Liberal Convention and Tourism assistant Jo Ann Combs, left, answers questions from participants last May in Leavenworth during the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Liberal will play host to the statewide event in 2012 and 2013.
By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Liberal will soon have its chance to show the State of Kansas there is no place like home. The official home of Dorothy Gale was chosen as the site of the 2012 and 2013 Kansas Sampler Festival.
Director of Liberal Convention and Tourism Sally Fuller said the process of bringing the Kansas Sampler Festival to Liberal was not a quick or easy process.
“The festival moves every two years,” Fuller said. “It was in Leavenworth in 2010 and will be in Leavenworth in 2011. It is always the first weekend in May.
“There is obviously a bidding process to bring it to your town,” she explained. “Earlier this year, we were told they were accepting bids for the 2012 and 2013 festival. I had to have the initial application done. It was a series of questions designed to see if your town really understands what the festival is about and has the facilities and the knowledge to host it. So we started that process.”
Initially, five towns were in the running to host the Kansas Sampler Festival, however one was eliminated following the initial application process.
“Three towns went on to the final application,” Fuller said. “Those towns were Abilene, Wamego and Liberal. After you pass the initial application, they send the final application. It was 12 pages of questions. By the time I finished answering the questions, it was 17 pages.
“With the final application, you have to do a preliminary budget, a preliminary news release and you have to do a site map of where you would put the tents and so forth in your park,” she added. “That was due on Aug. 6. Once they received those applications, they decide to either visit the towns for a site visit or not. They decided to do site visits on all three towns. They wanted to come out and make sure you are not making things sound better than they are.”
The Kansas Sampler Foundation’s Board took a trip to Liberal and took a very close look at Light Park, the site of the festival if Liberal was to be chosen.
“When they came out, I had a core group, city commissioners, representatives of the news media and then just some citizens from town that were supportive of the effort or kind of familiar with the festival,” Fuller said. “Then the group from the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s board came out for that site visit and they asked questions about Liberal.”
Fuller said the board was very impressed with Light Park. In fact, she said, they felt it was an ideal site for the Kansas Sampler Festival.
“They literally said that it looked like we were redoing the park just for this festival,” she said. “There are usually two to three stages at the festival where performances are going on throughout the day. They usually have to bring in a big stage and set up seating and all that. But we have a beautiful new stage with benches and everything set up for just that purpose. Everything was scheduled to be finished at Light Park anyway, but it will have all next year to get the grass growing so by the time we do this in 2012, you won’t even be able to tell the construction took place.”
The Kansas Sampler Festival is not a small event, Fuller said. Attendance and exhibitors have reached record numbers during this year’s festival in Leavenworth. Fuller added there are strict rules for exhibitors at the festival.
“The attendance this year in Leavenworth was 8,500 over two days,” she said. “There were 300 exhibitors last year in Leavenworth, that is the largest number of exhibitors they have had.
“In order to exhibit you have to be a Kansas attraction, a Kansas town or a Kansas manufacturer. There was a tent of nothing but Kansas products. Holmes Made Salsa, Granny’s Homemade Mustard are a couple of examples of what will be there. All of the entertainers are Kansas entertainers. The last couple of years they have had booths with Kansas authors that come and promote their books and maybe do book signings. The entire festival is really all about Kansas.”
Fuller said choosing Liberal as the site of the festival offers a special opportunity.
“I think our advantage to the festival is that we will pull in a lot of people from Oklahoma and Texas,” she said. “They are going to learn a lot about Kansas and where they can go in Kansas. They come up here to shop, I am sure they would come up for this.
“The festival is so much fun,” she continued. “There are a lot of historic performers that come in that perform during the day, there will be bands, there is one group that comes in to do a sheep sheering demonstration – they have been coming to the festival, where ever it is, for years.”
Fuller added there is a lot of work to be done to prepare for the festival as well as during the festival. Anyone interested in volunteering their time to help with the event is encouraged to call Fuller or Jo Ann Combs at the Tourist Information Center at 626-0170.
“It is going to be a lot of work but will so be worth it,” she said. “If anyone is interested in helping, they can give us a call and we will get their name on the list. We will need a lot of volunteers and we will also have a lot of fun.”
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