2011 fair a sweltering success
The Plymouth County Fair may have to be renamed "The Best and Hottest 5 Days of Summer" after this year, but with the fair wrapping up, organizers are reporting that all went well.
"I think we had a very, very good fair," said Terry Reuter, Plymouth County Fair Board president, late Sunday evening.
Reuter said in spite of the hot weather, he felt the fair had great crowds.
The total fairgrounds attendance came to 89,950 during the five days.
"The numbers were up a bit from last year," said fair board member Rich Benson. "We didn't have the rain and mud to deal with this year, but we did have the heat."
Overall, the fair board was pleased with the attendance at the fair, Benson said.
Reuter said the shows were well-attended, too.
"Everyone liked every act we had here. Everything was a huge success," he said. "The performances were exceptionally good."
Reuter said he couldn't believe all the people who attended the bull riding event Sunday night in the grandstand.
That crowd made its way to the Pioneer Village after the show was over, too, he said.
With new organizations in charge of gate tickets and parking, Reuter said several fair board members, including himself, took time to help in the parking lots.
"We went out and helped here and there, checked that things were in line," Reuter said. "It's nice being out there, too."
Being in the parking lot gave Reuter an opportunity see where fairgoers come from.
"I saw Texas, California, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota plates, plus surrounding counties," Reuter said.
When children grow up and move away from home, they remember the Plymouth County Fair, he said.
"They want to come back for the fair," Reuter said.
One family, he noted, said they can't find such a bargain in the Chicago area where they live now.
"Yeah, there were a few small glitches, and it was a little warm, but that didn't bother much," Reuter added.
Hoof, paw and wing
On the livestock side, Fair Livestock Superintendent and County Extension Coordinator Carol Schneider said she was grateful 4-H'ers and FFA exhibitors took such good care of their animals throughout the 2011 fair.
"It was a pretty hot fair, relatively speaking," Schneider said.
But she said 4-H'ers and FFA exhibitors were on top of the heat and were ready for the high temperatures and humidity early on in the fair.
"They were trying to keep their animals as comfortable as possible, trying to reduce the stress on their livestock and that's learning a life skill and that's what 4-H and FFA does for young people," Schneider said.
Among the livestock highlights Schneider listed for this year's fair was a new exhibit building.
"It's pretty exciting to have our new Rabbit Building in place and that allowed us to have an alternative exhibition facility -- a north covered arena that was great for rabbits and poultry," Schneider explained.
The goat show was also in the new Rabbit Building but the location may change.
"I think all of us probably concluded that the goats really need to be shown in that covered livestock arena where we have more space, and the pens where they can stall some of their goats when they're not actually handling them," she said.
Dairy was showcased in a new way for this year's fair because there weren't any 4-H or FFA exhibitors.
The Dairy Expo, on the second day of the fair, was developed through a task force of Iowa State University Extension staff, fair board representatives and dairy producers.
The group developed ideas to draw attention to dairy production and its role in agriculture, Schneider said.
The expo, in the covered livestock arena, featured ice cream taste testing of the newest Blue Bunny flavors.
The chocolate version was by far the most popular flavor, Schneider said.
"There were 259 people who went through that table testing line and voted (for their favorite flavor) with a kernel of corn," she said.
Schneider said the expo also featured "Maggie," the Plymouth County Historical Museum's fiberglass milk cow which kids milked, a demonstration of milking equipment, and feed for dairy cattle as well as a dairy calf and cow.
"Jim and Sharon Tentinger, who are outstanding dairy producers in eastern Plymouth County, brought a cow from their Guernsey herd and talked about what she produces, what she eats and what is important to feed her so she produces quality milk for our food systems," Schneider said.
She said future plans for a way to showcase dairy production will be discussed with the fair board and task force.
"I'm anxious for us to come back together and report what we did and how we felt -- maybe we could continue it or revise it, revamp it in a different way and continue to have interest in the dairy industry," Schneider said.
Something for everyone
For some attendees at the Plymouth County Fair Saturday afternoon, it was their first time at the event, while others come year after year.
As she cooled off in the shade with an icy treat, Samantha Watts, of Fort Collins, Colo., said it was her first time at the Plymouth County Fair, and they don't have fairs like it in Colorado.
Samantha said her favorite part of the fair was the rides.
"I like the Tilt-A-Whirl," she said. "It spins. It goes fast then slow."
She came to the fair with Kyle and Amanda Held, of Valley, Neb.
Kyle's parents live in Merrill and he said they come to the Plymouth County Fair "every year."
William Larson, of Sioux City, was another newbie at the fair. He came with his girlfriend, Kristeen Pederson, of Le Mars.
Pederson said her favorite thing at the fair is "the food, the corn dogs."
She's been coming to the fair for years, and wanted Larson to experience it for the first time.
"I thought it would be pretty fun to watch cars bash themselves," Larson said of the demolition derby Saturday night.
Pederson said she thinks everyone should come to the Plymouth County Fair because it's a great experience.
"I have a cousin form New York who came one year, and she had a blast," Pederson said. "She'd never seen anything like it."
Along with first-timers, there were also regular fairgoers who experienced "firsts" at the fair.
Dawson Poeckes, 11, of Remsen, chowed down on his first blooming onion Saturday commenting, "Wow, this is good!"
Along with the food, Dawson's grandpa, Dan Singer, of Le Mars, said he enjoys seeing the hypnotist and listening to the band at the fair.
"I used to be in a country western band," Singer said. "I wish I could play again."
For some fairgoers it's not all about entertainment, it's also hard work.
Not only for 4-H'ers, but also their parents.
Sherry Ritz, of rural Merrill, has been coming to the Plymouth County Fair for years, but this was her first year as a 4-H mom for her daughters, Jennifer and Sarah.
"It's a lot of fun," Sherry said. "It's a learning experience."
Behind the booth
As for the vendors, fair board member Loren Schnepf, who coordinates the outdoor merchandise vendors, said this year's hot weather had an impact on their business.
"It means slow days and busy nights," Schnepf said. "In the evening they had good business."
But the heat doesn't stop them from coming back year after year.
Schnepf said 80 percent or so of the outdoor venders are regulars at the Plymouth County Fair.
"Once they've been here, they pretty much all come back," he said.
That includes people from as close as Le Mars and as far as Texas and Seattle, Wash.
"Most that come a long distance are repeat vendors," Schnepf said.
He and other organizers start recruiting vendors for the fair in February, and the recruiting for indoor booths begins even before that.
"The fair board really never takes a break," he said. "We'll start on next year's fair next week."
He tipped his hat to all the volunteers that make the fair possible.
"There are a lot of volunteers out here that do work all year long, fixing buildings up, taking care of the flowers," he said. "The fair board doesn't put this all on -- there are hundreds of volunteers."
Even with the heat, those volunteers spent hours under the sun, working to make the 2011 Plymouth County Fair the Best 5 Days of Summer.
And, like Alice Ruhland, who coordinates the fair queen contest, they weren't complaining.
"Well," Ruhland said. "this is fair weather."