The Cowley County Fair is once again in full swing. Considering the amount of flood damage that the fairground received,  having the fair still take place this year, and on schedule, is something to celebrate.  

Putting on the fair, coordinating the events and keeping everything running smoothly is a demanding task. Those who are in charge of planning the event have a difficult job each year, one that few would want. 

This year has been especially challenging. 

Much of the fairground went underwater in May when torrential rains pushed the Walnut River out of its banks. The strong current carried massive amounts of debris, which damaged buildings, electrical systems, completely destroyed a restroom and washed out several asphalt covered areas. 

The flooding also deposited large amounts of silt, which destroyed the grass and caused additional damage. According to city officials, workers removed more than 700 truckloads of silt from the fairground. 

The first round of flooding in May carried an estimated repair cost of $338,000. If that wasn’t bad enough, a second round of flooding added another $60,000 worth of damage.

Faced with a lot of expensive and difficult repairs, workers also had to race against the calendar. The Cowley County Fair was scheduled to begin on Aug. 1. There was a massive amount of work to be done and workers had less than a month to complete it. 

That task looked impossible, but the crews worked tirelessly to make the fairground useable. The fairground won’t be perfect, but thanks to a lot of hard work, the fair is going on as scheduled. 

Things will be a bit more challenging this year. The west campgrounds were hit hard by the flooding and will not be available for use. The limited camping facilities will make things difficult for vendors and those who need to care for their animals. The flooding also destroyed the grass in that area. While it has been replanted, it needs time to recover. 

Campers will still be able to use the Pecan Grove area. 

The damage also affected part of the area normally used for parking. Finding a place to park can be difficult during a normal year. This year, parking will be even more of a challenge. 

Normally fairgoers can enter the grounds through either the east or west entrances on W. Ninth Ave. This year the west entrance will be closed and no parking will be allowed. Additional parking will be available in several areas east of the grandstand, and an area on W. 14th Ave will be open for handicap parking.

No doubt about it, visits to the fair will be a bit unusual and inconvenient this year. The parking situation will likely cause some confusion and frustration.

But let’s overlook the problems and deal patiently with any inconveniences. Our fairground will be back to normal next year. Instead, we should all take time to appreciate the massive effort that went into making this years fair possible. Those crews and the members of the fair board along with all of the volunteers deserve a big pat on the back for quickly and successfully handling a difficult situation. 

Let’s not forget, with all of the damage, they could have just canceled the event this year.

We have a wonderful fair, a beautiful fairground, and so much look forward to. Don’t let the parking difficulties or any of the other temporary inconveniences keep you at home.  After all, there are rides to ride, so much wonderful food to eat and a huge assortment of amazing and fun things to see. 

So, turn off the TV, pack up the family, let’s go to the fair!


CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or

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