The Other Side of the Fair

Hutchinson News article - Published online 9/4/2008 11:15 PM

Off the beaten path, unusual discoveries await - like a 3,200-gallon fish tank.

By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News - abickel@hutchnews.com

My favorite things to see at the Kansas State Fair aren't all on the standard state fair trail.

Sure, I'll admit there are the old regulars everyone should experience at least once a year: a Pronto Pup, a ride on the Ye Old Mill, a trip down the giant slide and Call Hall ice cream from the Grandstand, just to name a few.

Instead, I search out the lesser known attractions - the wild and weird things that make the fair the fair.

Hence the name of this column: Wild, Weird and Wonderful - also one of the fair's many slogans.

State fairs always have been known to showcase some of the state's strangest exhibits, whether it is the great pumpkin or a wedding dress made of duct tape.

A 4-H'er growing up in Gypsum, a little town in Saline County, a trip to the fair was a yearly occurrence. Back then, I remember you could view the midway's freak show for just a few bucks. We'd walk by it to enter and exit the fair and see people peering through a window at whatever person was behind it. Nowadays, the fair is a little more politically correct, but you can still see some oddities.

And during the 10-day event, I hope to showcase a few of the these things, whether it is food, free stuff or something else.

So, on Thursday, I traveled the grounds in search of - anything.

What I found was a 3,200-gallon fish tank across from the horse barn.

Rank it right up there with the large pumpkin and watermelon. It gleamed with water freshly filled by the Hutchinson Fire Department.

Fisheries Program specialist Tom Lang sat in the shade, waiting for the fish to arrive.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials purchased the gigantic tank earlier this year from their Missouri counterparts. The plan is to use it as a tool to teach folks about Kansas fish and fishing, Lang said.

Lang pointed out a few fast facts about the tank:

  • It's 40 feet long.
  • It weighs 40,000 pounds with water.
  • It took firefighters just 10 minutes to fill it. With a garden hose, it would take six hours.

Meanwhile, visitors will get to see about 75 fish making up 20 species of Kansas, he said. He'll also give fishing demonstrations from the tank.

And for the next 10 days, Lang will live in the camper next to the tank to make sure all is well with these fish.

The tank is by the Sky Ride at Gate 9.