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Clay County Fair set for 2010 start

By Staff | Sep 10, 2010

SPENCER – Mother Nature was not especially friendly to the Clay County Fairgrounds this summer, but in spite of major storm damage, the fair – scheduled for Sept. 11 to 19 – will be up and running as if nothing ever happened.

This year’s fair theme is “The Best There’s Ever Been.” And fair officials have been working up to that in the past year.

Last year, nearly 327,000 people came through the gates to see what was new and return to the things they love that are always there. This year visitors will see a brand new livestock pavilion and a new cattle barn, along with improvements to other barns as they stroll the grounds.

The weight of excessive snow brought the 41-year-old swine building to its knees this past winter, along with one of the cattle barns.

Robyn Amthauer, director of media promotions and advertising for the Clay County Fair, said that at the time, fair officials were concerned about what the heavy snow would do to older buildings, but they were surprised that the swine building was the one to take the biggest hit.

“We were shocked about that building coming down. (After the damage was surveyed) Phil (Hurst, CCF secretary/manager) came in and said that the swine barn collapsed, but that the cattle barn ‘just laid down. It was tired.'”

Amthauer said the damage served as a blessing in disguise because it had been Hurst’s goal to build a new livestock facility that could not only be used during the fair, but all year long. During reconstruction, builders added on 60 feet to the south end of the building, to give the new facility a total of 63,000 square feet.

“It can now be rented out for all kinds of shows -horse, cattle, pig, sheep -last June we hosted the American Junior National Maine-Anjou Show. Those shows are often held at state fairgrounds and more urban areas, but we got only awesome comments about our facilities here during that show,” Amthauer said.

To make the show work, the Commercial Building was converted into a place for stalling and tie-outs for the cows, and the cows were shown in the air-conditioned events center arena.

“We do so well with our fair. It’s our bread and butter,” Amthauer said. “But we really needed this opportunity to open the fairgrounds for use in the off season as well.”

The collapsed cattle barn was also replaced and improvements were made to other cattle barns as well. The cattle barns were built in 1937.

“They’ve seen their fair share over the years,” Amthauer said.

A new part of the fair this year that officials are excited about is something called “Grandpa’s Barn.” Located in what is known as the former east-west sheep barn, it will feature young stock of various types from local farms including dairy calves, sheep, goats, and a baby pig display sponsored by Iowa Lakes Community College’s school of agriculture.

“It will be a fun area; a place where people can learn about agriculture,” Amthauer said. ” We really wanted to develop an area like this in our rural community.

“It will give kids who don’t have that farm education or experience a place to come and learn about it. We hope it will be an ag education hub for kids and parents.”

She added that she expects to see livestock barns at or near capacity this year, saying the number of livestock numbers has been “overwhelming.”

The fair will feature parades of new and classic tractors most days of the fair, along with daily livestock judging.

Other features

Part of what makes the CCF “the world’s greatest county fair” is the mix of ag displays, food vendors, grandstand events, commercial exhibits, open class, 4-H and FFA competitions, educational presentations, the Ag-Citing show, which teaches children about agriculture; participation, midway rides and of course, the free entertainment.

This year’s free entertainment lineup include a wide variety of talents for people of all ages. They include a stunt dog show, bear shows, trapeze artists, an alligator catcher, an ‘Ag Magic Show’ which touts ag education in a humorous way; 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n roll show, a gospel quartet, comedians, impressionists, a magician, a ventriloquist, comedic juggling, Vaudeville music, a capella music, a hypnotist, polka musicians, a show called “Crazy Keys Dueling Pianos,” and country musicians.

The grandstand’s all-star musical line-up will feature country stars Rodney Atkins with special guest Chris Young on Sept. 11; “Three Dog Night” with special guests “Jay and the Americans” on Sept. 12; the “4 Troops” — four former military men who have sung to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will perform Sept. 13.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator will headline on Sept. 14. Fator’s performance at the CCF is one of only six of his shows scheduled outside of Las Vegas in 2010.

Other musical entertainment includes Blake Shelton and special guest James Otto on Sept. 18, and Bret Michaels’ “Roses and Thorns” World Tour, with special guest “Attention” on Sept. 19.

Grandstand racing events touted at the 2010 CCF include chuck wagon races on Sept. 11 and 12; an antique tractor pull on Sept. 14; the Elite National Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulls on Sept. 15; the IMCA Races on Sept. 16, including modifieds, stock cars, sport mod and hobby stocks.

The grandstand will wrap up its racing schedule on the evening of Sept. 16 with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Race.

This year’s midway will feature a giant slide just west of the events center. Other daily attractions at the CCF include educational presentations in the 4-H auditorium, the ag learning center, an antique buggy display, antique gallery, the Arts Barn, chainsaw artist Jeff Klatt; a classic car display, Clay County Fair History Museum, the Iowa Lakes community College Activity Center, Central Perk and the KICD Stage (new this year), Music of the Andes, a sky glider aerial tram, the Smoky Mountain Central railroad layout in the Depot building, the Sundholm Environmental Educational Center, and vintage tractor displays.

The 4-H auditorium will be the home for the once-daily “Chef of the Day” presentation, mornings at 11 a.m., featuring chefs from the local area and around the nation showing how they prepare various foods. Free food samples will be available at each of those presentations.

The photography department is one of the fastest-growing areas at the CCF. Fair photography superintendent Dana Metcalf said it takes about 140 people to help get that area of the fair off the ground and maintain it throughout the fair’s nine-day run. This year photography department received more than 2,000 entries.

There are many different classes in the photography department, some of which include “Reflections”; “Iowa, Our People Make Us Great”; “Beautiful Iowa;” “Splash”, depicting something making impact with water; and “People Helping the Land,” depicting mankind’s positive influences on soil.

This year’s fair will also feature events such as a rooster crowing contest, the Porterhouse Pentathlon–whereby teams get together in races to complete various farm chore events; a cinnamon roll contest, the ‘Ag Magic’ show, an antique tractor pull in front of the grandstand, a llama show, and an event called, “The Prices Are Right.”

The CCF annually features more than 625 commercial exhibit booths, 65 food and beverage stands/restaurants, and seven buildings of novelty items, and items for home, yard, office, school and the farm.

With only so much ground on which to have the fair each year, trying to keep the fair new and fresh each year can be a challenge, Amthauer said. But she added that Hurst is where it all begins.

“He likes to do innovative things He does a lot of connecting and networking and speaking to other people in the fair industry. He finds out what is working and what is not.”

Contact Karen Schwaller at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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