CCF starts Saturday
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – A farm gadget show, Ramboulet sheep show, cell phone photography division, a new point show for draft hoses, a macaroni and cheese contest, glazed donut breakfast sandwiches andbaconade are all new things fair-goers will see when they “Take It All In” at the 2015 Clay County Fair, running Sept. 12-20 in Spencer.
The farm gadget show will consist of farm-related inventions submitted by farmers from around the region, showcasing their ability to make the things they need in their farm shops.
The show will be a contest with cash prizes awarded, with $100 going to first-place winners in three divisions.
Entries can be as small as a hand-held invention or as large as something that needs to be pulled onto the fairgrounds.
“The fair is all about competition for everyone, and there was a niche that we were not meeting,” said Jeremy Parsons, Clay County Fair manager. “The farm gadget show is a chance for those people to compete and show off their creativity and have it judged.”
Classes for the farm gadget show include an adult class (age 18 or older), youth class (ages 17 and younger), and one for 4-H and FFA groups who have an invention or ag machinery improvement they have worked on together.
Ramboulet sheep will be making its open class debut at this year’s fair, according to Parsons, as will the Draft Horse North American Classic Cart Series.
“The Clay County Fair has always been a national point show for six-horse draft horsehitches. Now we are a point show for the single horse carts, so they will earn points for that here as well,” said Parsons.
Parsons said more than 800 4-H’ers and FFA members will compete at this year’s fair from 45 counties in Iowa, Minnesota and (for the first time) Nebraska. He said the previous record was 42 counties.
Livestock entries from these groups are at a 10-year high.
Parsons said the small animal barn will feature an interactive display explaining why poultry projects are not at the fair, in light of the avian influenza outbreak earlier this year.
Parsons said fairs in urban areas are switching to ag education, which the Clay County Fair has done since it began in 1917.
“Ag education is very important, but the difference for us is that our backbone is still production agriculture – people that are still actively involved in agriculture – so 30 acres of our fairgrounds are devoted to farm machinery and exhibits.
“We have indoor buildings filled with the latest and greatest for the farmer and producer, so that’s our niche market and we do our best to keep those people happy,” said Parsons.
Parsons went on to say that the Ag-Citing Program is in its 20th year at the fair, bringing 700 third-graders annually to the fairgrounds for an all-day field trip, with the mission of learning about agriculture.
He said the Cy-Citing Program brings 400 fourth-graders to the fairgrounds to learn about issues related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Both programs are in conjunction with Iowa State University Extension.
“Almost 1,000 kids come to the fair every year for free on a field trip, and it’s a true field trip,” he said. “We send lesson plans to teachers before they come and they have lesson plans for when they get back to school.”
The Clay County Fair will also be home for nine days to Yesteryear’s Ice Cream, which is a display of vintage farm equipment, but also serves tractor-churned chocolate or vanilla ice cream, along with other food items made by tractorpower.
“If you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream churned by a John Deere tractor, you can have that this year at the fair,” said Parsons. “It’s a unique combination of antique farm machinery producing the food you’re going to eat.”
Parsons said this year’s fair will feature two museum-quality exhibits, one being “Farm Her,” a multi-media celebration of women in agriculture, which will be at the events center ballroom during the last four days of the fair.
“A team has gone out throughout the nation, photographing and doing videos of women involved in agriculture,” he said. “Maybe they’re farming with their husbands or maybe they’re farming on their own. Maybe they’re an ag lender at a bank. It’s a complete celebration of women in agriculture, showcasing the impact that women have had on the ag industry.”
The other exhibit – a traveling memorial remembering Iowa’s fallen soldiers since the war on terror began on Sept. 11, 2001 – will be in the events center lobby during all nine days of the fair.
Parsons said the Art Barn will celebrate its 25th anniversary at the fair, with one of their events allowing fairgoers to work together to paint and assemble a 10-foot-tall replica of the classic “American Gothic” picture, one tile at a time. He said by the end of the fair, they hope to have the small, individual tiles all painted and the picture completely assembled.
A 40-foot windmill will be constructed throughout the fair west of Grandpa’s Barn by a commercial vendor, displaying how windmills work to obtain water.
Parsons also said they are coming back this year with the crop plots behind Grandpa’s Barn, giving those who have no accessibility to row crops a chance to see, feel and learn about them.
The fair will also feature at that same location a cab simulator, so fairgoers can see and experience what it’s like to be inside a combine cab or tractor cab in motion.
Parsons said between $90,000 and $100,000 in capital improvements have been made to the grounds, including new grandstand bleacher seating, new grandstand wi-fi, LED screens at the grandstand, outdoor arena fencing and lighting, landscaping at historic Gate A on the fairgrounds, and a monarch butterfly garden near the administration building.
He said there is more work to do on the grounds yet as they approach the fair’s centennial in 2017.
Free entertainment is something the Clay County Fair is known for, and Parsons said this year they are providing $140,000 worth of free entertainment, with shows starting every half-hour from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.
He said grandstand activities offer something for people of all ages and activity preferences, with the Little Big Town show on Sept. 20 nearing sell-out capacity.
The grandstand will feature big names such as country artists and groups including RaeLynn, Hermin’s Hermits, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Oak Ridge Boys and Casting Crowns.
Other activities there will include the truck pull nationals and Northwest Iowa Pullers Garden Tractor and Mini-Rod Pull, chuckwagon racing, IMCA championships and the World of Outlaws.
The fair will host “Iowa Corn Day” and “Farmer Appreciation Day” on Thursday with a parade of antique tractors and a special viewing of the movie, “Farmland.”
“Dairy Day” will take place Sept. 18 with families and the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance at Central Park, educating the public about the industry.
Other special days will honor veterans, senior citizens, those with disabilities, families and kids.
Other activities include the midway,ag magic show, Northwest Iowa classic tractors display, Grandpa’s Barn, chainsaw artist, the Smoky Mountain Central Railroad, 50s and 60s classic car drive-in, cooking and baking contests, rabbit-hopping demonstrations, rodeo events, 4-H educational presentations and working exhibits, open class competitions in all areas, kids’ pedal pull tractor contest, “Kids Got Talent” show, and strolling acts.
“Our goal is to give people way too much to do at the fair,” he said.
Parsons said it takes between 500 and 700 volunteers each year to make the fair happen, and that they declined 200 applications for commercial vendor space because there isn’t enough room for all of them.
Advanced tickets are $6 and available in 75 locations in Iowa and southwest Minnesota, and gate admission is $9 per person.
For more information on finding outlets for advanced tickets along with more information on this year’s fair, go to their website at www.claycountyfair.com.
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