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Kansas State Fair receives international recognition with Kansas road trip promotion


HUTCHINSON -- A promotion to celebrate Kansas despite the cancellation of its annual event helped the Kansas State Fair capture a top award from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.

The Fair received first place in the sponsor exposure category for its state-wide tourism promotion using its new mascot, Ike the American Bison. “Ike’s Kansas Road Trip” was in partnership with Kansas Corn and its campaign, Fueled by Kansas.

“While we had to cancel the 2020 Fair, it didn’t mean we couldn’t still celebrate our great state,” said Amy Bickel, the Fair’s marketing director. “The idea of showcasing Kansas’ beauty and tourist attractions, plus the people who call Kansas home, allowed us to find a way to still provide sponsorship support to a longtime partner, Kansas Corn, and its ethanol promotion, Fueled by Kansas.”

Fueled by Kansas educates the public about mid- and premium-grade fuels made from Kansas corn. The website,, gives customers information on the benefits of ethanol and where they can find participating stations with E15 and higher blends. Kansas Corn’s goal is to support Kansas farmers by growing their markets and creating jobs.

Officials with Kansas Corn and the Kansas State Fair came up with the concept to use Ike to tour the state in an E15-powered vehicle, said Connie Schmitt, the Fair’s industry relations and development director.

Ike was introduced as the Fair’s official mascot in June before the Fair was canceled, Schmitt said. The mascot, which represents the state mammal, as well as honors Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is sponsored by Key Industries of Fort Scott.

Kansas Corn has been a longtime sponsor and supporter of the Fair, and we were looking for ideas to give them sponsorship exposure despite not having the 2020 Fair,” Schmitt said.

As part of the sponsorship, Ike completed several whirlwind trips across Kansas and saw many unique tourism attractions and communities. He also met many Kansans who were saddened that there wasn’t a Fair. With the trip “powered by E15 fuel,” Ike stopped at stations along the way that had the E15 blend. Kansas Corn also wrapped one of the Fair’s vehicles as Ike’s “Range Roamer,” which included branding E15 and Fueled by Kansas as part of the design.

The video production was done by Bickel and the Fair’s sponsorship coordinator Marla Parsons. A video was developed for each of the 11 road trips. Kansas Corn also gave the Fair $25 fuel gift cards to give as contest prizes on social media posts.

“We’re not sure how many miles Ike and his team traveled. He went from Mount Sunflower - Kansas’ highest point near the Colorado border - to Atchison, Amelia Earhart’s birthplace along the Missouri border,” said Bickel. “He drove on Route 66 through Galena, stopped at the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, peered down the world’s largest hand-dug well in Greensburg, was deputized as an honorary marshal in Dodge City and witnessed a wild west gunfight in Caldwell. Those were just a few of the many sights Ike experienced in two-months of road trips.”

While this sponsorship helped promote E15 fuel, it also allowed the Fair to travel Kansas and market itself during a time when there wasn’t a Fair, Bickel added. Those they met on their journey were happy to meet Ike.

“They were excited we took the time to recognize their community,” she said. “Plus, it gave them an awareness of the 2021 Fair.”

This project is not something the Fair could have accomplished without Ike or without the sponsorship from Fueled By Kansas and Kansas Corn, Schmitt said.

“It takes great sponsors to help us keep our traditions alive and have a Kansas State Fair every year,” Schmitt said. “This was a sponsorship that made sense during a time without a Fair. We were able to showcase the best of Kansas while promoting how to get there - by fueling up with E15.”

The International Association of Fairs and Expositions, based in Springfield, Mo., serves state, provincial, regional and county agricultural fairs, shows, festivals, exhibitions and expositions. IAFE represents more than 1,100 fairs around the world, and more than 900 members from allied fields.

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