Wamego dusts off its welcome mat

Community will host Kansas Sampler Festival

By The Mercury

Wamego knows how to put on a show. Every year, its population seems to double for the annual Tulip Festival, the town’s party on the Fourth of July is one of the best in the entire state, and, well, the only Oztoberfest we can think of calls Wamego home.

We aren’t the only ones who noticed. This year and next, Wamego will welcome folks from all over the state for the Kansas Sampler Festival. This year’s event, May 3 and 4, will be the 25th anniversary of what is the largest moving festival in Kansas. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows about Wamego’s enthusiasm that it will be the smallest community in the state to hold the Kansas Sampler Festival.

If you want to visit, you’re certainly invited. But if you want to be an exhibitor, you’re too late. This is the first year in the festival’s history that organizers had to close registration. Credit Wamego’s organizers for that.

They’re ordering 22 large festival tents, the largest of which will be 6,000 square feet. Julie Roller, development associate for the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, says the biggest tent “will be dedicated to everything there is to see, do, buy, taste, hear and experience in the Flint Hills.”

There will be plenty for folks interested in Kansas beyond the Flint Hills as well. Visitors can learn about communities large and small and sample foods and beverages from Kansas towns. Olsburg’s Swedish specialties will be available in one of the 20 booths set aside for Kansas foods. Visitors also have the opportunity to learn about uniquely Kansas gifts and products — crafts, aprons, gourds, honey and more. Entertainment — yes, from Kansas musicians and other performers — will emanate from three stages.

Among other highlights, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will bring its mobile aquarium filled with the varieties of fish you can find in Kansas lakes and streams. Another booth will feature the beauty of Kansas as captured in photographs.

Wamego is a fitting host for this festival that celebrates all things Kansas. Its success demonstrates what can happen when communities, businesses and organizations work together.

“None of this could have happened without support from the City of Wamego, Pottawatomie County and the Manhattan and Wamego convention and visitors bureaus, ” said Ms. Roller.

Manhattan will be among the festival’s beneficiaries, as local hotels, restaurants and shopping areas and sites such as the Flint Hills Discovery Center will welcome visitors from distant parts of the state.

We wouldn’t be surprised if they return home with glowing reviews of their experiences in Wamego and the rest of the Flint Hills.

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