If anyone ever wondered how an annual farm show could be successful in Great Bend, they only had to listen to Barton County Fair Board President Charles Atkinson’s speech at the opening ceremony for the 2103 Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo. A farmer veteran of state and national farm organizations, he offered an impassioned remarks.
“We in agriculture have a story to tell,” he said. “Agriculture built this country and it is agriculture that will save this country.”
It was in the spring of 2011 when things looked dire for Great Bend. After decades of making a biennial visit to Barton County, 3i Show promoter Eddie Estes announced the long-running exhibition would cease alternating between Great Bend and Garden City. Instead, it would permanently stay in Estes’ hometown of Dodge City.
The 3i Show filled local hotels and restaurants and became a boom for local business people. Ouch.
But, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and other dedicated residents refused to say die and hunted for an alternative. They found Bird City resident and long-time farm show promoter Darren Dale.
Tapping his resources, Dale attracted about 700 exhibitors from around the United States and abroad for the three-day event that ended Friday. The 3i usually brought in about 500.
Sure, the first and second year for the expo were successful, but Dale said he can’t take all the credit. “I am humbled by the passion of the people here,” he said. “They see what needs to be done and they do it.”
For the second year, folks from the heartland pulled on their boots and got to work. The Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo will continue to grow because it has all the elements to make it successful – enthusiastic promotion and caring volunteers who understand the value and importance of agriculture.
We can only expect this show to continue growing.