Monster trucks drive away with the State Fair

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"I like big things that run into other big things," said Taneke Anderson.  "Just flips and flops and loud noises."

There were a lot of changes this year at the State Fair, but one act stole the show.

An hour after the show was over, dozens of Kansans still stood in line in the grandstand, waiting for their chance to get a VIP ride around the arena in a monster truck.

"It was awesome!" said Taneke.  "It was nice. It was kind of scary.  But, yeah, I would do it again if I got the chance."

Taneke and her 15-year-old son Blake say the monster truck rally was a big draw for them this year.  Last year, he didn't even come to the fair.  But the monster trucks, and a promise of ice cream, changed his mind this year.  

"It was all good," said the quiet high schooler.

He and his mother weren't alone.

"A lot of people said that's the most people they've seen in those grandstands in a long time," said Robin Jennison, the State Fair's new general manager.  "And the monster truck guys just did a great performance.  A great way to end the fair."

Jennison took over after last year's state fair. He made a lot of changes, from where concerts took place, and when, to bringing back the trams that ferry fairgoers from their cars to the gates.  The goal was to convince more Kansans to head out to the fair.

Overall, he thinks attendance was up a bit this year.  The final tally isn't in yet, but he says the midway rides made an average of about 25% more this year.
Not everything worked, though.  The Thursday concert featuring Lindsey Ell didn't draw as many people as he'd hoped.

"(She) was probably not the right person for the target audience in the middle of the week.  She's probably more for our younger audience and, you know, they just can't get here out of school," Jennison said.  "I'm a lot smarter than I was 10 days ago."

Many changes went unnoticed by regular fairgoers like Taneke.

"The food was different. um, that's about all I noticed," she said.  

But, as the fair closed Sunday evening, Jennison and Taneke both agreed on one thing: the monster trucks should come back.

"There's a diversity of folks who come to the state fair.  Monster trucks cross that diversity and I think it was indicated by just the huge number of people in the stands," he said.

"If they can bring the monster trucks back, that would be awesome. I would like that!" she said.