The Kansas State Fair is officially open.
The ribbon was cut at the Lair White House shortly after 11 a.m. on Friday, officially opening this year's Fair for business. And what an opening it was! Threatening rain held off, but the cold front did not, dropping mid-morning temperatures into the low to mid 60s and keeping the afternoon high under 80.
That was a big – and welcome – weather change from Thursday when highs at the State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson approached or topped 100 degrees, depending on where you were.
It made the check-in of dozens of livestock competitors who will show animals in this weekend's 4-H and FFA competitions much easier and more comfortable. And it no doubt encouraged many families concerned about the heat to go ahead and head for the fairgrounds.
The Lair White House is just one of several things that are new at this year's Kansas State Fair, but it is a big one. Ground-breaking on the new venue, a beautiful two-story stucco house for events that includes a downstairs museum of Kansas State Fair history, came at the end of last year's Fair,
This year, that exhibit focuses on the 30-year career of Bardo the Clown at the Fair with an exhibit entitled "Year of the Clown." Bardo, a fixture at the Fair for decades, was also a talented artist, who carved dozens of models of carousel horses.
Also new at the Fair this year is the Kansas Energy Expo which is housed in the new Ad Astra Pabvilion. The Expo highlights the importance of five important aspects of the energy industry in Kansas – the oil and gas industry, utilities, transportation, renewables and energy conservation.
Jesse Bjorn of the Kansas Corporation Commission said the KCC and 35 shareholder groups have participated in the creation of the exhibit, which emphasizes the importance of educating Kansas consumers about the many aspects of the energy industry in Kansas.
To highlight some of those aspects, the Energy Expo is offering charging stations to fairgoers looking to power up cell phones and tablets. The options include pedaling a bike to power up a battery pack, solar power panels and traditional outlets.