Apr. 6—After navigating through a virtual format in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Great Bend Farm, Ranch and Hemp Expo returns to its traditional, in-person format beginning Wednesday at the Great Bend Expo Complex, 455 W. Barton County Road.

The Expo, in its 10th year, is dubbed as the largest farm event in the United States dedicated to promoting agricultural technology.

Switching back to a live, face-to-face format was no small feat in light of the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic but Expo Committee Chair Jan Westfall said it was a welcomed return.

"It's just so much fun putting together this event and being able to return to a live setting makes all the hard work and planning worth it," said Westfall. "Everybody did what they had to do during the virtual event last year but our vendors are just thrilled to be back in person."

Westfall added that selling merchandise face-to-face makes for a better business experience. "And that goes for our visitors and our vendors," Westfall said. "It's time to go back to doing what we do best and that's putting on an enjoyable, real, live event that benefits the community as well as businesses and agriculture in general."

While the total number of vendors at the 2021 Expo looks to take a slight dip, Westfall said that was to be expected coming out of 2020's virtual format. "I think as things start to slowly return to a normal pace, we'll see our vendor tally pick up next year."

Setup for the Expo began Monday morning and continued through today. "We have a number of vendors that began setting things up earlier today," said Westfall. "We also have forklifts that have been running since Monday."

The annual Expo is a marquee highlight on the Great Bend community calendar and draws attention and excitement from across Kansas and the United States. "One of our vendors told me the other day how excited he was to be back in Great Bend for the show," said Westfall. "He told me how he was amazed how many local volunteers come out and offer their time and energy and the hospitality they offered to out-of-town visitors."

One of the newer highlights at the show is the addition of industrial hemp components in 2020.

The three-day Expo gets underway tomorrow at 9 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. The show starts back up at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 8 and runs until 7 p.m. Friday's show also starts at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. The Expo is also available virtually 24/7 for those unable to attend in person.

Exhibitors this year are bringing cutting edge displays for farm and ranch equipment, seed and chemicals, agricultural services, irrigation manufacturers, financial providers, commodity organizations, colleges, governmental services, home services, furniture and art, boutiques, hats, boots and more.

Events include the Great American Tractor Showdown, entertainment, horse-training demos and cattle handling presentations.

For more information including list of exhibitors and a detailed schedule of events, visit greatbendfarmandranchexpo.net. Also, follow and like the Expo's Facebook page at facebook.com/GBFarmRanchExpo.


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