By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Courtland Holman, director of the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce, is optimistic. The Chamber is sponsoring the 2012 Santa Fe Trail Days celebration.
Santa Fe Trail Days starts with a Thursday night Team Roping competition and operates full time Friday through Sunday. Carnival rides, vendors, a car show and entertainment will occupy space from 4th to 8th Street off Broadway.
A special event will be a Saturday evening concert featuring the Christian rock group “Robbie Seay Band,” and a pop rock opening group “Everfound.”
“The Santa Fe Trail Days is the most important fundraising event that the Chamber sponsors,” Holman said. “I’m very optimistic. The Chamber wants to create a regional event that draws people to town.”
The Chamber also sponsors the annual antique show, a fundraising golf tournament and works the beer garden at the Pawnee County Fair Association, which is coordinated by the Pawnee County Fair Board.
“The determination of success will be bringing more than 2,000 people to town,” he said. “My goal is to bring 5,000 people to town.”
Holman said other than selling 1,000 Santa Fe Trail Days buttons, it will be difficult to determine exactly how many people attend. But he said estimates will be made periodically through the weekend.
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 a drawing that will give away three children’s bicycles.
“If we sell all the buttons, we’ve done a good job,” Holman said. “We had vendors interested who are unable to attend who want to attend next year. The biggest advantage is there are no major weekend events going this weekend in Great Bend, Hutchinson, Liberal or Dodge City.”
The biggest difference from past Santa Fe Trail Days events will be downtown Broadway will blocked from traffic to provide a safe environment. Downtown traffic will be routed around Broadway, either east on Toles Ave. or west along Main Street. Two public meetings have provided valuable input.
“The city will put in the proper barricades and routing system to let everyone know how to get where they need to go,” Holman said. “We learned from last year. There will be enough signage this year.”
Holman said a second barometer for success will be how well the vendors and downtown businesses fare. All of the vendors will be set up in front of downtown 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.
“We did a lot of research to lead us to a later date in the calendar,” he said. “It was cold and windy in April last year, so we’ll get a lot better weather. We’ll be tied into the same weekend as the All-School reunion next year.”
Security will be provided by city of Larned officers and Pawnee County deputies on regular duty. Chamber members and ambassadors will monitor activities. Dozens of volunteers have been recruited by Chamber members.
“The more the merrier. We’ve gotten great cooperation from our volunteer-base, but there’s always the need for more help,” Holman said. “Without their assistance, this will be a great event. Everyone has to contribute.”