New county fair director plans to build on momentum

Bill Svoboda, executive director, Wyandotte County Fair (Submitted photo)

by Mary Rupert

Bill Svoboda, the new executive director of the Wyandotte County Fair, said he plans to build on the momentum and development taking place in Wyandotte County.

He also plans to build on the positive connections people remember from past county fairs here.

“People need to know the fair’s not too far away, and we have some wonderful things in the works,” Svoboda said.

Svoboda has been developing the lineup for this year’s Wyandotte County Fair, which will be July 9 to 13 at the fairgrounds at 13700 Polfer Road, in western Wyandotte County.

He said he believes that with the development at The Legends Outlets and Kansas Speedway, Wyandotte County has become more of an entertainment destination in the past several years. Regional tourists have regularly attended events at the Kansas Speedway, Children’s Mercy Park and T-Bones Stadium, and he hopes to build on those experiences.

This year, the fair will offer more entertainment, he added. It is introducing a main stage next to the red barn, bringing in regional talent, he said. Many of the acts that will perform are tribute bands, he added.

Material Girls, a group that plays some songs made famous by Lady Gaga and Madonna, and a Janet Jackson tribute band are planned. On Saturday, a Lynryd Skynryd tribute band will perform.

Traditional county fair activities will continue, include a petting zoo, carnival and 4-H exhibits and events, he said. There will be a mud run on Saturday night.

The small free stage will continue with local bands, he added.

Another new idea at the fair this year will be to decorate the fairgrounds with large kites, weather-permitting, and gigantic banners, he said.

Svoboda said this year’s fair also will be developing community partners.

In the community partnership program, Thursday night will be Donnelly College student and alumni night, and there will be a focus on the Latino culture of Wyandotte County, he said.

Friday night, the fair is planning Kansas City Kansas Community college student and alumni appreciation night, he said.

In the partnerships, a community organization will pay a fee and its members and students then can get in into the fair that day for free.

Svoboda said he is also working to try to get local high schools more involved in the fair. The fair was looking for more vendors, more entertainment and more community partners, he said.

This year, the fair board has decided to charge admission, with tickets available online at www.wycofair.com/, Svoboda said. Tickets will be $2.50 per person when purchased before July 9, and $5 per person from July 9 to 13. Ages 12 and younger will be admitted free. The fair also will continue to charge $5 per car for parking.

Svoboda said in the future he would like to work with youth organizations to help sell tickets to the fair and turn it into a fundraiser for them.

The fair also is planning an Original Dotte sponsorship, an opportunity for local residents and former residents to be sponsors at three levels, $100, $250 and $500, with names listed on the fair’s website.

Svoboda formerly was employed 12 years with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, where he was responsible for events, and has a business, EventPros, that was started about 18 years ago. He formerly ran the KCRiverFest event, as well as the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival.

He was encouraged by the long history of the Wyandotte County Fair, founded in 1863.

“There are not a lot of events that started in the late 1800s still around,” Svoboda said. “It needs to be preserved and to be grown.”

Svoboda said that he and the board are taking a conservative approach to growing the fair, starting with expanding entertainment with regional cover acts, and trying to gain corporate and organizational support. One year, with support, the fair may be able to bring in national acts, he added.

“Sponsorships are just really key,” he said. “That dictates the budget. That’s why we decided it was time to charge some kind of nominal fee for people to come out.”

He has started to work with the local business community to encourage them to support the fair.

“It’s just winning over the hearts and souls of the community and the business community,” Svoboda said. “The business community plays a more active role philanthropically to make things happen.”

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