These people take advantage of opening night, Aug. 3, of the Pride of Texas Shows Carnival during the Five State Fair, and they seem to be enjoying themselves on one of the roller coasters. Fair officials said they saw an increase in participants in numerous activities at the fair. Daily Leader photo/Robert Pierce
Officials: This year’s fair improvement over last year’s, still seeking more free events for future
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Following a variety of complaints from fair goers, in recent years, county commissioners and fair board members have been working to make improvements to the Seward County Five State Fair.
According to Mike Hanson of the local K-State Research and Extension office, for the most part, the improvements made for this year’s fair worked.
“I think that our exhibits were up on the inside,” he said. “I know as far as new participants, that was really good this year. I went into it thinking it was going to go pretty smoothly, and it did.”
Hanson said there were some minor setbacks as the fair progressed throughout the week of July 31 through Aug. 8, but those came with little notice to the general public.
“I believe we’ve got a fair board that’s willing to work to try to make things better,” he said. “As always, if you’ve got any ideas to make it better, come to a fair board meeting.”
Hanson works primarily with 4-H youth at the fair, mainly in the livestock competitions, and he said participation and attendance in those events were good.
“Had a lot of younger kids out there who are just now getting into showing animals that showed up, and that helped with their families coming,” he said. “Whenever I was over at the Activity Center in the evenings, it looked like they had decent crowds. I think the heat kept a lot of people away.”
Some who coordinated events on Saturday, Aug. 7, commented that turnout seemed to be lighter than usual. Hanson agreed, saying much of the low attendance was due to the heat, and this was the case throughout much of fair week.
“It was already hot at 10 o’clock Saturday morning (Aug. 7),” he said. “That was an issue the whole time.”
Hanson said having more individuals and groups involved such as First Southern Baptist Church, who hosted Kids Day on that Saturday, and Angels For Animals, who put on the fun dog show the same day, is what the fair needs to help it grow.
“The more people that are involved in it, we’ll have more people coming out,” he said.
Hanson praised 4-H youth for helping out throughout the fair, as well as the work shown by individuals during a special animal show on Thursday, Aug. 4.
“The showmanship we did Thursday with the developmentally disabled people really made my fair and just seeing how happy they were to be able to get out there with the animals,” he said. “You couldn’t take that away from them. That’s very special.”
Hanson said he did not hear many complaints from fair goers, and the ones he did hear were minor issues.
“I think we had three food vendors over by the carnival area,” he said. “People said ‘Why weren’t there more than that?’ It’s very cheap rent. The opportunity’s there. Anybody can do it if they’re licensed. Hopefully, we’ll have more participation.”
Hanson said the fair board is looking to get more entertainment throughout the evenings, as well as more participation in the Gospel Songfest for future fairs.
“We’d love to have more people in that,” he said. “We’d like to get free entertainment for people to attend. That’s great because the economy’s not great, and they don’t have a lot of money. They’ve got to choose where they’re going to spend that extra money. The more free, the better.”
Hanson also praised the work of fair organizers throughout the week.
“I heard a lot, and I feel the same way, about how everybody worked together – the fair board, the Event Center staff and the maintenance staff,” he said. “What they did to help out with the fair is invaluable. They spent a lot of time out here. They did that to save the county money and help out with the fair.”
County commission chairman Joyce Hibler likewise said organizers did a good job with the fair.
“I too would like to thank the fair board for all the hard work they did,” she said at Monday’s commission meeting. “The night we were there at the demolition derby, it was packed. They had a real good turnout that night.”
Hanson said the fair board is likewise looking to build on the success of this year’s rodeo, and help is also being sought with events such as the car races.
“From what I understand, we don’t have a person to promote the car races here anymore,” he said. “He’s moved on to a different place, so we need to get somebody involved and get those races up and going.”
Country music singer Earl Thomas Conley was featured at this year’s fair, and Hanson said bringing similar artists would encourage growth in the fair.
“I think a concert will always help bring people out if you have somebody popular, and free local entertainment always seems to bring people out,” he said. “We just got to keep things out here to interest people.”
Having other events during the fair such as the National Night Out Tuesday, Aug. 3, somewhat hurt attendance at the fair, and the car races that same night brought down numbers that evening at the Pride of Texas carnival, according to Hanson.
“There’s so many things going on in the community that people are having to pick and choose,” he said. “The economy hurt the carnival. A lot of years, people come out a couple to three times, and this year, they maybe only were able to come out once or twice to the carnival. The last three nights were pretty busy out there.”
Hanson added having a primary election on Aug. 3 likewise made things more difficult for fair organizers.
“Normally, we try to get things entered and ready to open up earlier,” he said. “We have to figure out how to get more traffic into the Activity Center to see the vendors who spend money to rent a booth.”
Hanson said if any local business people have ideas about improving the fair, they are invited to attend fair board meetings, and the board is always looking for new members.
Hanson said having triple digit heat on a nearly daily basis somewhat hurt attendance. Some have asked about moving the fair to a later date, but Hanson said the board has some obligations to some promoters.
“One of the reasons we have it when we have it is the Pride of Texas carnivals always has a good reputable staff and good people working in it,” he said. “If there are problems, they take care of it. We have to go on their schedule. They’re coming from Garden City to here and then go to Guymon after they’re done here, and that’s a big reason we keep it the way it is.”
Hanson said despite any problems, he called this year’s fair a success.
“It seems like things went smoother this year than any fair that I have been involved in since I’ve been here,” he said. “People worked together and got it done.”
County commissioner C.J. Wettstein said at Monday’s meeting that he believed the fair had a lot of good entertainment.
“I was a little bit disappointed in the turnout, but I think we had a lot of good entertainment,” he said. “We had a concert, two nights of rodeo, three nights of races, demolition derby and tractor pull. Friday was fairly busy. Saturday wasn’t quite as busy, but it was well attended. I think there was stuff to do. People just didn’t show up. You can’t make them come.”