Everything but tulips at the festival

By Rose Schneider

Wamego’s 26th annual Tulip Festival will wrap up Sunday after a weekend with more than 180 vendors and great weather.

“Our footprint has gotten bigger by moving parts of the festival to the downtown area; the local businesses are benefiting from that decision,” said event chair, Scott Kohl. The only hitch has been the absence of actual blooming tulips. Kohl said they “are a hit and miss depending on the weather.”

This year’s festival was the third without tulips but that hasn’t stunted involvement by participants or attendees. Kohl estimated that 150 craft, 10 food and 20 non-profit vendors and booths have set up, covering a wide variety products.

Saturday vendors selling homemade foods including dips, desserts and ice cream, artwork, jewelry, clothes, dishware, photography, garden accessories and rugs lined Wamego’s City Park. In addition, there were areas set up for children including the Little Apple Amusements area with eight large inflatables, Kaw Valley 4-H Club with bunnies, goats, a sheep and a llama for children to pet and play with for 50-cents and multiple face painting options.

“I think there are more kids here than adults,” Kohl said.

Many of the vendors look forward to the festival as the start to each season.

Farm Shed Goods and Gifts, which makes homemade jams, jellies and pickled veggies, marked its seventh Tulip Festival this year.

“We really enjoy it,” said Deb Anell, the daughter of Beth and Jim Gunn, owners of Farm Shed Goods and Gifts in Inman.

The Gunn family has been making specialized jams and jellies for more than 20 years and plans to continue incorporating the festival into their yearly sales kickoff.

Amanda Lynn Chainmaille Creations showcased some of its unique works of art including a Superman chainmail vest created from anodized aluminum that took more than 45 hours to construct. Also featured were chainmail bras, fairy wings and “up-cycled” necklaces that used parts of comic books.

Chainmaille Creations spent last week at Planet ComicCon in Kansas City, Mo., debuting the necklaces.

An employee explained that the firm has “about 7,000 comic books; of those about 5,500 aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on anymore.” So instead of throwing them away, they make jewelry from them.

Another vendor giving old items a new life was a couple from Colorado whose business is called Rock and Roll Drink Coasters. Lorie and Tom Beshara have been working together to recycle every part of a record for roughly six years.

“I used to buy and sell 45s on Ebay but I was throwing away about half of them because they were cracked or damaged,” Lorie said. “One day Tom came to me asking if I was ready to throw away the broken ones and I looked at him and asked ‘isn’t there something else we can do with them?’”

The Besharas started to make nine-piece drink coaster sets and large popcorn bowls out of the records’ sleeves and the records themselves.

“I wanted to do something to keep the records out of landfills,” Lorie said. “A record can take 300 years to break down.”

It takes about five minutes to make a bowl in the oven, but about three days to make the coasters. 

What the couple doesn’t use for their projects, they take to a recycling center to be disposed of in an eco-friendly way. This is their first year at the Tulip festival but they plan to return since “Kansas has a friendly music scene.”

Other events at the festival included a pancake feed and biscuits and gravy breakfast, children’s train and pony rides, and a bicycle race.

There were also 5k and 10k MOMs runs to benefit Rene Clark-Hoelzel Children’s Educational Fund, as well as a cake and quilt show.

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