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It Was Fun, Wasn’t It?

August 5, 2008 - Dan Voigt
The Palo Alto County Fair has come and gone for another year. For the 4-H and FFA exhibitors, there is a sense of satisfaction in a job well-done, and anticipation for premium check For parents, there is a sense of relief, no doubt, because the project year is completed and a few long days are over for another year. For members of the Fair Board, there is also a sense of relief, but the process of planning for the 2009 Palo Alto County Fair has already begun. As the various livestock shows were taking place, mental and written notes were taken and made on how to change things for an even smoother show next time around. The same is true for other shows and offerings, with the board striving for the goal of presenting a fair that offers something for everyone. There are a couple of considerations that are foremost on the board’s minds, however, the first being entertainment that is fun and appealing to all ages, while being affordable. Since the Palo Alto County Fair is funded through tax dollars, the fair board works very hard to be good trustees for the County Supervisors, who approve the fair budget each year. For many years, the fair has not had a carnival as in days of old, with midway rides and games. The simple reason is economics. A carnival with a ferris wheel, merry-go-round and other amusements would be fun to have at the fair, but today, there are fewer carnivals traveling the country, expenses are high, and there are too many celebrations and fairs that want carnivals. The old law of “supply and demand” comes into play at this point. If you have one carnival that spends three days in operation at a fair, it can operate at two fairs in one week, at first glance. But then you have to take into account travel time, setting up the rides, tearing them down, and moving to the next engagement. Add in the cost of hiring your employees, fuel expenses to move your equipment, and then the all-important liability insurance, not to mention any repair costs, and it takes a major financial investment on the part of a carnival owner. The last time the fair had a carnival, it required an advance payment of nearly $10,000 to get the carnival to commit to coming to the fair. Then, the carnival is at the mercy of the weather – if it rains, the rides don’t run. If the rides don’t run, the carnival doesn’t make any additional money from ticket sales, which is in addition to that advance payment they get to come to the fair. Over the years, the advance payment requirements have gotten higher and higher, and the fair board had to make the difficult decision that a carnival was not the best use of our funding. Instead, the board has brought in various types of entertainment, such as the Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search, The Algona Cornbelt Chorus Barbershoppers, and Hannah McNeil last year. Yet, there are still some folks who say the only entertainment at a fair is the carnival, and that’s the only reason to go to a fair. There is so much more to the fair than any carnival ride – anyone who visited the fair got to see the excitement of kids winning ribbons, the pride of parents, grandparents and siblings and the overall experience of a celebration of youth and our agricultural heritage. There was also some great food, too! Granted, a little wind and rain put a brief damper on Sunday’s activities, but a good field of go-karts turned out for their first-ever appearance at the fair, and the youth rocked the house with the teen dance on Sunday night to close out the fair. While most everyone is “recuperating from the fair this week, the fair board members will be thinking ahead a year to next year’s fair. If you’ve got a suggestion or an idea, contact one of the fair board members and share your thought, or contact the Palo Alto County Extension Office and they’ll pass the message along. The fair is truly an event for everyone, and I don’t know about you, but I did have fun, too!


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