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November 13th, 2019

kevin hornerComedy ventriloquist Kevin Horner in a portrait with his puppets. Horner will be performing as part of this year’s Five State Fair festivities. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

This year’s Five State Fair will be full of different types of entertainment, and one of those entertainers is eagerly awaiting to entertain both adults and children alike. 

Comedic ventriloquist Kevin Horner will be performing at this year’s Five State Fair festivities, with performances taking place at 6 and 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. Horner has been a ventriloquist for 22 years now and as he tells it, his start in the craft was rather interesting. 

“I had always wanted to do it and then around 1997 or 1998 I was working in a children's ministry and that's how I started using the puppets, just with those events,” Horner said. “One day I was making an announcement at my church with one of my ventriloquist figures and sitting in the congregation was a gentleman who was the director of the Kansas Bullying Prevention Program. He told me he'd been wanting to put together a program and had been doing assemblies and training for teachers and staff at schools, but he was also looking for something to present to the students, which ultimately came to be called 'Speaking Up for Those Who Can't Speak for Themselves.'”

A bullying incident in elementary school, Horner said, was a big catalyst for incorporating that anti-bullying agenda into his act. 

“I was 9 years old when I was chased into the street by two other boys who really scared me and I was ultimately hit by a speeding car. It took me a long time after recovering to learn how to walk properly again, I was in a full body cast for about six months,” Horner said. “I also witnessed a bad case of bullying against a friend of mine when I was in junior high. So it's always been something that's been close to my heart and my real goal is to take the pain I suffered and use it to help people so they don't have to go through the same thing. We put the idea together and with what I went through, I wanted to be able to inspire others to help those who are victims of bullying. We put that program together and did that for a number of years.”

Eventually, his craft led him to performing at fairs and other such venues, which Horner said he has a particular affinity toward. 

“One thing that really appeals to me about the fairs and those events is how there's that sense of community and I actually come from a small town myself and I always love that small town feel,” Horner said. “And I love that feeling at fairs and seeing how everyone knows each other. Another thing that appealed to me is from the business standpoint is with a lot of fairs you can be there for a few days and you don't have to drive all throughout the country while you're doing that, so it's more stable, per se, and it's really a better fit for my style of comedy. I actually have a Family-Kids and then another show I've dubbed Family-Adults – both of them are clean but the adults one has some more jokes in there that would go over the heads of the children in the audience.”

Making people laugh, Horner said, is what makes everything worthwhile. 

“I had a gentleman call me a few years ago who had contacted me and told me 'I have a camp I do for children, would you want to perform?' and I told him I was and then told him what my fee, to which he responded 'That's a little too expensive for our budget and a camp of our size,'” Horner said. “So I asked him what type of camp it was and he said it was for children who have cancer, which made me immediately say 'There will be no charge, I'll be happy to be there.' I went to that camp and it was amazing seeing these children, who had many more dark days than most, just light up and laugh their heads off and escape from what they were dealing with, and it was great knowing for just that finite time how I could bring some joy to their lives. Any comedian will tell you making people laugh is what fuels them, and that's my favorite thing too.”

Horner has performed in the Southwest Kansas area before, including Liberal, and said he is excited to come back to the area. 

“I've been to Garden City, I was at their fair a couple years ago. I also performed at the Ellis County Fair in Hays a couple years ago and just this year I was at the Rush County Fair and throughout the years there have been other odds and ends shows I've done throughout the state,” Horner said. “And I've also done several anti-bullying presentations and summer reading programs and other corporate events. I was actually in Liberal a few years ago working with a block of schools with my anti-bullying program. It's always fun doing shows. What I do is read the audience so I can gauge what will work best. One example is I was recently in Valentine, Neb. and I did two of my more adult shows and then two of my more children's shows since that's how the demographic makeup ended up in the audiences. With one of the adult shows there were also several children in the audience so I had a special event for them where I taught them some of the basics of ventriloquism, and it ended up being packed. I've got a lot of fun things planned for my shows in Liberal and one of my favorite things is taking one of the audience members and turning them into one of my puppets for a few minutes.”

The community is invited and encouraged to turn out to Horner’s performances during the Five State Fair. 

“There's going to be quite a bit of audience participation, so that should attract quite a few people, and people who come see me see I'm not just a ventriloquist, there are a few other things I do as part of my act,” Horner said. “So just come prepared to have a great time. You'll laugh your head off and you'll see some things you might not have seen from a ventriloquist before. If you want to see a show that's fun and will feature a lot of audience participation, this will be a great show for you.”

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