Hutchison When terrorists hit the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the Kansas State Fair was five days into its 10-day run in Hutchinson. When word of the attacks spread, officials discussed closing down the fair but decided just to cancel some events. Attendance and enthusiasm for the fair dropped dramatically.
“I remember it was a lot quieter after that,” said manager Denny Stoecklein, who was assistant manager in 2001. “There was a question at one point: ‘Do we go on? Do we close the fair? What do we do?’”
With the 2011 fair set to open Friday, the event in Hutchinson has fully recovered since that devastating day, Stoecklein told The Wichita Eagle.
Crowd numbers, which dropped dramatically in 2001, have returned to pre-Sept. 11 sizes — and they’re climbing, he said.
Stoecklein said he hopes this year’s fair will continue to build on the momentum of the past two years.
The economic struggles of the past year have not hurt the fair much, Stoecklein said, because families opted for the fair rather than longer, more expensive vacations.
The fair has planned several events and ceremonies mark the anniversary of the attacks. On Sept. 11, a ceremony at the Gottschalk Park gazebo will include a moment of remembrance, speakers and patriotic songs. At 7 p.m., the Hutchinson Symphony Orchestra will perform patriotic songs at Lake Talbott.
The fair also has invited an artist from Great Bend who uses 1-by-3-inch wooden blocks to build large replicas of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
The other serious business at this year’s fair will be at the Grandstand, where concertgoers will attend with fresh memories of the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair last month, which killed seven fans and injured 40.
Stoecklein said he has met with stage contractors, meteorologists and emergency management personnel to ensure nothing similar happens at the Kansas State Fair.