Foundation director Marci Penner said, "The festival has been a tremendous event for the whole state and has helped people see that Kansas has a lot to offer. It's exciting to now think of the festival as part of a progression in helping share what there is to see and do. We have some ideas for what is next and will start that conversation in January."
In 1990, the late Mil Penner and daughter Marci Penner held a book-signing party on the family farm near Inman. About thirty places included in the new Kansas Weekend Guide came to promote under one tent. When a thousand people attended this event on a cold November day, it was clear that the public wanted to know more about Kansas day trips. The event was given a name and the Kansas Sampler Festival was born. It was held for seven more years on the Penner Farm.
The festival went on the road in 1998 as host communities were chosen for a two-year stint through a rigorous application process. Pratt was the first to organize the traveling event followed by Ottawa, Independence, Newton, Garden City, Concordia, Leavenworth, Liberal, and Wamego. Winfield will have the honor of hosting the final two years. "We could not have continued the festival without the amazing commitment of local host organizers and volunteers. They have taken such good care of the festival and given it a special flair in each location." Penner said.
WenDee LaPlant, assistant director, came to work at the Kansas Sampler Foundation after serving as local festival director in Garden City. She said, "I love how the festival has been great for the smallest towns and large ones, as well. It's brought towns together from every part of the state. It has helped make Kansas explorers out of the public. It's always such a happy, positive weekend. It's sad to see it come to an end but exciting to think of new possibilities."
Winfield's local director Sarah Werner when told of the news Monday morning said, "We feel very fortunate to be the site for the final two Kansas Sampler Festivals. This event has really been a springboard for many small Kansas communities to promote to a larger audience. I have no doubt that whatever the Kansas Sampler Foundation comes up with next will be just as important for rural Kansas."
Representatives from more than 150 communities will meet in Winfield's Island Park on May 7-8 2016 to share what there is to see, do, hear, taste, buy, and learn in Kansas. For more information go to www.kansassamplerfestival.com.