It's state fair time again, which means all roads point to Hutchinson, at least for the next week or so. This has been pretty much an annual trek for my family and me since we moved to Kansas from Wyoming 20 years ago. In fact, it's probably in my blood, as my mother told me […]

It's state fair time again, which means all roads point to Hutchinson, at least for the next week or so. This has been pretty much an annual trek for my family and me since we moved to Kansas from Wyoming 20 years ago. In fact, it's probably in my blood, as my mother told me recently that I attended my first Kansas State Fair in astroller when I was only two years old.
To put it simply, I love this annual celebration of all things Kansas. In a world of constant change, it's nice to return to a place where you know just what to expect (and also know where everything's located, more or less), year after year. Of course, each year brings something a little different, which only adds to the overall experience.
While everyone likely has their own favorites, here are eleven reasons why I love the Kansas State Fair:
1) The focus is still on agriculture. A large swath of the Kansas State Fairgrounds emphasizes agriculture. You can see live births in the birthing center, watch a milking demonstration, catch some mutton-busting, view the largest pumpkin grown in Kansas, and see the numerous examples of top crops grown by Kansas farmers, just to name a few things. It's great that our state fair has remained rooted in Kansas' agricultural heritage.
2) Ye Old Mill still floats along. With its storied 102 year history of providing fright and a reason for teenager couples (or even adults) to hold hands or at least scoot a little closer together, the water-borne ride within Ye Old Mill is a tradition that will hopefully never end.
3) The show at Gottschalk Park. Each year, the state fair staff brings in a fun and family-oriented show. This year's Timberwork Lumberjack Show will be sure to entertain and delight audiences, with its clean humor and friendly competition. My wife and I enjoyed it this past weekend, anyway.
4) Oz Gallery. Here is a chance to witness just how creative our fellow Kansans are. In a variety of media and from amateurs to professionals, a tour of this building will let you peer into the creative soul of Kansas, plus you can vote for the people's choice in various categories.
5) Domestic Arts Building. This is always a favorite for my wife and me, as we enjoy seeing the beautiful quilts from quilters across the state. It's also the location for the judging of breads, pies, and other baked goods. If you time it just right, you might be able to purchase a half a pie or some delicious baked goods to take home and share with your family
6) 4H Centennial Hall. If you want to see just how much good is being done by youth across the state today, be sure you stop by this building. It is always a must see for us. For me the photographic display from 4H participants in counties across the state is always a highlight, and I am drawn to those photographs that capture a moment in time with truth and honesty.
7) The Butter Sculpture and the Pride of Kansas Building. As of Saturday at closing time, the butter sculpture was still in process. Last year's butter sculpture took 1,600 pounds of butter and 85 hours of effort to complete. The Pride of Kansas Building should be on your stop if you love our state, because inside you'll find the largest pumpkin, Kansas-made products, and all kinds of interesting information that is Kansas-centric.
8) Midway Rides and Attractions. For the younger crowd, particularly, this is the place to be after dark when its aglow in neon and the promise of winning that 30 pound stuffed dragon for your young daughter, or your girlfriend, is sure to make you plunk down five or ten bucks. Though for my wife and me the quintessential State Fair ride (and the way we always end our day at the fair) is at the Ferris wheel, which has the best views around (although the new Sky Ride is a close second).
9) People watching. All kinds of interesting people come out for the state fair, and it gets even more interesting after dark. If you like to watch people, whether it's day or night, you'll probably see someone you know, like Prattans Greg and Rose Vratil, who we spotted in one of the commercial buildings. My state fair moment came, however, when I heard someone holler out my name as we were walking down Crescent Street: it was Kyle Unruh, who used to live in Pratt and was also a riding buddy back then.
10) New this year. Besides all of the traditions, each year's Kansas State Fair offers something different, whether it's a band, a performance, or just a new place that you had never discovered before. So, be open to the muse and let that state fair spirit guide your path.
11) The food. For a lot of people, the state fair provides a reason to try something that they probably would never eat otherwise. Deep-fried-whatever. Something-on-a-stick. Walking what? The midway is filled with delectable smells. Don't forget to bring along the anti-acid tablets, just in case.