Known as the Sunflower State, Kansas plays host to a packed calendar of festivals and fairs each year, with something to please every taste and whim.
From Monument Rocks to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the Midwestern state of Kansas is full to the brim with natural attractions. But there are plenty of man-made delights to find here too, not least a busy annual programme of cultural and music events. If you’re planning a trip to Kansas and would like to visit a festival or fair during your stay, here are 20 to look out for.
Helping beat those winter blues, this festival combines top-class Bluegrass performances with a huge assortment of kid-friendly activities and opportunities to engage with music. Alongside the stellar cast of Bluegrass acts, there are kids’ jamming sessions and workshops where little ones can bring their own instrument or borrow one provided. There’s also a youth showcase for children of all ages and skill levels where they can strut their stuff on the main stage. All young participants at the festival receive a certificate as a memento.
Wichita Marriott Corporate Hills Hotel and Convention Center, Wichita / February each year
Wichita Jazz Festival
For almost half-a-century, the Wichita Jazz Festival has been celebrating the rich of jazz music while encouraging and developing the next generation of musicians. The festival features performances by high school and college musicians, local artists, and regionally and nationally-known headliners, including tributes to greats like Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, and Billie Holliday. There are also unique opportunities for guests to interact with and learn from world-class musicians through dedicated master classes.
Venues across Wichita / March each year
Messiah Festival of Art
Held to coincide with Easter each year, this ten-day celebration of the local fine arts scene in the city of Lindsborg has been a staple on the city’s cultural calendar for over 140 years. With events held throughout the community, including art exhibits, downtown jazz walks, theatrical productions and workshops, the heart of the festival is its performances of classical selections by operatic soloists. There’s also a strong educational focus, with a dedicated Outreach Program designed to engage K-12 students in various aspects of the fine arts.
Presser Hall, Lindsborg / April each year
Belle Plaine Tulip Time Festival
Each spring, downtown Belle Plaine comes alive with fun-packed activities and events for all the family. A popular local tradition for almost four decades, the volunteer-organised festival is dedicated to fostering the spirit and growth of the community, with highlights including live stage entertainment, festival food, a vendor fair, a Poker Run, a Cook-Off, a Glow Run, and a Vintage Car Show.
Downtown Belle Plaine / April each year
Chautauqua Hills Blues Festival
One of the most eagerly awaited Blues events of the year in Kansas, the Chautauqua Hills Blues Festival is held every Memorial Day weekend. Taking place on 100+ acres along a wooded creek, the line-up includes a stellar cast of contemporary Blues acts, including the likes of JP Soars and John Nemeth, Dustin Pittsley, and the six-piece horn band Grand Marquis. There’s also free camping with coolers and grills allowed.
Gregg Theater, Sedan / May each year
The largest and longest-running and most anticipated festival anywhere in Kansas, the Wichita Riverfest invites revellers to come and enjoy nine days of festivities including concerts, fireworks, food courts and more, along the Arkansas River. The live music is delivered by a mix of local and national acts, while families are catered for with an array of children’s activities, water-based fun, performing and visual arts, and mouth-watering festival fare.
Venues across Wichita / June each year
Pickin’ On The Plains
Featuring a wide variety of internationally acclaimed bluegrass artists as well as favourite regional bands, this live music event in the city of Kolby has been a fixture on the Kansas calendar for 25 years. Held over a fun-field weekend, as well as the top-notch musical performers there’s also food trucks, merchandise vendors, events for kids, games, an open stage, and a bluegrass gospel homecoming.
Thomas County Fairgrounds, Colby / June each year
Beef Empire Days
One of the largest beef festivals in Kansas, Beef Empire Days is a combination of celebration, education, and promotion. Held annually for over half-a century, visitors are encouraged to come together to honour age-old traditions in everything from ranch style cowboying and beef production competition, to the best ways to serve up this much-loved meat. Over the 10-day festival, there’s an event for everyone in the family to enjoy, whether it be carnival, parade, rodeo, livestock shows, tennis and softball tournaments, music, entertainment, and, of course, tons and tons of great beef.
Downtown Garden City / June each year
Tacos and Tequila Festival
Live music, taco and tequila tastings, Lucha Libre wrestling, art installations, a chihuahua beauty pageant, an exotic car showcase, taco tastings, and a salsa and hot sauce competition are just some of the wild and wacky entertainment offerings you can expect at this action-packed festival. Among the musicians to feature at the festival each year are hip-hop artists including T.I., Juvenile, Ginuwine, Chingy, Ying Yang Twins, Petey Pablo, Baby Bash, & DJ Ashton Martin.
Legends Field, Kansas City / June each year
Smoky Hill River Festival
Since its inception back in the mid-1970s, the Smoky Hill River Festival has welcomed thousands of loyal home towners and visitors, as well as food vendors, artists and performers. A four-day arts celebration, the festival boasts three live stages with enticing bands, dynamic roving artists, and fun children’s acts. The event begins with the much-loved Festival Jam concert, and over the ensuing days the rest of the special events, activities, and cultural encounters unfold.
Oakdale Park, Salina / June each year
For 85-plus years the Fiesta Mexicana has celebrated Mexican culture in Topeka through art, entertainment, food and community. Today the Fiesta continues to be a hugely well-attended event, with some attendees driving from across the country just to take part in the five-day celebration. Traditional Mexican dance is at the heart of the Fiesta’s attractions. Performed by various local and regional dance troupes, dancers will leave you mesmerised with their rhythmic steps perfectly punctuated by their gracefully flowing Fiesta garments.
Venues across Topeka / July each year
Country Stampede Music Festival
A three-day outdoor music and camping festival in Topeka, Country Stampede has grown to become one of the largest music festivals in the Midwest. Held over almost 400 acres of festival grounds, the event has attracted some of the biggest names in country music down the years, including the likes of Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Chris Stapleton, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and many more.
Country Stampede Festival Grounds, Topeka / July each year
Dodge City Days
Celebrating Dodge City’s rich history and western heritage, this 10-day event is an internationally acclaimed festival that draws over 1,000 visitors every year. First held 150 years ago, today t serves to highlight the city’s past, present, and future, focussing on stories within the community and hosting multiple events that shine a light on the cultural significance Dodge City played in shaping the American West. Highlights include a kids’ fest, an arts & crafts fair, and a variety of food and drinks stalls.
Dodge City / July each year
Held in beautiful Paola Park Square, this 2-day festival is a fun and entertaining event for the local community, putting on a wide variety of live music and other great festival attractions including arts and crafts, food vendors, and for younger festival goers, games and rides. Other highlights include a hotly contested BBQ Championship Cook-off featuring dozens of teams smoking up what promises to be some of the best BBQ in the world.
Paola Park Square, Paola / August each year
Walnut Valley Festival
A blend of traditional and contemporary acoustic music spanning bluegrass, folk, Americana, old-time country, Celtic, blues, jazz, swing and more, this is the kind of festival where everyone can take part. A good portion of visitors bring instruments to play in the campsite picking, often joined by hired artists at the end of the night. Evolving from two days in 1972 to its current five days, the entertainment takes place across four stages, and there’s also a juried arts and crafts fair, workshops, and acoustic instrument contests that attract thousands of contestants from across America and beyond.
Winfield Fairgrounds, Winfield / September each year
Cider Days Market
Over the past four decades, Cider Days has blossomed into the number one fall festival in Northeast Kansas. The two-day event draws thousands of visitors to its arts and crafts exhibits, food and entertainment. Crafters sell wares and host demos, while local entertainers and ethnic food are found outside on the grounds, where rides beckon younger visitors. There are also gunfighter and Civil War re-enactments, all set against the sounds of military bands, bagpipes, barbershop harmonies, and Native American chanting.
Stormont Vail Event Center, Topeka / September each year
First established in 2011, Dancefestopia has flourished into a premier electronic dance, arts and camping festival. Nestled in the rolling hills surrounded by thousands of acres of forest and pristine lake water, the high-energy event features over 200 artists, plus dozens of art installations, and much more. Over four nights, festival-goers flock here to party to non-stop music and one of the most stellar dance music line-ups you’ll find anywhere in the region.
Wildwood Outdoor Education Center, La Cygne / September each year
Firewater Music Festival
Wildwood Outdoor Education Center is music central at this time of year, with Firewater Music Festival moving swiftly on from Dancefestopia (see above) in this bucolic setting. A recent addition to Kansas’s fabulous line-up of music events, Firewater is a veritable who’s who of artists who straddle the lines of Country, Rock and Americana. Notable names to appear include Blackberry Smoke, Old 97’s, Read Southall Band, Nikki Lane, Quaker City Night Hawks, 49 Winchester, Goodbye June, Them Dirty Roses and The Weathered Souls.
Wildwood Outdoor Education Center, La Cygne / September-October each year
Kansas City Renaissance Festival
Evocative and entertaining in equal measure, Renaissance festivals are held in cities across the US. Kansas’ own contribution to these popular events takes place in the city of Bonner Springs, where visitors are invited to step back in time for a taste of 16th-century life. A variety of activities and experiences unique to the era highlight what life was like at this far-gone time, when jousting Knights on thundering steeds were routine. There are also village shops selling crafts, plus comedy, music, and magic performed across some 20 stages. Delicious food and drink from far reaches of the globe helps keep the energy levels up.
Bonner Springs / September-October each year
Lindsborg Saint Lucia Festival
This traditional one-day festival is held to honour the legend of Saint Lucia – a young girl, clad in a white gown with a red sash, her head surrounded by a halo of light, who is said to have brought hope, warmth and food to those in need during a time of famine in Sweden. The event sees Swedish folk dancing performances taking place in Lindsborg’s downtown district and on the Bethany Lutheran Church lawn. A church service honouring Saint Lucia will also take place with the Saint herself (or perhaps someone dressed as her) on hand to serve ginger cookies and coffee among the crowd.
Venues across Lindsborg / December each year