In 2000, Governor Bill Graves, who grew up in Salina and was a longtime supporter of the Kansas State Fair, signed legislation appropriating approximately $26 million for the enhancement of the fairgrounds. It was dubbed the Master Plan and the appropriated funds were used predominantly to build the current livestock facilities and the Prairie Pavilion. As a part of an agreement between the fair and the state of Kansas, it was suggested that Hutchinson provide funds for the updates and for continued improvement of the fairgrounds.
Soon there was talk that a foundation should be formed as a way to raise funds for the long-term support of the fair. Hence, the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation was formed in 2003.
In 2005, a small group of civic activists and State Fair staff created a plan for an annual event to be held the evening before the start of the Fair. One of the organizers suggested it be called “Boots and Bling.” The name caught on and remains to this day.
On the evening of September 8, 2005, a group of approximately 250 kicked off the first annual Boots and Bling Auction. Attendees were dressed in everything from suit and tie, to jeans, and all came with the intent to have fun and support the fair. Kansas Artists were honored and provided items which were included in the live auction.
Funds raised at the first few years of Boots and Bling were used to refurbish the historical lighting of the fairgrounds, provide concrete for improved walkways, and to prop up the House of Capper.
Many thought Boots and Bling would not catch on; however, it has, and like fine wine gets better with age.
As the needs and wants of the buyers evolved, so did the event. Boots and Bling has become the signature event of the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation and has come to be known as the best FUNdraising party in Kansas. The event provides sponsorship opportunities, many one-of-a-kind live and silent auction items, a delicious meal and a fun night of entertainment and fundraising to support the mission of the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation.
After being cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 event was bursting at the seams with a sold-out crowd and the largest and most successful FUNdraising event to date.