It’s time for the 2019 Kansas State Fair!

The gates to the annual celebration in Hutchinson open Saturday, and there is no shortage of reasons to attend. You have shows featuring Billy Currington and Hanson, among others, a host of free and roving entertainment, a panoply of food and drink options including the new (and ever-so-slightly scary sounding) Krispy Kreme hot dog, livestock and horse shows, contests galore, amusement park rides, and politicians meeting and greeting.

We’re surely leaving things out. In a way, that’s the point. During its 10-day run, the Kansas State Fair is an anthology in real life, a collection of attractions meant to attract and bind an incredible array of Kansans.

There is nothing like the state fair. And frankly, in these divided and fractured times, we could use more events like it. The fair makes an honest attempt to attract everyone — regardless of ideology, regardless of background, regardless of anything beyond a desire to enjoy experimental food, whirling rides and live music.

It binds us together. It creates identity. And in this age of destructive identities, of self-definition grounded in placing people above or below others, the identity being boosted at the state fair is positive. That is, if you live here, you’re a Kansan.

What does that word mean, anyhow? In a state with the agricultural roots of this one, Kansan once suggested a farmer, or at least someone farm-adjacent. In today’s economy, however, a Kansan can easily be someone working with software or in another high-tech field. Kansan once suggested someone rural, whereas today it could just as easily refer to someone in an urban area or the fast-growing Northeast corridor.

The change is positive. Bring a Kansan should — and does — encompass a fabulous array of people, backgrounds and professions. But we’re left then with a question: What does it mean? What does it encompass?

The fair helps bring us closer to an answer. Being a Kansan is about community, about coming together with others who might be different. It’s about celebrating an acknowledging an agricultural heritage, without necessarily being a farmer yourself. It’s about pride in this remarkable place and the remarkable legacy of this state and its people.

And sure, it might be about eating a Krispy Kreme hot dog or two. Or three.

Let the fair begin!