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Wherever you roam on your travels through Kansas, you are sure to find a festival or rodeo bringing the community together. From the arts to heritage celebrations, the Sunflower State offers family-friendly fun all year long.
If you are a film lover and find yourself in Wichita in October, check out the schedule of screenings at the Tallgrass Film Festival. Hundreds of independent films lure in thousands of cinema fans and filmmakers to this exciting event each year. Likewise, if you are in and around the Kansas City area, head towards the Glenwood Arts Theatre for the Kansas International Film Festival. This six-day event includes films from local, national and international filmmakers, and has a goal of keeping independent film thriving.
If you love to watch great guitar picking, you probably already know about Winfield’s Walnut Valley National Guitar Flat-Picking Championships Festival. For five days in September, the area comes alive with the sound of music on four stages. If classical music is your passion, the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills event in mid-June is a must. This is a roving concert – each year it moves to a new site in Kansas. Keep an eye on their website as you plan your travels!
Jazz tunes fill the air around Kansas City, Kansas during the annual Jazz in the Woods festival. It’s the city’s largest free music event, and it has been drawing the crowds for more than two decades. Meanwhile, thousands pour into Paola for the two-day Roots Festival. International and local roots musicians, ethnic dancers, and a BBQ championship cook-off are just a few of the highlights of this late August festival.
Music and art combine at the Messiah Festival of Music & Art every March in Lindsborg. More than 125 seasons later, this festival takes place at Bethany College. It includes a competitive art exhibition, recitals, theater productions, and symphonic band performances.
The Brookside Art Annual Festival in Kansas City has been drawing crowds for nearly 30 years. Every May sees hundreds of exhibiting artist and true community involvement in this major art event. Likewise, Salina has created an event that combines arts and community with its Smoky Hill River Festival. During the second weekend of June, visitors can enjoy juried fine arts and crafts shows, outdoor art installations, a Big Band Dance, and multiple stages of live entertainment.
Elkhart, Kansas is the home of the Grassland Heritage Festival during the first full week of June every year. It includes interactive events at Morton County Historical Society Museum and a fishing derby, along with children’s activities, terrific food, and live entertainment. Oktoberfest is brought to Hays by the Rush and Ellis Counties’ Volga German Society. Gather for this three-day festival featuring traditional German food, an annual keg tapping event, and the Fort Hays homecoming events.
Over the last 80 years, Fiesta Mexicana has brought people to Topeka in mid-July. Billed as a celebration of Hispanic heritage in Topeka, the event features Latin music stars, food and craft vendors, a carnival, and parade. If you are craving a taste of Scotland, and happen to be in McPherson in late September, stop by The McPherson Scottish Festival. Celtic music, Irish and Scottish dance performances, and massed pipe bands, as well as athletic competitions, are all on the schedule.
Wichita Riverfest is considered to be one of the longest running festivals in the Sunflower State. It runs for nine days at the end of May, and it features more than 60 events from fireworks to musical performances, from parades to river events. Also in Wichita, the Wichita Flight Festival is a much “buzzed” about air show held each September.
Speaking of flight, visitors to Atchison can celebrate Amelia Earhart, a Kansas native, at the annual Amelia Earhart Festival in mid-July. From flying, you can move to flowers, but only if you are in Topeka in April. It is there that the Tulip Time Festival blooms.
The Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs, the Kansas State Fair in Hutchison every September and the huge Neewollah Festival held every October in Independence are also among the Sunflower State’s most popular events.
It’s probably no surprise that many of the annual festivals also incorporate rodeo competitions. Paradise Creek Festival and Rodeo in Plainville is a terrific example. It is three days of family-fun which includes a two-night rodeo and tons of kid-friendly activities. The Tri-Rivers Fair & Rodeo in Salina features a demolition derby, 4-H exhibits, a carnival, and a rodeo, among other events. Dodge City Days in late July combines a celebration of Western heritage with one of the top-rated rodeos in the state.
Abbyville Rodeo Grounds plays host to the annual Abbyville Frontier Days Rodeo. Traditional rodeo competitive events mix with other family-friendly events, including a barbecue and parade. Manhattan, Kansas welcomes the PRCA-sanctioned Kaw Valley Rodeo to town and has for more than 40 years. Events range from steer wrestling to bull riding.
When the first weekend of June rolls around, head to Flint Hills for the Flint Hills PRCA Rodeo’s competitive events, reportedly the oldest consecutive one in the state. Meanwhile, if you are in the area in September, try the Flint Hills Ranch Rodeo.
You know that the Topeka Rodeo thrills crowds every mid-August, while the Kansas Biggest Rodeo in Phillipsburg brings the “cowboy-ing” competitions early in the month. Speaking of August events, Wild Bill Hickok PRCA Rodeo in Abilene kicks off August with rodeo fun at the Eisenhower Park Fairgrounds.
Of course, if you have plans to be in Pretty Prairie in mid-July, the only place to be is the Pretty Prairie Rodeo. It is PRCA-sanctioned and a tradition for more than 80 years. The rodeo tradition is also alive and well at Pratt Community College, which hosts a huge annual rodeo, as well as many smaller competitions. The school even has a rodeo program that is taught through their Agriculture Department.