The sweet scent of kettle corn and barbecue accompanied the pleasant sounds of banjo-playing that floated through the warm Kansas air this past Saturday and Sunday at the 26th Kansas Sampler Festival in Wamego.
The festival was an occasion of exploration and discovery in Wamego City Park, and people in attendance had the opportunity to enjoy the food, retail booths and beautiful Kansas weather.
The Kansas Sampler Foundation, created by director Marci Penner, organizes the festival every year in a different Kansas town to celebrate the state and everything there is to see, hear, and do here in the Sunflower state. Last year, the festival reached a record attendance of 11,700.
“My job is to oversee the festival as it moves around, and to greet people and thank them for being here,” Penner said.
Penner wrote the guidebook “Eight Wonders of Kansas” before creating the Kansas Sampler Foundation, and has been the driving force behind the festival throughout its 26-year history.
“Marci Penner is Kansas’ best cheerleader,” Nick Levendofsky, Kansas Explorer’s Club volunteer, said. “The Kansas Sampler Foundation represents Kansas and all of the great things there are to see and do here.”
Some exhibitors at the festival included the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, a petting zoo with a kangaroo and a porcupine and even historic performances from the likes of Amelia Earhart and Wild Bill Hickok.
“We’re trying to get people excited about Kansas again,” Levendofsky said. “There’s no way to see every part of Kansas – it’s just too big – except for the Kansas Sampler Festival.”
Every year, the festival travels from town to town within the state. Its next stop is Winfield, Kansas in May 2016.
“I went last year and the year before, and I’ll be going to Winfield next year, because there are always new things to see, and I need to know what is going on around my state,” Mary Ann Hinkle, attendee and Salina resident, said.
The Kansas Sampler Festival was a great way to catch up with regional information, as well as experience others kind of Kansas culture.
“I love Kansas,” Penner said. “The people are so passionate about their towns and communities. If you dig a little deeper, that’s where the important connections are, and that’s really what makes Kansas so amazing.”