By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Falconer convention coming to GB
About 200 hunters and their birds of prey to visit in November
falconer pic
Ryan VanZant with the National American Falconers Association, his falcon on his arm, addresses the Great Bend City Council Monday night about the group’s convention in Great Bend set for November. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

An upcoming event in Great Bend is for the bird, specifically birds of prey and their handlers.

The Great Bend City Council Monday night heard an update from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes on the National American Falconers Association annual convention in Great Bend this Nov. 17-23.

Last year the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff worked on bidding to get the association to come to Great Bend, Hayes said. Every five years, this group comes to Kansas and five years ago they hosted their event in Hutchinson. 

“Great Bend is extremely lucky to have landed such a wonderful convention,” she said. It will bring 150-200 falconers from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia to the area to stay for a full week.

Ryan VanZant, director of the  Hutchinson Zoo and representative from the group, attended the meeting, updating council members on what to expect during their stay. He also thanked the city for allowing the organization to meet here. 

“When people think of falconry, they picture knights in shining armor with a falcon on their shoulders,” he said. As he spoke, his hooded falcon sat perched on his arm.

What is now a sport, dates back over 4,000 years, he said. 

“It’s a hunting sport,” VanZant said. “Kansas is great for this.”

That is why when Great Bend made its appeal, the community’s hunting heritage made sense for the organization. “Great Bend fits that really well.”

Guest speakers and activities are currently being lined up, and promise to be very interesting and entertaining, VanZant said. The meet will also be highlighted by a variety of vendors and many chances to win great items in nightly raffles. The event will be based at the Best Western Angus Inn at 2920 10th St.

The week-long conference could bring hundreds of trained falcons to town to allow their trainers to interact and learn from each other and allow the falcons to hunt the area grounds.  The birds will also be available for public viewing, he said.

Since NAFA started the annual conferences in 1962, there have only been four Kansas towns selected to host the meet. Hutchinson was the last Kansas city to host the conference in 2015. 

The NAFA conference rotates to different states and locations based on the available prey for their falcons. The falconers will utilize falcons, hawks and, sometimes, eagles.

Falconry can be defined as the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor. VanZant said they can dive at speeds of 200 miles per hour and take on prey such as jack rabbits, squirrels, ducks and other small game.

“This is an everyday thing,” he said. During the hunting seasons, falconers take their birds out regularly so they are in shape and stronger than their prey.

The birds are not pets, he said. It is, instead, a business partnership with the raptor knowing when the falconer gets the hood (a set of custom-made blinders covering the birds head) it is time to hunt.

They are tracked by line of sight as well as radio telemetry. 

North American Falconers Association was founded in 1961 to encourage the proper practice of the sport of falconry and the wise use and conservation of birds of prey.  From a handful of members in its early years, NAFA has grown and is today the largest membership falconry organization in the world.

There are about 4,000 active falconers in the United States, 40 of which are in Kansas.

VanZant said they are still seeking landowners willing to allow the falcon hunting. Those interested can contact Hayes at 620-793-4111.

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Mark Bartezko addressed the council and offered comments on economic development. He is the former operations manager for Kansas Transload Services and talked about opportunities to expand the Great Bend transload facility. He noted that funding opportunities had been missed and encouraged the city to look at potential for the future in agriculture, ethanol and hemp.

• Heard an update from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes on the National American Falconers Association annual convention in Great Bend this November.

• Approved awarding the University of Kansas Health System St. Rose Pavilion waterline replacement project to APAC of Hutchinson for $51,982.

A bid opening was held on Sept. 10. The project includes replacing a leaking line located under an access tunnel along Broadway. 

The City received one bid, and that was APAC. 

The project was advertised for bid on Aug. 28. Advertisement included posting the project on the city’s website, PEG’s website, and Kansas Construction News which is a regional plan room. In addition, notification was sent directly to known utility contractors in the region, said Josh Golka, the city’s on-call engineer Josh Golka with Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita. 

• Approved repairs to waterlines along Meadowlark Street. The council heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis. The project was awarded to APAC at a cost of $81,401. 

• Approved an ordinance to exempt city property for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on Oct. 18 and 19. 

This is for Rock & Q on the Plains, a rock concert scheduled for those dates at the Expo Area of the Great Bend Municipal Airport, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. The sponsors, a group of private investors known as Destination GB, have requested permission for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. To allow this, the city must pass an ordinance exempting the area from Kansas state law for the two days of the event.

The beverages will be sold by a vendor contracted with by the sponsors. 

• Approved the full-depth replacement of about 150 feet of concrete on Grant Street between 10th and the north entrance to the Walmart parking lot. Suchy Construction was the lowest of five bidders at a cost of $41,789.50.

• Approved the rezoning of property at 2115 18th Street from C-1 (commercial) to R-2 (residential). Lila Hoch has purchased the real estate and wishes to build a home on the site. But, it is currently zoned C-1, local commercial, but it needs to be rezoned to a R-2 zone allowing residential real estate, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. Notice was published in the Great Bend Tribune and notices were mailed to property owners within 200 feet of the real estate. A public hearing was conducted by the Planning Commission, which has recommended approval. 

The council adopted the findings of fact from the commission and approved an ordinance making the change.

• Approved the funding and proposed scope of work for four Kansas Department of Transportation City Connecting Links Improvement Plan (CCLIP) projects costing around $1.1 million in local match money in order to finalize a cost-share program application with KDOT. 

The city match is 25% of $3.3 million in projects that repair the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip and overlay nearly all of US-56 (1Oth Street). This includes Frey to Hickory, Main to Washington, Harrison to McKinley, McKinley to Kennedy, and Kennedy to Patton Road. 

• Heard an update from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He focused on the progress of the 10th and Grant remodeling project, set for final walk through later this week or early next, and Rock & Q on the Plains.

• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She focused on Zoo Boo and Home for the Holidays. The theme for this year’s Christmas Parade will be “A Country Christmas” and the grand marshal will be Diane Henderson, executive director of the Great Bend Recreation Commission.

• Approved a two-day cereal-malt beverage licence at the request of Chad Ehrlich for Carr Auction at the Expo Grounds on Oct. 4 and 5 for the F&E Auto Auction.

• Held a work session to discuss the street improvement plan.

• Approved abatements at: 222 Locust, 215 Plum, 223 Holland, 1809 Ninth, 1104 Frey and 333 Fruit, all for accumulation of refuse.