It wasn’t long ago at all that Sumner County’s 112th Wheat Festival became the official Kansas Wheat Festival; now it will be a short time until the event is in full swing. The Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau have been working diligently to make sure this year’s festival is second to none.
"I would say that we have certainly felt that we need to up our game, and make this more of a state-wide festival,” said Shelley Hansel-Williams, Executive Director of the Chamber. One recent move the Chamber has made is hiring Nikki Lira as the new, temporary Wheat Festival Coordinator; a position that is made possible via funding from the City of Wellington.
“I’m very excited for this year’s 112th Annual Kansas Wheat Festival, with our many generous sponsors and community involvement I am certain this year’s festival will be amazing,” Lira said. “Our plan for this year’s festival is to focus on the true history of the Wheat Festival, a post-Harvest celebration.” Hansel-Williams also said the Chamber has reached out to various state-wide organizations about the Wheat Festival.
"We've been in talks with the Kansas Wheat Commission...so we do have some larger, state-wide entities that we've got involved," she said. "I only see that getting bigger." Spreading the word about the official Kansas Wheat Festival has also been a focus of the Chamber.
The event organizers are taking exploring every medium out there to help promote the festival. Hansel-Williams said there is currently a print-ad campaign running in local and regional publications. There will be television ads running in Wichita, Kan., along with radio spots.
"I think we are utilizing most of our media partners that are members of the Chamber," Hansel-Williams continued. "Then of course going outside of that to let people know. I hope it works." Several communities around Sumner County are geared up to participate in Wheat Festival events. The Chamber is hopeful that people from all over Kansas will sign-up for different Wheat Festival events, such as the Bar-b-que Cook-off, Cow-chip Throwing Contest, or even having different towns sign-up for a float in the parade.
With that being said, the Chamber realizes the Wheat Festival probably won’t go from a large, local event to a huge, state-wide event in a big hurry.
"It's not going to happen in a year," Hansel-Williams said. "And we got this [official] designation a month ago, so this year, I think we're doing the best that we can..." For more information on Wheat Festival events, visit the Wellington Area Chamber of Commere/CVB online, give them a call at 620-326-7466, or visit their office at 207 S. Washington.
Page 2 of 2 - In spite of the added pressure the event is producing in this year, the Chamber Director is excited, and says it’s a good opportunity that needs to be capitalized upon.
"I do think this is something that could be absolutely extraordinary for Sumner County, and Kansas," Hansel-Willaims said. "This is it, we are the Wheat Festival in Kansas."