Attendance was up at this year's Kansas Wheat Festival, but contest participation was down for the second year in a row.
Several ideas were thrown around for future festivals at the Wellington Chamber of of Commerce Wheat Festival meeting

by Amber Schmitz
    Attendance was up at this year's Kansas Wheat Festival, but contest participation was down for the second year in a row.
    Several ideas were thrown around for future festivals at the Wellington Chamber of of Commerce Wheat Festival meeting, including the possibility of trying to get big name bands at the street dances.
    They discussed frustrations with the parade, including people being in the parade who weren't entered, and people not following city ordinances and Wheat Fest rules. The incident with Chelsea Easterly and Aiden Rains being thrown from their horse during the parade was also mentioned. The committee will meet and discuss whether or not to ban horses from future parades. The parade committee also plans on working on a list of rules before next year's event.
    Positives mentioned were the great weather, bands at the street dances, attendance was up, city and Chamber of Commerce communication, good sound system, good variety of food vendors, awesome jazz band, the Aviator Church's volunteerism, and good port-a-potty placement. The banks were also very supportive, Hansel said.
    "I can't say thank you enough to the Aviator Church, they do a great job and like doing it, and make it easier on Wheat Fest staff," Shelley Hansel, Chamber of Commerce director, said.
    Many challenges were discussed, including needing more volunteers, making volunteers more visible, having at least six volunteers at all events, and ATM's not working at the carnival. Parade challenges mentioned were crowd control and candy distribution. It was also mentioned that vendors, media, volunteers and sponsors should have badges, so that everyone knows who they are.
    "As we grow the event, we need to take a newcomer's point of view," Hansel said, saying they need to make it easier for out of towners to find all events. Another challenge is trying to attract out of town visitors.
    Hansel also has asked many times for a ferris wheel to be at the festival, saying it's a small town event and needs a ferris wheel, but was told it would require more manpower. Carnival income though, was higher than last year.
    "Button sales were good," Hansel said. "We've never sold that many that fast. I think the medallion hunt helped."
    The bakeoff, Hansel said, was changed to make it more in line with the Kansas Wheat Comission bakeoff, meaning only yeast items can be made. They had 28 entries in the contest and discussed enlisting the Kansas Wheat Commission for future ideas.
    With only six entries in the variety show, they are looking for suggestions on going about it a little differently, or just having musical entertainment for the Picnic in the Park.
    Michelle Wellington, Chamber of Commerce staff, said she received a lot of compliments on the bed races being held right after the cow chip throw. They would like to see more teams in the bed races in the future.
    Hansel said the beer garden went very well and was very well run. It was mentioned to possibly add another ten feet of paneling to enlarge the space for the future. They had many volunteer groups who assisted with the beer garden, including a group from Caldwell. She said it's a 70/30 split, so each group walks away with some cash.
    Kip Etter, owner of The Dore, suggested putting a port-a-potty inside the beer garden. He also suggested trying to draw more Kansas people from out of town to the event. Etter offered many suggestions, including raising the button price to $5 to get people into all events, and offering VIP seating at the street dances. He also mentioned maybe trying to get some big name bands in town, which would draw a bigger crowd, and possibly offering a meet and greet package.
    Saturday's Family Fun Day event in Seller's Park was an overall success, Hansel said.
    "I was shocked at how many people attended on Saturday," Hansel said. There were less vendors, she said, but a bigger crowd.
    The car show, orchestra and Country Showdown were all successful.
    Sunday, there were six volleyball teams signed up for sand volleyball, and the free family swim at the aquatic center was well attended. The baseball and softball tournaments were also successful.
    Overall, Hansel said, there were great prizes given away, and new people who donated.
    Lisa Vargas, parade volunteer, made a list of things they need to do, including making a decision about horses being allowed in the parade, no more late parade entries, and making everyone sign a list of parade rules. They would also like to ask for a detailed description from each parade participant, and limit each group to a certain number of vehicles and walkers. Nothing has been set in stone yet.
    "If people are going to participate in the parade, they need to listen to what we ask them to do," Vargas said.
    Hansel said the Chamber of Commerce fully supports any decision that the parade committee decides to make.
    "People need to get off the sidelines and serve on committees to help plan the next Kansas Wheat Festival" Hansel said.
    Nate Jones, Studio 55 staff, suggested having a grand finale at the end of the Wheat Fest, this way everyone knows that the festival has come to an end.
    Hansel said they have learned a lot, and will continue to learn, and overcome challenges that come their way.