Weather Forecast


‘Fair’ is no longer good enough in Chippewa County

Celebrated performers Hairball, a band that pays tribute to all things arena rock, will open the Chippewa County Fair in 2014. The county fair board has set its sights on raising attendance by 50 percent with a much improved lineup of performers and attractions. Submitted

MONTEVIDEO — Clay County in Iowa already lays claim to the title of the world’s greatest county fair, but the title of most improved is still very much up for grabs.

Chippewa County, Minnesota, is taking a big shot at it.

Celebrated performers Hairball, a band that pays tribute to all things arena rock, is the opening night act on the fairgrounds in Montevideo on July 30. Johnny Holm and Hicktown Mafia will take the stage on July 31 and August 2.

The All-American Lumberjack Show, the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, a classic car show, a demolition derby, and an on-the-grounds house of horrors being erected by Sherod’s Fright Farm are among the many other attractions.

Merriam Amusements will bring a full line of carnival rides and games.

There will be no short-changing fair goers on the traditional activities either, with a full lineup of 4-H competition and exhibits, food stands, oompah bands, and lots of activities for kids.

There’s even a Friday night fireworks show, and if that isn’t enough to get your attention, this might: The fair will be handing out $100 bills — a total of $1,000 worth each day — to lucky ticket holders.

Tickets to Hairball are already on sale. Students in Chippewa County schools are getting first crack at selling the $15 tickets, that include free admission to the fair, and collecting $3 toward their school club for each sold. Remaining tickets will be available online later this month.

“A big, big change,’’ said Jason Dehne, Chippewa County Fair board member, about the 2014 version.

The Chippewa County Fair has been doing all right, seeing anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 visitors in recent years.

Dehne said the fair board is aiming for attendance this year in the range of 14,000 to 15,000.

The big goals are really all about going back to the fair’s role as a county-wide celebration of its agricultural heritage.

And, Dehne said the fair board has taken notice that it has experienced a decline in attendance by teenagers and young adults. It wants to win them back.

County fairs represent an important opportunity for businesses and their customers to meet one on one in a fun and social environment. Give people more reasons to come to the fair, and more of those opportunities are created.

Many of this year’s sponsors are businesses who are supporting the fair by giving free admission to their customers at special gates.

Dehne is an ag loan officer at Minnwest Bank with a background in marketing as well, and he is putting those talents together. The Chippewa County Fair has launched a big marketing campaign to promote its lineup, including social media and traditional advertising.

If this year’s fair is an ambitious undertaking, it’s also well-thought out. Dehne said fair board members have raised $18,000 in grant funds to help make possible this year’s event. The board members have also lined up a long list of sponsors to provide financial support to cover the larger costs of a bigger event.

Now it’s up to residents in the county, said Dehne. The county can put on a great fair, but people need to come and support it if they want to see this level of entertainment continue in the years ahead.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335