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Come home to the Clay County Fair

By Staff | Sep 1, 2017

What was formerly known as the Photography Center is now the new Fields and Gardens Building. Lumber was repurposed from the Agriculture Building that was torn down last year and used to build shelves. Old signs from the building were recycled and are displayed in the building that will now be home to fruits, vegetables, grains, giant pumpkins and scarecrows — most of what used to be on display in the former Agriculture Building.



SPENCER – Whether you attend the Clay County Fair every year, haven’t been for awhile or maybe have never attended, fair officials are asking you to “Come Home” to the Clay County Fair.

This year the Clay County Fair, which is touted as being the world’s largest county fair will be held Sept. 9-17.

2017 is also the 100th year of “celebrating 100 years of blue ribbon traditions.” According to information provided by the fair, there have been several upgrades, moves and there will also be at least one day that every person can attend the fair for free.

“We are extremely proud of the fact that every person can attend the fair at least once for free if they take advantage of the great promotions we have on our special days at the fair,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons. “The special days give you an extra reason to attend the fair.”

Special days, Parson said, include veteran’s day, senior day, family night, disability awareness day, Iowa dairy day and Y100 kid’s day, Science Saturday and Sunday has been set aside to celebrate the fair’s centennial.

Centennial Celebration Sunday

Sunday, Sept. 17 is Centennial Celebration Sunday, with $5 admission. This will give fairgoers one last day to “Come Home” and celebrate the Fair. The highlight of Centennial Day will be the Centennial Birthday Bash in the Grandstand at 7 p.m. This once-in-a-lifetime show will feature a wide variety of entertainment and conclude with the largest fireworks show in fair history Parsons said.


Over the last 18 months, Parsons said a million dollars has been spent on capital improvements throughout the fairgrounds. Much was done in order to make room for exhibits that used to be housed in the ag building that was torn down, as well as making some of those facelifts in order to help celebrate the fair’s centennial.

“If you haven’t been to the fair, or haven’t been here for awhile, we really do encourage you to ‘come home,'” he said. “There is something for everybody here, and if nothing else, come see the changes we have made on the fairgrounds.”

Ag Marketplace

This particular Morton building, although is not new to the Clay County Fairgrounds, will be serving a new purpose for 2017.

Parsons said there have been several upgrades made to the building including permanent restrooms, electrical work and sidewalk improvements to make it more handicap accessible.

“The Ag Marketplace will be completely full of indoor ag exhibits,” he said. “Every exhibitor in here is something related to agriculture, seed corn dealers, precision planting – all ag related vendors.”

The front space on the west end of the building, will be home to the third annual Farm Gadget show.

“People can create things on their farm – inventions they make to get through the day. They can enter it here and be judged,” said Parsons. “It’s kind of like shop class for adults.”

He said this year for the centennial they are also hosting a “Guess the Gadget” contest, where people are encouraged to bring in items that may be unique and not familiar to many.

Next to the Farm Gadget Show will be space set aside as a classroom for the fair’s new “Farm-U,” as in farm university.

“We’re the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show of any other fair in the United States,” he said. “So, to help us solidify that and offer those exhibitors added value they’re going to have the ability to give every hour, on the hour, presentations in that classroom setting, from different exhibitors on the ground.”

Fields and Gardens Building

What has formerly been known as the “photography building” for several years, is now the new “Fields and Gardens building,”Parsons said.

“This will be home to fruits, vegetables, grains, giant pumpkins, scarecrows – everything that used to be in the upper level of the ag building,” he said.

What’s unique to the Fields and Gardens Building, Parsons said, is the new shelving is made up of repurposed wood from the demolition of the ag building. The signs on the wall, he said, will look familiar to many, as they were formerly in the ag building as well.

“We are rally pleased how this turned out,” he said. “Especially being able to reclaim all of the lumber from the ag building in here.”

Centennial Plaza

The space where the ag building once stood has now been named “Centennial Plaza.”

Parsons said they are in phase one of two in revamping the space, but for this year it will be home to a several things, including a large sculpture being made to help celebrate the fair’s centennial.

“We’re working with a sculptor from the Twin Cities, and there will be 10-foot tall farm animals sculpted from straw, celebrating around a 20-foot tall straw birthday cake,” he said.

Parsons added this will be an interactive sculpture, so people can go on up to it, take pictures and sit and play amongst the animals that will be made of straw and other natural materials.

Family Place

Also new this year, Parsons said, is a “Family Place.” Formerly home to the fair offices, this building, will be the home to first aid and offer a kitchen area, play area and private rooms for mothers to nurse and change babies.

“Each year we survey fair visitors and ask them why they come to the fair, No. 1is family time and tradition, No. 2 is food, three is entertainment and four is experiencing agriculture,” he said. “So because family time is important, we have a whole building dedicated to families.”

Tower Gate Pavilion

Parsons said Tower Gate Pavilion is new for the 2017 Clay County Fair. The 12,000 square foot building will be home to about 50 commercial vendors.

The building also features new, more modern restrooms, which he said was something the east side of the fairgrounds was missing.

With the addition of the new Tower Gate Pavilion, Parsons said they are anticipating more traffic brought to the east end of the grounds.

Photography Center

The previous photography building has now been made in to the Field and Gardens Building moving the photography exhibits to what was previously a commercial building.

The outside of the Photography Center, Parsons said, will remain commercial exhibits, and the garage doors and those exhibit spaces have received a fresh coat of paint.

The inside has also had some updates with all new paint, and with new restrooms last year, Parsons said that building has received over $40,000 in upgrades.

“Two things will happen in this building,” said Parsons. “On the east end is the photography department. The west side of the building, every year, will be something different.”

This year, he said, is a centennial historical exhibit that has been made possible by the Clay County Heritage and the Iowa Great Lake’s Auto Club.

“There will be a classic car from each decade. Then you will walk in between and around each car and learn about the fair’s history,” said Parsons.

Starting next year, the permanent home for the Clay County Fair Museum will be in the south lobby of the event center.

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