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Clay County Fair opens Saturday

By Staff | Sep 8, 2016

THE 2016 EDITION of the Clay County Fair begins its nine-day run Saturday and concludes Sept. 18 at the Clay County Fairgrounds, 1401 Fourth Ave., West, in Spencer.

SPENCER – More than $150,000 worth of free entertainment, 500 vendors – including 35 new vendors, Muttin’ Bustin, free admission days, truck and tractor pulls, Farmer Appreciation Day, top-name grandstand acts, strolling attractions, new fair foods and more await Clay County Fair goers during its nine-day run Saturday through Sept. 18.

The 2016 fair includes 15 new competitions including oven products, rabbit hopping and Shropshire sheep.

Parsons said a “World’s Greatest Fair Food” contest will have fair goers trying all the new foods the fair has to offer.

“In surveys we have given to fair goers, fair food has moved from the No. 5 reason they come to the fair, to No. 2,” he said. “We thought we would focus on all of the unusual fare this year.”

Some of the “new food finalists” in this competition include:

FOOD CONTESTS are big attractions at the Clay County Fair, and this year, there will be even more categories.

A). “Mini Choco Pie” – small chocolate pie deep fried to warm it up, and topped with ice cream.

B). “Terranza,” a version of the Nebraskan beef-filled sandwich with seasoning, cabbage and onions.

C). The “Breakfast Bowl” from Julie’s Diner – hash browns, eggs, choice of meat, shredded cheese and vegetables, topped with gravy.

D). “SPAM Curds” – flavored, cubed SPAM, deep fried and served with a side of ranch dressing.

E). “Jumbo Stuffed Crab Tots”- seasoned potatoes stuffed with lump crab meat, shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream and mozzarella cheese, deep fried.

One of those foods will be named the “World’s Greatest County Fair Food,” with the winner being announced Sunday at 2 p.m. in Central Park.

Parsons said there are enough “free admission” days that “anyone with a pulse” should be able to attend the fair at least once for free.

He encouraged people to take advantage of “Family Night” on Tuesday, beginning at 5 p.m. Admission is free, and activities such as “Muttin Bustin’ – young children riding sheep – will entertain fair goers.

Other days that honor groups of people with free or reduced admission include Veteran’s Appreciation Day, Senior Day and Disability Awareness Day, which brings 2,000 special needs people to the fairgrounds.

Special event days include HBHA Barrel Racing on Sunday; “Iowa Corn Day/Farmer Appreciation Day” on Thursday, “Iowa Dairy Day” on Sept. 16, “Science Saturday” with hands-on science experiments in Central Park on Sept. 17, and “Last Chance Day” on Sunday, Sept. 18, with $5 admission.

Land grant legacy

President Abraham Lincoln likely wouldn’t imagine that his name would come up at the Clay County Fair 151 years after his presidency ended, but among the many shows and events happening, Sept. 16’s agenda will feature the “Iowa State Land Grant Legacy.”

“In the 1860s, President Lincoln signed the Land Grant Act, which gave parcels of land to farmers, and it also created land grant universities, Iowa State University being one of them,” said Parsons. “This year the statewide celebration honoring those land grant farms – parcels that have been farmed since the 1860s- will be here at the Clay County Fair.”

Other ag-related events at the fair include Grandpa’s Barn, one of the fair’s biggest attractions. Participants can get hands-on experience in agricultural-related activities, including seeing farm animals, driving a combine in the AgCab simulator, milking a cow and walking through various crops that have been planted behind the barn.

Parsons said there will be 850 4-H and FFA members from 44 counties in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska who will show more than 2,300 head of livestock at this year’s fair. That does now include open class competitions.

The horse department has added a “High Point” award, and the fair will be host to Cowboy Mounted Shooting, Ranch Rodeo, NBHA Barrel Racing and Team Roping.

Parsons said the fair association’s belief in ag education keeps them promoting the “Ag-Citing” and “Cy-Citing” programs, which bring in 1,200 children annually. This year, educational opportunities for youth were expanded to include “Science Saturday” on Sept. 17 in Central Park, with hands-on science experiments being at the epicenter of fun.

Free entertainment acts include dueling pianos, hypnotist, musical groups of all genres, a comedy juggler, ventriloquist, strolling concert family, Hillbilly Bob and Old Ruthie, Rock-It Robot, Sea Lion Splash, Awesome Ag Magic Show, World of Robots, Tropical Illusions-and a Beatles tribute, which will happen Sept. 16-18.


Parsons said the fairgrounds is in the beginning of a two-year shuffle. He said fair goers will notice there are no electrical lines overhead on food row this year, and a new building is going up, which will soon replace the Agriculture Building, which has fallen out of code and will be dismantled following this year’s fair.

The Ag Building is the second oldest structure on the fairgrounds, built in 1921. The new building will not be open for this year’s fair.

“The 2017 fair will feature an open-grass space (where the Ag Building stands) to let the ground settle and fill in the hole, and in 2018 we will have ‘Centennial Plaza’ there,” said Parsons.

That area will feature public art, benches, trees, fountains, children’s playground, picnic shelters and a place for people to sit down and relax throughout the day.

“In 2017 every fair goer will need a map because several buildings and departments will be repurposed,” said Parsons, adding that the current Industrial Building will most likely be home to the photography department, which features 2,500 photos this year. “(Rearranging) makes people look, and we’re getting the fairgrounds ready for the next 100 years.”

Parsons said there would be more ATM machines on the grounds, restrooms have been upgraded, and information booths will have electronics to help fair goers with questions more efficiently. He said 14 non-profit organizations operate on the fairgrounds, generating about $504,000 for their causes, and benefiting the general public.

For more information on this and the entertainment line-up, featuring Martina McBride, Andy Grammer, Restless Heart (with Suzy Bogguss and Billy Dean), Christian group “MercyMe,” and 1970s sensations “Three Dog Night” and “Lynyrd Skynyrd,” go to the fair’s website at www.claycountyfair.com.

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