An antique truck makes its way through the parade route in downtown Kismet. Daily Leader file photos/Earl Watt
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Since 1915, a small town in eastern Seward County has been home to what some have called the “smallest world’s fair,” and the Labor Day tradition will continue next weekend as Kismet celebrates the Little World’s Fair.
Robert Gittinger, who has been involved with the event since the mid-1970s, said the world’s fair began as a town picnic in the early 20th century.
“The first one, they brought in a picnic lunch,” he said. “They met at the lumber company in Kismet, had a picnic, played cards, visited.”
Gittinger said a pit barbecue and beef cookout where later added to the festivities.
“They threw logs in and got it hot, wrap the meat in tin foil, put it on top of the pit and covered it a little bit,” he said.
Following that success, the Kismet Lions Club, the sponsor of the event, brought on more activities such as kids games, stick horse races and even a rodeo.
“Kismet had a real big rodeo, but it was kind of short lived,” Gittinger said. “It was two or three years.”
Prior to 1942, the Little World’s Fair kept getting bigger, adding midget races, and after a brief absence, the event returned in 1946 with a big parade.
“There were at least 100 horses in the parade,” Gittinger said.
He said the event has continued to improve and get bigger since that time. This year’s fair is shaping up quite well, he said.
“It looks like we’re going to have activity all over the place,” he said. “We’re working on the motorcycle poker run. Even though there’s a lot of motorcycles out, there’s a lot of motorcycle poker runs too. I think it’ll go off good. That’s Saturday.”
Registration for the poker run will be from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, west of the Kismet Lions Den, and the first bike will go out at 1 p.m. There will be door prizes and a 50/50 pot. Tickets for that pot are $1 each or six for $5.
Entry fees are $30 for a single hand, $10 for an extra rider and $5 for an extra hand. That price includes a meal and patch. A prize of $300 will be given for first place, $200 for second and $100 for third. The Lions Club President’s Choice will win $50, and $50 will also be awarded for the most miles traveled. A fish and chips dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
A carnival has been a part of past fairs, and Gittinger said there will be one at this year’s festivities.
“We have had confirmation on the carnival, which will be here all three days,” he said.
Gittinger said there will also be a reunion of alumni of Kismet schools.
“I do not have any update on the Kismet alumni for Saturday, but it is a go. I’m sure of that,” he said.
Sunday’s activities at the Little World’s Fair will include church services and several kids games.
“We do have a street dances by Party Time Production,” Gittinger said.
He added Monday will be a busy day with a VIP breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 5K and 10K races.
“The parade is always the best one in the area,” he said. “Maybe not always the biggest one, but it’s a good one. We guarantee you.”
Gittinger moved to Kismet in 1973, and he has been involved with the Little World’s Fair ever since.
“I think it was ‘74 when I was asked to help a little bit,” he said. “We set up a tent for the bean feed and visitors. We set it up for several years. In ‘87, we had a lot of projects, raised some money and built the Kismet Pavilion, which we use for quite a few of the activities in Kismet.”
Gittinger has always had a love for cars, and in 1967, he joined the Tri-State Antique Car Club. In 1980, he joined the Liberal Antique Car Club. This love led him in his early years with the World’s Fair to help with the parade.
“We always had a lot of cars and tractors and in some cases old equipment,” he said.
Gittinger later became involved with a kids pedal tractor pull.
“I built one of the tractors out of a lawn mower and made it into a tractor,” he said. “I also built one of the sleds that we used.”
Gittinger said last year’s pedal tractor pull brought in about 35 kids. He emphasized this is a pull for fun.
“It is not sanctioned by the Kansas Pedal Tractor Pullers, which has a final in Hutchinson at the state fair,” he said.
Other events in this year’s Little World’s Fair include the Lions hamburger stand, a water balloon toss and bicycle, tricycle and stick horse races. Gittinger said the Lions will likewise serve homemade ice cream, and Monday evening will feature an event called “Minute to Win It.”
“I guess I’m not fast enough for that program,” he said jokingly.
The theme for this year’s Little World’s Fair is “Have a Roarin’ Good Time.” For more information, call (620) 563-7645.