By Paul Rhodes
If you like to start planning things well in advance, you can start planning your visit to the Sedgwick County Fair for later in July next year.
Members of the board of directors for the Sedgwick County Fair Association met on Monday evening and discussed the dates for the 2018 Fair, which will be July 18-21. That’s a full two weeks later than the Fair has been scheduled in recent years.
“What we’re doing is actually getting back to the dates when the Sedgwick County Fair used to be held,” said Bret Albers, president of the Fair Association. Albers and other members of the Fair board are excited to move the dates for the Fair back to a later time in July.
In recent years, the Fair’s run dates have gotten pushed up into the early part of July, sometimes falling right after the Fourth of July, as the Fair did this year. In the past, those earlier dates were scheduled to accommodate the Pride of Texas Carnival, which has provided the carnival for the Fair for many years. The carnival is in demand at many venues across the country.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship with Pride of Texas, and have always wanted to keep them coming back to be the carnival for the Sedgwick County Fair,” said Albers. “Having a top-notch carnival is really important for the success of the Fair each year.”
The Sedgwick County Fair has been held annually in Cheney for more than 70 years. About 25 years ago, the Sedgwick County 4-H Fair – which had been held separately in Wichita – was combined with the Fair in Cheney, creating a larger countywide event.
At their meeting Monday, Fair board members discussed the advantages of moving the Fair back to a later date in July, including the reduced number of conflicts with other major events. They did note that the later dates could fall into hotter weather, but that would be a minor issue in comparison with the advantages. Those dates also will overlap with the Pretty Prairie Rodeo, which is a major event in this area.
Albers said the later dates will work well with the carnival, and noted that the Fair Association is working to secure a more long-term contract with the carnival covering the later dates.
Fair board members reviewed various aspects of this past year’s Fair, and noted that overall it was a big success, especially financially. The Fair Association did not host a big-name concert this year, which had been a financial drain in previous years.
Plans for next year will be much the same as this year. A ranch rodeo will be held again on Thursday night, and the always-successful demolition derby will be held on Saturday night.
“I think the demolition derby can continue to grow, and could become the biggest derby in this part of the state,” said Albers.
If the Fair Association stays with that schedule, Friday night provides more of a focus on live entertainment on the Fairgrounds, and provides a draw for food vendors and the carnival.
Fair officials also discussed that T-shirt sales went well this year, and will be looking for ways to continue that success in the future. Sales for food vendors remained steady, and no major changes are planned.
This year, the Fair Association did allow food vendors to decide on their own if they would be open for lunch, and there were only a few complaints related to that change. Some vendors did choose to be open for lunch, and the two church food booths were open as usual.
“If some of the other food vendors aren’t open for lunch, that probably helps the church booths,” said Albers.