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A new direction
GB Chamber announces new farm show
new deh new farm show pic
Darren Dale of Star Enterprises accepts the first application for the new Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo from Ron Straub during a news conference Friday morning at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce office. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

For more information on the Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo, set for April 11-13, 2012, at the Great Bend Expo Complex, visit

Great Bend will not be without a farm show after all, it was announced Friday morning.
Despite the news Tuesday that the 3i Show would no longer come to town every other year, local economic development officials said  Great Bend will host a new, annual agricultural exposition. The inaugural Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo is set for Wednesday through Friday, April 11-13, 2012, at the Expo Complex.
Eddie Estes, chief executive officer of the Western Kansas Manufacturers’ Association which sponsors 3i, said he his show will no longer alternate between Barton County and Garden City. Instead, starting in 2012, it will permanently be held in Dodge City, where the WKMA is based.
“It was time for us to move in a different direction,” said Jan Peters, president of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce during a news conference Friday morning at the chamber office. For more than 25 years, Great Bend served as the biennial home of 3i.
“The 3i Show is one of the most successful farm shows in the region,” Peters said. That was due to the volunteers , community partners and business owners that pitched in and “worked countless hours.”
But, “time and time again we heard from exhibitors that they loved our facilities,” she said. What’s more, “they had such great praises for our community” due to the hospitality.
This is why the chamber wanted to keep some sort of ag-related show in Great Bend, Peters said.
Putting on the new show will be the job of Darren Dale, an expo promoter and owner of Star Enterprises of Bird City. He already manages shows in McCook, Neb., and Wichita Falls and Montague County, Texas.
“This is a great opportunity for my family,” Dale said. “There will be a lot of new and exciting things in 2012,” including agriculture-related demonstrations and conferences.
“We want to grow this show into the 21st Century.” He said he’ll market the show in a 1,000-mile radius, bringing in exhibitors from 25 states, Canada and other countries.
He also plans to spread the word using a website, which is already up and running, and social media sites. “We foresee this show growing and growing every year.”
The Great Bend show will regularly be set for early April. “This strategically gets us before planting,” Dale said, adding this will allow more farmers to attend.
Peters said local officials in March offered a contract to Estes to keep 3i in Great Bend. “It was not accepted.” At that time, a task force was formed and the search was on for a replacement.
Two companies approached Great Bend. One of those was Star Enterprises.
Task force members liked what they saw in Dale, Peters said. “He was innovative and exciting.”
By April, things were in place. Dale had the news conference on his calendar since the first of April and the show dates set three weeks ago.
Even before the 57th 3i Show closed May 13 in Garden City, “there were rumors that it just might happen,” Dale said of the 3i Show change. That is what prompted him to contact Peters.
With the Great Bend show in April and 3i in July, Dale doesn’t see the farm show field getting too crowded. “The exhibitors are in the business to be successful. This provides two different opportunities and two different times of the year.”
The 3i Show typically attracted over 500 vendors and required an army of over 200 local volunteers. Peters praised those who have helped in the past and helped with this project.
However, 3i was every other year and the new show will be every year. None the less, organizers don’t see a problem keeping the volunteer pool interested and active.
As for the community, “this is a $2.5 million kick every year instead of biennially,” Dale said. Historically, 3i created an economic boom by filling motels, restaurants and other businesses.
Peters said local officials harbor no hard feelings towards Estes or the WKMA after the ties were severed.
The decision to move 3i was based on exhibitor feedback, and crop schedules, other farm show dates, holidays, school events, and other annual community and state events already on the calendar, Estes said.
The three i’s in the 3i Show stand for industry, implements, and irrigation. The show started in 1950 as the Western Kansas Karavan which traveled around the state making one-night stands in Kansas towns as vendors sold their products. Over the 57 years, it has evolved into one of the largest free expositions in Kansas.
For the first 50 years, the show ran Thursday through Saturday in April. In 2006, it was moved to Wednesday through Friday to better accommodate exhibitors and farmers.