over the past two decades, however, for years officials have weighed the stubs of tickets to estimate the number.

Schulz also reported that Friday night’s grandstand concert, country musician Chris Janson, only covered 73% of its collateral with just over 2,000 tickets sold. For Saturday afternoon’s performance by rap star Nelly, some 4,500 tickets were pre-sold, Schulz said.

“They say they’re vague,” he said, referring to the show’s day shopping. “We will have all the windows open and ready to accept cash and credit cards. “

The Kansas Highway Patrol, Schulz said, identified a ticket dealer in the field illegally selling Nelly tickets. The patrol has spoken to him and will be watching him, he said.

As unusual as an afternoon performance, the concert’s backup performer Willie Jones will perform after the main act.

“Nelly will be promoting Willy, to try to get people to stay,” he said.

As the board’s trade show liaison, board member Holly Lofton said several vendors she spoke to “had a great year.”

“They had great traffic and increased sales,” Lofton said. “One said it was their best year ever, in terms of people buying things. Another said it was the best fair they had been to. So, I think that overall it has been very successful.

Goats, goat milkers and chickens

Schulz said the Kansas Department of Health administered 27 COVID-19 vaccines in its tent on the fairgrounds through Friday, all but one by Pfizer, and performed 205 COVID-19 PRC tests and 19 rapid tests .

On the breeding side, there were around 280 dairy goats entered this year, “a huge show for dairy goats”, while other numbers of open classes were also on the rise.

A trio of Catholic Hutchinson priests beat seven other teams, including the eternal Kansas Highway Patrol champions, in Friday’s celebrity goat milking competition. The winning team included Fr. Eric Weldon of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in South Hutchinson and Fathers Aaron Spexarth and Matt Glazier of Holy Cross and St. Teresa Churches. Spexarth confessed after completion that he milked goats as a child.

4H board member and director Wade Weber said Saturday’s events also included a judgment on rabbits, consumer science judges, a fashion magazine and a judgment on poultry.

Weber noted that this year, in addition to judging live chickens and cleaned chickens, they added cooked chicken as part of the class assessment.

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