Grandpa’s Barn anchors changes at CCF
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – The brand-new Grandpa’s Barn is the highlight of the changes to this year’s Clay County Fair, which also includes building renovations, additional vendors and underground utility provisions.
The fair goes from Sept. 8 through Sept. 16.
Now in its eighth year, Grandpa’s Barn, which is located west of the events center, gives fairgoers a chance to get up close and personal with baby farm animals and learn about them. The barn comes complete with a fabricated cow that fairgoers can “milk” and tractor cab simulators, giving fairgoers a chance to imagine what it’s like to run a tractor and work in a field.
This year, the barn has graduated from its original hoop building status into a metal building full of pens and cages to hold every kind of farm animal, and features handwashing stations and a sectioned-off learning area in the corner that looks like a grain bin.
“The grain bin in the corner will be a theatre of sorts,” fair manager Jeremy Parsons said. “We can show videos there for people to learn about farming and do some teaching as well.”
Grandpa’s Barn also features a brand-new windmill out front, which actually pumps water.
Parsons said the newly-improved attraction earned its permanent place on the fairgrounds because of how popular it has become since its debut in 2011.
It also became obvious that, if Grandpa’s Barn were to continue, it needed more room.
The Clay County Fair has also been home to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Ag-Citing program for decades. That program brings in hundreds of school children annually to teach them about agriculture.
This year, the fair announced an expansion of it, with a one-day program called Ag-Citing for Adults. It will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m.
“It will be an educational program on production agriculture for adult learners using the resources of the Clay County Fair,” said Parsons.
Fairgoers will complete three brief online lessons consisting of three to six questions each, to be completed before the fair. Then during a walking tour of selected displays at the fair, participants will learn about agriculture “by the numbers,” genetically modified crops and about ISU Extension and Outreach.
Interested participants are asked to contact Paul Kassel at (712) 262-2264, or email him at email@example.com.
Participants will receive free day passes to the fair.
Additional changes include the demolition of the Ag Building. It’s in the process of being turned into Centennial Plaza, a gathering area for families and fairgoers.
While it is not yet finished, it will be a park-like area for children to play and adults to take a break. The grassy area will be roped off this year in hopes to get that grass established, and the area features walkways with permeable pavers which contribute to a complete storm sewer and water circulation system for the fairgrounds.
Once completed, the area will also be home to the new Northwest Bank Stage.
The east end of the fairgrounds will look completely different this year as well, with the model homes being moved to that area, and a host of new vendors taking up residency in that area. On-grounds parking has been reduced somewhat in order to make it possible for more vendors to be part of the fair.
Parsons said the PRCA Rodeo will be back this year on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s not new to us, but it’s been awhile since they’ve been here at the fair,” he said.
The Farm Gadget Show in the Ag Marketplace Building on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds has changed its name this year to the Town and Country Innovation Show. This allows more people to be part of that competitive exhibit area.
This year, anyone can bring any invention they have created, or any object they have made an improvement on, and have a chance to win $100 for it. The contest is open to adults and youth, who are all eligible for the same amounts of prize money.
They will also host the Guess the Gadget contest again.
Dr. Temple Grandin will present at the fair on Saturday, Sept. 15. Grandin is a spokesperson for autism and is one of the world’s foremost leaders in the design of cattle sorting pens and load-out equipment. She is also an activist in helping people understand how livestock animals think and react.
Parsons said fairgoers last year spent $2.4 million in food, beverage and carnival rides, and added fairgoer surveys have indicated food as the No. 2 reason they come to the fair, with the No. 1 reason being spending time together with family and friends.
This year there are 30 new fair foods, with five of them making the cut for Best Fair Food trials, to be voted upon during the fair. Those five foods include pickle poppers, barnyard burgers, spudnators, tiny tators and smoked mac ‘n cheese.
Fairgoers will also have a chance to give blood at the fair, as the Red Cross Bloodmobile from Minneapolis will be there Sept. 13-15. It will be located south of the varied industries building.
Those giving blood there will receive a free American Red Cross blanket.
There will also be no shuttle service to the north parking lot this year. Fairgoers will instead be transported by golf carts.
“They are so much more efficient than the shuttles, and people also don’t have the patience anymore to wait for the shuttle, so we have gradually phased it out,” said Parsons, but he added that fair officials will still track the number of people who attend the fair. The tally, however, will be done differently, with Parsons saying the new change will better reflect the success of the fair.
“It’s a new trend in the fair industry,” he said. “We’ve struggled with what actually measures the success of the fair, and often times a fair’s success is decided by how much rain falls during the fair. So we will be measuring the number of 4-H and FFA exhibitors, the number of youth coming onto the fairgrounds to learn, the money spent on food, beverages and carnival rides, things like that.”
Last year, 921 4-H and FFA exhibitors from 42 counties brought 2,417 exhibits. Additionally, 1,465 third- and fourth-graders participated in the Clay County ISU Extension’s field trip programs.
The grandstand restrooms have been completely renovated and upgraded, along with the restrooms and shower areas in the livestock pavilion.
The fair will feature various competitions each day, from rooster crowing, flowers, food (including spaghetti and meatballs, a Christmas cookie contest and a peach pie contest) and FFA demonstrations, along with all the other district livestock shows and other contests in the Creative Living Center and competitions in the 4-H Auditorium.
Various ag commodities and groups will be featured throughout the week, including Iowa Corn Day, Dairy Day and Farmer Appreciation Day, which also features the Outlaw Elite National Truck and Tractor Pulls in the grandstand that evening, Sept. 13.
Other days designated for recognition include Disability Awareness Day and Veteran’s Day. Families will be admitted to the fair free after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
The grandstand has a full lineup of big names and annual entertainment during the day and most every evening, along with tents full of free entertainment including musical acts, hypnotists and comedy acts.
Parsons said the Clay County Fair is alive and well, and growing.
“If the Clay County Fair continues to grow in attendance, how does that happen if the local population declines?” he said. “The fair association’s membership continues to grow. That tells us we’re not going away, that the future of the fair is bright.”
The Clay County Fair saw 383,000 visitors at the 2017 centennial edition. Those included people who visited the fair or one of the other 340 events hosted on the fair’s 260 acres. It’s the second-largest tourism event and fair in the state and hosts the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show of any fair in the U.S.
The Clay County Fair’s Centennial Vision has resulted in $1.6 million invested in capital improvement since the spring of 2016, some of which cannot be seen, such as underground utility cables and fiber optics.
There are 13 full-time employees at the fair, 90 part-time/season employees, and 395 paid employees who work during the fair’s nine-day run.
For more information on the Clay County Fair , go to www.claycountyfair.com, or call them at (712) 580-3000.
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