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Sun goes down on county fair

WILLMAR -- The food trucks were closed Sunday afternoon at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds. Gone were the crowds of fairgoers, the roar of the midway, the aroma of grilled pork. The exhibit halls and livestock barns were mostly empty. On the out...

2015 Kandiyohi County Fair
The sun sets Saturday for the final time on the 2015 Kandiyohi County Fair in Willmar. (Rand Middleton | Tribune)

WILLMAR - The food trucks were closed Sunday afternoon at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds.
Gone were the crowds of fairgoers, the roar of the midway, the aroma of grilled pork.
The exhibit halls and livestock barns were mostly empty.
On the outdoor stage next to the Hall of Industry, Bill Otto of Grand Stage Resource stacked audio equipment and collecting power cords.
“Set-up’s the fun part,” remarked Otto, whose company has managed the fairgrounds sound system for more than a decade.
Over at the fairgrounds office, a worker stopped in to drop off a pair of sunglasses that someone left behind. Cheryl Johnson, fair secretary, added them to the lost-and-found pile next to her desk.
The annual Kandiyohi County Fair, with its four days of exhibits, contests, carnival rides, grandstand entertainment and deep-fried cheese curds, ended Saturday night.
Attendance figures are still being compiled, but it appears that this year’s fair drew at least as large a crowd overall as other years, Johnson said.
Although stormy weather forced the cancellation of the demolition derby Thursday night and more rain arrived Saturday, the show went on, she said. “On Thursday we did our sweet corn feed and we did the talent contest. The tent was full for the talent contest.”
Wet weather on Saturday put a damper on participation in the children’s pedal pull contest but only slightly, Johnson said, noting that 80 children still showed up.
And there were no weather-related cancellations on the final day of the fair, she said. “We did everything that we had planned and scheduled.”
Fair organizers aimed for a mix of traditional events - pig races and a Saturday night tractor pull - and new activities - BMX bike stunt shows and a haunted house.
“People appreciate the traditional things we’ve done and they appreciate the new,” Johnson said.
Several successes were chalked up at this year’s fair. Even with a ban on poultry exhibits because of avian flu, the livestock barns - one of the perennial highlights of the fair - were full.
About 50 new exhibitors signed up, and a free meal for veterans drew about 100 more attendees than last year.
The grandstand sold out for a bull-riding event Wednesday night, Johnson said. “It was a huge success. I think I could have sold another show.”
In what appears to have been a first, the fairgrounds also had a bridal couple and their attendants arrive Friday afternoon, in full wedding regalia, to pose for pictures on the midway.
“That’s the first time I think that’s happened. It was a lot of fun to have them out here,” Johnson said.
Teardown and cleanup continued Monday.
Besides the fair board, vendors and sponsors, about 300 volunteers are involved in staging the Kandiyohi County Fair each August.
“It takes a lot of people. It’s no one person,” Johnson said. “We have a very hard-working board - and our volunteers, of course. We definitely couldn’t do it without our volunteers.”

Related Topics: POULTRYAVIAN FLU
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