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Chamber Legacy Award goes to Kids Ag Day in 25th year
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On stage for Kids Ag Day are, from left: Kevin Mauler, Jerry Esfeld, Jan Peters and Ron Koelsch. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

It is so much more than horseshoe demonstrations and hay rack rides. The annual Kids Ag Day event has been educating young minds about the importance of agriculture for 25 years, and its legacy in Great Bend and around the State is immeasurable. For that reason, Kids Ag Day received the 2017 Legacy Award from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development during the organization’s Annual Meeting & Banquet on Saturday evening at the Great Bend Events Center.
Many of the original group of ag industry advocates who founded the event over 25 years ago are still active in the thriving event today. Among that list of core volunteers are Kevin Mauler, Ron Koelsch, Jerry Esfeld, Aaron Maresch, David LeRoy, Darrell Touslee, Charles Atkinson and others. Over the years, this event for fourth-grade students from Barton County has developed quite the reputation for excellence.
“When other school districts and other communities want to teach their students about agriculture, our Kids Ag Day event in Great Bend is almost always one of their first stops,” said Jan Peters, president/CEO of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development. “Almost every year, we’ve had visitors from other cities come to check out this event, and they’re always in awe at how well organized and how productive the students’ time on the farm can be.”

Kids Ag Day is a one-day event held at a local farm on the first Wednesday in September, designed to expose fourth graders to the various components of agriculture from farming and ranching to beekeeping and veterinary medicine. Over 400 fourth-grade students from across Barton County are bused to a host farm. Over the past 25 years, 4M Farms, operated by Kevin Mauler; Brining Farms, operated by the late Roger Brining; and Diamond K Farms, owned by Ron Koelsch, have served as host locations for the event.
“My husband Taylor was in one of the first classes to attend Kids Ag Day back in the early 1990s and I attended as a student as well,” said Kelly Calcara, fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Great Bend. “Now as an educator, I get to bring my students back to the farm every year and watch their excitement. For some of these students, it’s the first time they’ve seen a tractor up close.”
Once students arrive on the farm, dozens of volunteers help usher them to different stations around the farm, some on foot and some on hay rack rides. Students see demonstrations on how crops are grown, how food is made, what animals live on the farm, electrical safety, cattle health and horseshoeing, beekeeping, advancing technology and so much more. The day includes lunch and refreshments. In total, the event requires upwards of 60 volunteers to run smoothly.

“The passionate volunteers who organize this amazing event are really the ones that deserve the recognition,” said Peters. “Without them, there wouldn’t be an event, and this legacy of agriculture education would disappear. We couldn’t be more proud of these dedicated individuals who have been inspiring young students now for 25 years.”
The 25th Annual Kids Ag Day event will be held Wednesday, Sept. 5 including a live radio broadcast so the public can hear about the exciting activities held west of Great Bend. Learn more on the Chamber website Photos from previous events can also be found on the Chamber’s Facebook page.

Previous Legacy Award Recipients
2016 Kari Smith
2015 Skip Yowell