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Chamber promotes Santa Fe Trail Days
City to welcome visitors
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Photo by Jim Misunas Great Bend Tribune Courtland Holman, Larned Chamber director, makes a final draft for downtown business and vendor locations for Santa Fe Trail Days Thursday through Sunday.

By Jim Misunas

LARNED — If you advertise it, they will come.
That’s the philosophy of Courtland Holman, director of the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce, which is coordinating the 2012 Santa Fe Trail Days celebration. Holman has doubled the event’s publicity budget, which features advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio and television.  
“We want to create our own identity and get the word out. We expanded the advertising budget to create this into a regional event for central Kansas,” said Courtland Holman, executive director of the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce. “We would like to bring in more people to Larned to see what we have to offer. It’s a quality of life issue.”
Santa Fe Trail Days starts with a Thursday night Team Roping competition and kicks off into full action Friday through Sunday.
The biggest difference from past Santa Fe Trail Days events will be downtown Broadway will blocked from traffic to provide a totally safe walking environment for families. Part of Broadway was blocked off last year and that successful experiment convinced the Santa Fe Trail Days committee to block off downtown the entire weekend.    
“Last year was the first time we’ve shut down traffic on U.S. 56 as an experiment,” he said. “We’re in a growth mode. We’re jumping in with both feet forward this year. The main advantage is safety. To have a regional event, you need to shut down a roadway to create a free flow of traffic.”
Carnival rides, vendors, a car show and entertainment will occupy space from 4th to 8th Street off Broadway.    
Holman said promoting the event properly will give visitors the opportunity to view Pawnee County as a place to work or reside.
The event will offer a higher profile for sponsors through sponsorship of various events.
“We’re are promoting our businesses, so that’s where our sponsorships come in,” he said. “But we also have several out-ot-town vendors who are coming into town.”
The sale of $5 Santa Fe Trail Days buttons help support the event. Buttons provide a free hot dinner Friday and reduced prices for the ranch rodeo, beer garden and merchants discounts. There will be a drawing Sunday afternoon for $50 and $150 in Larned Bucks to be spent at Chamber-member businesses. The buttons also double chances for drawing that will give away three children’s bicycles.
“We’ve found that people like the button sales in Kansas events,” Holman said. “It’s a great way to support the event. We’ve tied the button to reduction in pricing, plus a merchant’s discount for local businesses.”
Larned’s Santa Fe Trail Days switched dates from April to June to take advantage of better weather. New events will feature an outdoor concert, childrens’ carnival, a beer garden and a community church service.
It’s the Chamber’s major fundraising event. The Chamber also sponsors the annual antique show, a fundraising golf tournament and works at the Pawnee County Fair, which is coordinated by the Pawnee County Fair Board.
“That was a success so we’re slowly developing it,” he said. Planned for 2012 are concert, carnival and a beer garden. There will also be 54 vendors and the rodeo, along with other activities.
The 2013 event will coincide with Larned High School’s All-School Reunion weekend.
The days will be packed with old-fashioned entertainment, vendor crafts booths, hamburger feed, pancake feed, bouncie, parade, gunfights, car show, living history, car show, carnival rides and tam roping.