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Kansas: No place like home

By Susen Foster

The 2012 Kansas Sampler Festival takes place May 5 and 6 in Liberal, which is a few miles north of the Oklahoma Panhandle border at the junction of Highways 83 and 54. Liberal, a thriving community, is famous for Dorothy's House, the Mid-America Air Museum, and the annual International Pancake Race.

During this 23rd year of the Kansas Sampler Festival more than 130 Kansas communities will gather for an entire weekend to celebrate the marvelous and surprising things there are to see, do, hear, taste, buy, and learn about in the Sunflower State.

At the corner of Kansas Avenue and 11th Street in Liberal is Light Park, the festival venue where that weekend musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, food vendors, attractions and communities from every corner of the state will showcase their best at this outdoor family event.

Liberal Director of Tourism Sally Fuller is excited about all of the hoopla. She and the Kansas Sampler Foundation are proud of what has been created and how it continues to wow the visitors each year. This year there are several new additions adding to the excitement.

Paradise Ranch Adventures from near Council Grove will bring their unique "All Wether Band" of pack goats and a few mammoth donkeys. At scheduled times there will be pack goat demonstrations and information most folks don't know about goats.

Another new addition to the Sampler Festival is the concept of "Wearable Icons" to help promote communities. For instance, Liberal may have someone walking around as a pancake to signify the important role it plays in the International Pancake Day Race, and Abilene may have someone wear a huge cowboy Hat that reaches their knees to promote their cattle town history. Fuller says, "This is something new and we hope many towns and attractions will participate. The outcome is bound to create color and curiosity about the places that are represented in this fun manner."

One more addition that should catch many an eye is Robert Veatch from Wooden Trout Custom Woodworks out of Hugoton, who will have an exhibit featuring stations where he will demonstrate the art of fly tying--the process of producing an artificial "fly" used by anglers to catch fish.

Every two years, the Kansas Sampler Foundation puts out a bid process to choose the next host. Foundation Assistant Director WenDee LaPlant said, "Liberal found out in October of 2010 that they would host the 2012 and 2013 festival. With great citywide cooperation and an excellent site for the festival, we know this will be a stellar event. We are delighted that the exhibitors who come from every part of the state will get to meet the people of southwest Kansas and surrounding area. It should be a great match between visitors and exhibitors."

The festival, a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, started on the Penner Farm near Inman in 1990. After eight years on the farm it has been held in Pratt, Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, Concordia, and Leavenworth. The Foundation's mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture and each year gets bigger and better.

Bring the family to Liberal, Kan. Festival hours are May 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and May 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 7 to 12. For more information go to or call 620-626-0170.

Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Pecan Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Pauls Valley, Okla. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at or call 580-622-5408.


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