By Mia Birkes
The Kansas State Fair is in full swing! The well-loved annual event officially began in 1913, showcasing this year at a magnificent 110 years old. For Central Kansas natives like me, the State Fair is an opportunity to visit a familiar place while still seeing brand-new exhibits every year. I am going to share my top five favorite attractions at this year’s Kansas State Fair! All these places are easily accessible from Gates 1 and 9, but if you’re up for a little bit of a walk, you can enter any gate you like.
5. Butter Sculpture
It was brought to my attention recently that having a whole sculpture made of butter is weird. Well, welcome to the heartland! In the Pride of Kansas building, you’ll find a refrigerated room surrounded by awed spectators; inside: the dairy industry’s finest fat. This year’s sculpture honors Amelia Earhart. The famous pilot is crafted from pounds upon pounds of locally produced butter, standing in front of a butter wall carved with our state motto, Ad Astra Per Aspera.
4. Livestock Barns
Dairy cows, rabbits, and llamas—oh my! The work of intense care and endless love comes to fruition in the livestock barns. Open for visitors to admire, each of these barns house some of the best animals in the state. Rabbits and poultry are shown on the north side of 20th Avenue. Across the way, you can find cows, sheep, goats, and even llamas and alpacas—which are presented by the Golden Plains Llama Association. The most important thing to remember in these areas is that you can look, but you can’t touch!
3. Competitive Exhibits
It’s not a fair without a little competition. In addition to all kinds of livestock competing for best in show, people from all over the state submit their best produce, crafts, and artwork. From thousand-pound pumpkins and 12-foot sunflower stalks, to wooden carvings and paintings, there’s something for all walks of life to appreciate. These exhibits can be found in Oz Gallery on 20th Avenue and the Pride of Kansas building on Poplar Street.
2. Kansas State University State Fair Birthing Center
Now I know that the name of this building can be a little off-putting. Once you work up the nerve to step into its clamoring threshold, you’ll find that the Birthing Center might just be one of your favorite attractions too! Here you’ll find a variety of mamas and babies of all shapes and sizes. This year’s exhibitors include Jersey cows from Perry Beachy Dairy and Holstein cows from Orville Miller Dairy. You’ll also find some sheep and their lambs from Elder Livestock, and two sows and their piglets from the Kansas State University Swine Unit. Just like the livestock barns, it’s crucial that visitors do not touch the animals—especially since these are newborns and are much more susceptible to disease contracted from human hands.
1. Kansas Honey Booth
Another wonderful attraction from the Pride of Kansas building! This booth, put on by the Kansas Honey Producers Association, has been a must-visit since I was a kid. You can find a variety of honey products, including honey jars, honeycomb, skincare, and even savory sauces. They also offer honey samples—at 25 cents a stick, you can sample every flavor of honey they have to offer. My all-time favorites are clover and cinnamon! This year, they’ve put out a new pink lemonade flavor that has the warmth of traditional honey with the tang of lemonade. By shopping at this booth, you’re not only getting some delicious honey, but you’re also supporting Kansas honey producers and their bees!