Clay County fair known as largest ag equipment fair in US
By KRISS NELSON
SPENCER – In addition to dozens of free entertainment that spans the Clay County Fairgrounds each year, whether it is staged events or traveling performances, the exhibitors and vendors are another large part of the fair in September.
The Clay County Fair claims to have nearly 500 vendors and exhibitors at what has been touted as not only the world’s greatest county fair, but also home to the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show of any fair in the United States, making it not only a great opportunity for business, but for others, it’s tradition and a time for fellowship.
“It’s just more or less a family reunion” said Gary Naeve, owner of Custom Made Products in Humboldt.
Naeve said many times, they have the opportunity to meet longtime customers for the first time, or folks they have known for years will stop by their exhibit, enjoying a break with some peanuts and pop and spend time just visiting.
“It’s more about that than showing our machinery,” he said. “Everybody knows about the machinery anyhow.”
However, Naeve said they do get a lot of business done at the Clay County Fair.
“We will sell,” he said. “Last year was one of the biggest years we’ve had here in sales. People will come from all over.”
One man he met was from Illinois and said he visits the Farm Progress Show when it comes to Decatur, “and he said he would rather come to the Spencer fair any day than to the Farm Progress Show.”
Naeve estimates they have been coming to the Clay County Fair for at least 20 years. Custom Made Products has 15 locations in Iowa as well as one each in Missouri and Nebraska.
The company offers dirt scrapers and land rollers, among other pieces of equipment.
“The land rollers, that’s been huge for us,” he said. “We rented over 79 last year.”
The main benefit to using a land roller in soybeans is there is no dirt in the beans when combining happens.
“That’s the main reason we started rolling,” he said. “And you can knock the root balls down from the previous corn crop and some guys have so many rocks they roll for that reason.”
The increased acres of cover crops are also seeing a need for land rollers, Naeve said.
“With cover crops coming on, we have a roller set up to crimp the cover crops in the spring instead of spraying, so we have had a tremendous amount of people stopping and talking to us about that particular item.”
Naeve said he has several dirt scrapers and land rollers on hand at the fair in his exhibit they share with Rowse. He also said he looks forward to visiting with many fairgoers that always seem to enjoy being at the Clay County Fair.
“It seems everyone you talk to loves this fair,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where they are from, they just love it.”
John Deere is one of the Clay County Fair’s larger exhibitors and they have something for everybody with their massive equipment display featuring new product releases and a store full of toys and John Deere clothing.
Len Davis, associate event manager with John Deere, said the company offers a larger opportunity to buy toys and clothing in northwest Iowa during the Clay County Fair. If they do not have what someone are looking for, they will assist them in finding it and hook them up with a local John Deere dealer.
John Deere, he said, has been a part of the Clay County Fair for several years and is a large attraction at the fair as well.
“I remember coming over with my father who worked in a John Deere dealership. I was 10 years old and I am now 57, so there’s a lot of tradition and heritage, and they have been coming here a long, long time,” he said. “With this building, they have made a large investment to be here over a long period of time.”
Davis said some of the dealerships that work the Iowa State Fair compare the crowds and attendance to that of the Clay County Fair and claim the number of people and displays at the Clay County Fair are very close, and attended as well as the Iowa State Fair.
So far, with only a few days in to the Clay County Fair, he added they have seen great crowds.
“We’re here the week before setting up and close the doors Monday after the fair at noon. John Deere dealers from South Dakota and all over Iowa are here,” he said. “It is well worth it, and dealers are happy to participate.”
Davis said he meets with dealerships a few times a year preparing for the Clay County Fair.
“They handle the machinery, and I handle the relationship with the fair,” he said. “The fair board and Jeremy (Parsons, Clay County Fair manager) and his group have been wonderful.”
Davis encourages everyone to come to the remaining days of the Clay County Fair.
“We’re happy to be here,” he said. “Weather is great, so come on out and see us. And if you can’t find it, we’ll certainly see what we can do.”
For those looking for the newest in John Deere’s offering, Chris Bone, John Deere territory manager, said there are few new products featured amongst several pieces of John Deere farm, home and construction equipment.
“We have our new S780 combine which is our new combine release this year,” he said. “It will be available for customers to order for next year. It is really a smart machine, as we call it.”
Bone said John Deere has integrated a lot of new technology into the combine, including camera features, a new cab and new monitoring system.
The 5R, Bone said, is the premium 5000 series tractor and is being showcased inside John Deere’s permanent building at the Clay County Fair. This series tractor features a new transmission and pressure flow compensated hydraulics.
Bone said another new product offering from John Deere is their R4045 sprayer.
“It features the new ExactApply spray solution with pulse width modulation on our nozzle bodies, as well as the carbon fiber boom,” he said. “That is a nice new feature as well as the 4600 Command Center as well on that machine.”
Bone said the Clay County Fair is a terrific venue for the company to be present at.
“It is great for us to be able to showcase some of our new technology here at the Clay County Fair,” he said. “This fair is solely supported by our dealer channel, so our dealer folks make sure they have the piece of equipment here that customers want to see, and I would say the great thing about the Clay County Fair is it is very regional specific, so we get a lot of our customers that want to see the new, greatest technology right here in Spencer.”
“It makes it convenient for them to get here and check out the newest things we have available.”
In addition to agricultural implements and equipment another big part of the Clay County Fair are agricultural buildings.
EPS Buildings, with cooperate offices in Graettinger, is one of the more local businesses that make a large footprint at the Clay County Fair.
Jake Schoelerman, a dealer for EPS, said the company has been coming to the Clay County Fair for at least 36 years now and will do a lot of business during the nine days at the fair.
“EPS’ largest market is swine, poultry and cattle buildings,” Schoelerman said. “And most everything that comes out of this fair, sales out of this building during the fair, is 75 percent ag and probably only 25 percent residential.”
In addition to their cooperate offices in Graettinger, Schoelerman said EPS has several companies through the U.S. that, in addition to livestock buildings, also offer shops, houses and other agricultural and commercial buildings.
“We’re a one-stop shop for building supplies,” he said. “The Clay County Fair is definitely a good opportunity to get everyone in here and show what we have to offer. There are a lot of packages people don’t know we have.”
Schoelerman added there has been a definite rise in their customers wanting to shop local.
“Being local is everything,” he said. “Especially with the farm economy, everyone wants to deal local. Your money stays local and you’re supporting a local economy when buying from EPS – you’re supporting the local dealers from the area and your money is staying in your county and the surrounding area.”
Schoelerman estimates they will see over 2,000 people a day at the EPS exhibit. The exhibit, he said, is a permanent building on the Clay County Fairgrounds and features each package that EPS offers in its buildings.
“We get a lot of good leads,” he said. “It’s a good source for getting our company out there.”
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