Businesses prepare for stampede of Country Stampede fans

A Hop-N-Skip convenience store sign on the side of Tuttle Creek Boulevard reminds Manhattanites of the upcoming country music festival on June 14th, 2018. Madison Jahnke | Collegian Media Group Photo credit: Madison Jahnke

As the 23rd annual Kicker Country Stampede approaches, local businesses are preparing to accommodate the expected onslaught of country fans.

The three-day country music festival, taking place June 21-23 at Tuttle Creek State Park, is the largest annual event of its kind in Kansas. Over the years, total combined attendance for all days has increased, exceeding 170,000 in 2012 and more than 100,000 last year. Because the festival is expected to draw thousands of country music fans, businesses are stocking up and hunkering down to provide quick and convenient service to Stampede-goers.

“We’re doing a lot,” said Tara Marden, store manager of Dara’s Fast Lane convenience store on Tuttle Creek Boulevard.

The convenience store will be doubling up on staff beginning Wednesday as the campers come in, Marden said, with four to five employees running registers and keeping coolers and shelves stocked full of merchandise.

To keep the store afloat during the festival, Marden’s store, which makes food for all other Dara’s locations in Manhattan, will stop production.

“We halt that just because we don’t have enough manpower,” Marden said.

Marden said the store is stocking up specifically on ice and beer. Instead of relying on their usual biweekly delivery of ice, the store will receiving an extra, full delivery truck.

“One thing we’re doing a little bit different this year is having one of our food vendors come and smoke a bunch of meat outside,” Marden said. The meat has been available for pre-order at the store’s location.

Stampede-ready items are displayed for purchase at Hop-N-Skip convenience store on Tuttle Creek Boulevard. (Madison Jahnke | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Madison Jahnke

Donald Houston, clerk at the Hop-N-Skip across the street, said the convenience store has also been preparing for the past couple weeks.

“We’re slowly getting more and more prepared each day,” Houston said. “Usually the day before Stampede, we’ll get a trailer outside full of ice because we go through so much.”

Houston added that the goal is to get customers in and out as quickly as possible, which means opening two registers and having the store continuously restocked throughout the week.

“Specifically for Stampede, we’ve brought in some charcoal, lighter fluid and styrofoam coolers,” Houston said.

Cox Bros. BBQ is also gearing up for the festival. Bud Cox, co-owner of the restaurant, said he and his brother, Bobby, have been involved with the festival for the past eight years.

“We set up a kitchen out there and feed the artists breakfast, lunch and supper backstage,” Cox said.

Because Stampede-goers generally camp out at the festival, Cox said he expects the restaurant to be only a little busier than normal. However, the barbecue restaurant is expected to fill up this Wednesday during an event called “Road to Stampede” featuring several Stampede performers.

“We expect a full house,” Cox said. “I’m hoping a couple hundred people come out.”