A sheet of ice greeted the opening of the second-annual Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo Wednesday morning and one could see the breath of those gathered in the chilly Expo III building at the Expo Complex for the show’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
But, spirits remained high. “At least we’re not outdoors,” one vendor said.
It was against this optimistic backdrop that the event opened. “This can-do spirit is reflected in all the exhibitors and volunteers out here,” said Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters in her opening remarks.
“It is humbling to see the passion these people have for their community,” said expo Manager Darren Dale. “They step up and do what needs to be done.”
The show runs through Friday at the facility west of town. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, and admission and parking are free to the public.
The expo includes over 700 booths filled with exhibitors from 27 states, Canada and Australia. It covers over 80 acres.
“Farm shows are a lot like county fairs,” said Charles Atkinson in his speech at the ceremony. A Great Bend-area farmer, he is the president of the Barton County Fair Board and active in farming organizations statewide and nationally.
Shows are a chance for vendors to peddle their wares, folks to see what is new, and to meet people and make friends. However, expos are about more than bringing buyers and sellers together.
“We in agriculture have a story to tell,” Atkinson said. “One Kansas farmer helps feed the world.”
By the year 2050, he said farmers will have to double the amount of food they produce to meet the needs of a burgeoning global population, he said. “Farmers are helping to improve the lives of their fellow man.”
It is up to those in the ag industry to educate the public of all ages. “Agriculture built this country and it is agriculture that will save this country,” Atkinson said.
As for the show, Dale said it takes about 300 volunteers to pull it off. He thanked those who help, the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Great Bend and all the show sponsors for making the expo possible.
Dale said the weather shouldn’t be much of a factor. In fact, he predicted record turnouts for today and Friday.
After the close of the 57th-annual 3i Show in the spring of 2011, it was announced the 3i Show would no longer come to town every other year. 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 this year, it will permanently be held in Dodge City, where the WKMA is based.
This is where local organizers stepped into the breach. They decided the community could support its own show, one that would be held annually.
It is estimated the expo will bring $2.5 million into the community each year, instead of every other year as did 3i. Historically, 3i created an economic boom by filling motels, restaurants and other businesses.
The Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo is a member of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact the show office at 866-685-0989, cell 785-332-6506, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website www.starexpos.net.