Leavenworth County vendors preparing for Sampler Festival
Since 2004, Lana Howe has been showing off her homemade goat’s milk soap at the Kansas Sampler Festival.
With past festivals in Newton, Garden City and Concordia, Howe is preparing to show off the products sold in her store, Vintage Soap and Bath, in Tonganoxie, for this year’s festival a little closer to home.
“At first I just wanted to promote my business,” Howe said of why she first got involved in the Sampler Festival. “Now, I am a representative of Tonganoxie and I want people to know as much about my town as possible.”
Like Howe, several vendors and representatives of Kansas cities gathered Tuesday in Leavenworth to discuss the 2010 Kansas Sampler Festival, which will be Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, at Ray Miller Park on Fourth Street in Leavenworth.
Keyta Kelly, Leavenworth County 2010 and 2011 Sampler Festival director, said shops like Vintage Soap and Bath were the perfect participants in this year’s festival. Not only is the product Kansas-made, Kelly said, but it’s also sold in a storefront that would attract travelers to the shop in Tonganoxie.
The orientation meeting was meant to familiarize potential exhibitors to the festival and give them a taste of what to expect from the Leavenworth event. Many speakers at Tuesday’s meeting stressed that the purpose of the Sampler Festival was to inform potential travelers about what there is to see, do, taste and enjoy in Kansas.
“We want the public to come away saying, ‘I had no idea there was so much to see in Kansas,’” said Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation director and founder.
Penner started the festival in 1990 as a publicity event to promote a Kansas guidebook she wrote with her father. From the first year, which attracted 1,000 people, the event has transformed into an entire weekend dedicated to showing off what Kansas has to offer.
“The strength of the festival is the collective story it tells,” Penner said. “That’s what wows the audience.”
Much of Tuesday’s meeting focused on how the festival committee plans to market itself and attract the 10,000 people organizers have predicted for 2010.
Dana Dotson, marketing chairperson, said because of the 2010 and 2011 festival’s proximity to Kansas City, she expected more people to attend the event then in previous years.
“Being in Leavenworth County we obviously have a close proximity to the Kansas City metro area,” Dotson said. “Opportunities like this are going to allow us to make it an even better festival this year.”
This year’s committee will be promoting the festival with various resources such as online calendars, fliers and newspaper advertising. Dotson said a Twitter account has also been set up for vendors and festival-goers to follow. She encouraged those at the meeting, who use Twitter, to follow the festival at twitter.com/keytakelly.
Those attending the meeting, however, were encouraged to promote the festival back in their hometowns to reach even further throughout the state.
“We know people are out there and want to know about Kansas products and services and we want to give it to them,” Dotson said.
Registration for potential exhibitors begins Nov. 1. This year vendors can register online at kansassampler.org.
Those attending the meeting were told to carefully look over the list of necessary criteria to participate in the event.
WenDee LaPlant, Kansas Sampler Foundation assistant director, said many people think the festival is an arts and crafts show, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, she said, because the festival’s purpose was to attract visitors to Kansas, vendors are selected carefully.
A person who sells arts and crafts at various festivals would not be the ideal Sampler candidate, she said.
Instead, the festival is looking for products that are sold in a storefront, established entertainers and cities hoping to promote tourist sites so that anyone who attends the festival can walk away with specific places in mind to visit.
“Each time (the festival) goes to a new city it’s different,” LaPlant said. “It never stays the same. No matter how many times you go, it’s never the same.”