Shriners bringing rodeo to fairgrounds
Move from Wyandotte County could draw 8,000 visitors to Tonganoxie
For years, Shriners have been a part of the annual Leavenworth County Fair Parade.
But next year, the organization's Tonganoxie presence will be far stronger than normal -- not at the fair -- but at the Abdallah Shrine Rodeo, set for Memorial Day weekend at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
Leavenworth County Fair Board president David Todd said he was pleased the Abdallah Shriners selected Tonganoxie.
The fair board, a non-profit organization that owns and oversees the fairgrounds, will make a profit from the event. Todd said that so far, by a handshake agreement, the Shrine agreed to pay $7,000 to rent the fairgrounds for a week.
This is good news to the fair board, which suffered financial losses last year when the demolition derby, the county fair's No. 1 money-maker, was rained out.
"I think we ended up losing $21,000 or $22,000," Todd said of the 2005 fair. "When you have a year like that it sometimes takes you two or three years to make up for it."
But the Shriner rodeo will help, Todd said, although he wasn't sure what the fair board's final profit would be, as the fair board will pay for utilities and water. And, he said, the fair board will have to round up additional bleachers for the rodeo.
In recent years, the rodeo had been held at Wyandotte County Fairgrounds, which has been sold to make way for construction of a planned $300 million Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Todd said the Shriners found Tonganoxie an attractive alternative.
"They felt if they moved out to our area they could continue to draw the same type of demographics that they were drawing at the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds, which is more of your urban and rural folks that want to see a rodeo," Todd said.
And because the Shrine rodeo includes more than a rodeo, Todd said, they likely will pull crowds in.
"If you have a car show and you have a craft show and a rodeo all going on at the same time and a carnival, boy, you're covering all the bases," Todd said.
Todd said he didn't think the rodeo, expected to draw a crowd of about 8,000 to the three-day event, would compete with the Leavenworth County Fair.
"I think they're far enough apart," Todd said, explaining that the fair's rodeo viewers primarily are fair-goers who decided to go to the rodeo. And he said he thought Shrine rodeo viewers primarily go for the rodeo, and then stay for the car show, crafts and carnival.
And it's possible this could be the start of a new tradition in Tonganoxie, Todd said.
"Both parties understand -- if it works out well for them and for us -- then we would be looking at a long-term agreement with them and make it an annual event," Todd said.