I get where you are coming from. I have been to 9-10 gravel bike rides/races so far. I see a big difference on what I call grass roots type of rides compared to the larger rides where riders are getting paid money or there is sponsorship bragging rights up for grab. I guess the way to get around that is to just go ride mainly grass roots type of rides. One I would recommend from my end was the Pony Express 120 in Marysville Kansas that was early Sept. That is the one that has stood out at my end. The kicker for me is I live on the East Coast instead of the Midwest where the real gravel riding is done. Most of my rides on the East Coast are 50/50 gravel/macadam or if you are lucky 60/40. I will keep looking for the small grass roots rides at my end and maybe try a few of the bigger races this year. Glad to hear that you like the Dirty Kanza ride as that was low on my list but might move up now. The toughest most gravel ride I have done so far on the East Coast was a couple of weekends ago. Ride the Ridges @ Cabot VT. which was about 85% gravel and was 7000 ft of climbing for me in 58 miles.
If it was easy it wouldn't be a memory. You just hope you don't have all your memories in the same ride. been there dun that Zman