Sampler Festival to mark 25th year at Wamego

For 25 years, the state?s largest traveling festival, known as the Kansas Sampler Festival, has attracted thousands of visitors hunting for what there is to see and do in the state.

According to Marci Penner, coordinator of the festival, almost 300 exhibitors from 150 communities, including Marion County, will be available this year.

?The festival will help the public learn about the architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history and people of Kansas when the gates open May 3 and 4 at Wamego?s city park,? she said.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 3, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 7-12.

?The primary focus of the event is to help the public plan day trips around the state,? she said. ?Every part of the state is represented, from the Flint Hills to Colby and Elkhart to Atchison.

?It?s like a brochure of Kansas brought to life. Kansas musicians and historic performers showcase themselves for hire; food vendors either promote a restaurant or serve a food product made in Kansas or an ethnic recipe.?

One example, Penner noted, was a wine and beer tent featuring four Kansas wineries, a distillery and two microbreweries.

In addition, exhibitors in the Kansas products tent and the new ?From the Land of Kansas? tent will sell everything from butter, honey, metal, glass and fine art, pottery, salsa, jellies, quilted bags, books, leather goods, fudge, and handcrafted furniture, to name a few.

?New to the festival this year will be the Kansas photographers tent featuring 12 top photographers who will showcase their work and give educational programs throughout the weekend,? she said.

Other new additions include the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism?s mobile aquarium, a replica of the Home on the Range Cabin, ghost tours of Kansas, a primitive camp with living historians complete with ax throwing and a new game made in Kansas called wicketball.

?An unusual addition is a flying replica of the New Longren,? a biplane designed and built in about 1920 by Alvin K. Longren, a native Kansan who was a pilot, designer, barnstormer, inventor and aircraft executive,? Penner said.

?The plane was the first folding-wing aircraft purchased by the U.S. Navy. It will be displayed on the east side of the festival.?

Festival History

The pre-cursor to the Kansas Sampler Festival was a book-signing party in 1990 for Mil and Marci Penner?s book, ?Kansas Weekend Guide.?

The event was held on the Penner Farm near Inman with one tent full of exhibitors.

?The event was such a success it was given the name, Kansas Sampler Festival,? she said.

The festival was held for eight years from 1990 to 1997 on the Penner Farm near Inman.

The decision was made to take the festival on the road to expose more people to the exhibitors and purpose of the festival.

Hosts are picked through an application process and host for two years, she said, which have included Pratt, Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, Leavenworth, Concordia and Liberal.

For more information, call Julie Roller at 785-456-9776 or email ksf@wamego.net.

Visitors can also go to the festival website at: kansassamplerfestival.com.